Merit Scholarships

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What is a Merit Scholarship?

Merit scholarships are a type of gift aid that help pay for college by rewarding talent. Most merit-based scholarships go to students who stand out in some way.

Recipients of a merit scholarship may be high academic achievers. Or have strong athletic, artistic or other skills and values. Thing like having a desire to serve the community or leadership.

Some merit scholarships also look at financial need. But rewarding accomplishment and excellence is the primary aim.

How Do You Get a Merit Scholarship?

To receive a merit scholarship, the provider may not look at whether you can afford college. Instead, they assess whether you meet specific criteria for that scholarship.

Merit awards are different from needs-based scholarships. A need-based scholarship uses family income to make decisions.

Instead, the merit scholarship sponsors usually start out with a goal or reason why they offer it. This might be to develop their industry with smart minds. Or invest in the future of their community, college and the like.

Sometimes, you must meet other criteria to qualify for a merit scholarship too. Like when a scholarship is for deserving students who are also state residents.

Others may go to deserving members of particular groups. This might mean belonging to a specific association. Or being a deserving member of a minority.

Either way, you’ll need to see if you qualify. One example is the Women Techmakers Scholarship. It is an academic merit scholarship. There are three criteria for eligibility. Academic performance, leadership, and impact on the community of women in tech. You may fit the bill as an upstanding male student, but this one is for girls.

What is Merit?

That stated, what 'merit' means generally depends on the organization granting the scholarship.

Some merit scholarships look at academic performance, test scores, and your recommendations. Others may only look at how you performed on your SAT/ACT tests.

Still others focus on your dedication to and performance in a specific field of study. This can be anything from music to math and others in between.

What GPA do you need to get a merit scholarship?

An academic merit scholarship often requires a strong GPA. But the actual grade point average you need to get a merit scholarship varies.

For instance, to qualify for the SHRM Foundation’s Graduate Scholarships, you need a cumulative GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. But to merit the Voice of Democracy Scholarship you need an original, video essay.

What qualifies you to be a National Merit Scholar?

National Merit Scholars have the highest PSAT/NMSQT® Selection Index scores. About 1.6 million enter to compete. But about 50,000 qualify for recognition in the National Merit® Scholarship Program.

Each September, the sponsor colleges notify the recipients. They let them know if they have qualified as either a Commended Student or Semifinalist. Of these, about 15,000 semifinalists move to finalist standing.

From this group there are winners of Merit Scholarship® awards (Merit Scholar® designees). Part of the decision making looks at students’ abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

How Much is a Merit Scholarship?

The U.S. Department of Education tracks the aid schools award to undergraduates. In one study, they looked at the amount of money high-merit students received.

It found that those in selective schools got about 58% of their tuition. Those in less selective schools received about 46% of their tuition amounts.

But as you might expect, merit scholarships come from a wide range of grantors. As such, the size and scope of a merit scholarship varies. Some are for smaller amounts while others may be full-ride scholarships.

How do you get the most money for merit scholarships?

Many scholarship providers factor in both need and merit. There are at least six things that may help you get the most merit aid for college.

  1. Don't forget to fill out the FAFSA. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for federal aid too. This might be useful if the amount of your merit scholarship is not enough to pay tuition, fees, housing etc.
  2. Apply to schools where your grades put you ahead. Many college admissions look at the entire pool of applicants. You may be ahead of the student body in some colleges and not in others
  3. Check whether the merit scholarship is renewable. If so, abiding by the terms may help pay your entire four years at college
  4. Make sure you understand the net cost of attending each school you apply to. Then assess the amount of merit aid you can get and see what makes the most sense to you
  5. Figure out where your talents lie and use them when you search for scholarships. It doesn’t have to be high marks. The Doodle for Google Scholarship rewards creativity
  6. When applying to a college or university, look at their financial aid section and scan for merit scholarships to see if you qualify

Who awards merit scholarships?

Many private companies, groups and nonprofits fund merit scholarships. There are no federal funds for merit-based scholarships.

Some merit scholarship providers are local to a specific community. Like churches and cultural groups. Others have a national presence. Like Google, the Gates Foundation or Coca Cola.

Most colleges also award merit scholarships. Often alumni endow funds to use for these awards. Merit-based awards may thus carry the name of a person so that their legacy continues.

You’ll also find charitable foundations offering merit aid. These sometimes look at financial need too. Yet the underlying goal is to put the spotlight on your merits.

The Jackie Robinson Scholarship is a good example. The Foundation looks for innovators who address community needs in impactful ways. But you have to show your grades too.

Top Merit Scholarships for 2019

Remember, you may merit a scholarship for a variety of reasons. Check eligibility so you don’t waste time. Here are eleven of the top merit scholarships you can apply to in 2019.

Billy Welu Scholarship

The Billy Welu Scholarship is an award offered by the Professional Bowlers Association to a male or female college student who competes in bowling. Applicants must have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher to be eligible.

Total: $1000 Awards:  1
Deadline:  June 21

SHPE Chevron Scholarship

This award is for African American, American Indian and Latino students enrolled in an undergraduate engineering program. Preference is given to students with a grade point average of 3.3 or higher.

Total: $5000 Awards:  3
Deadline:  June 30

The Fence Authority Scholarship Program

This scholarship is available for U.S. high school seniors and undergraduate students who are enrolled in or accepted to an accredited college or university. Applicants must plan to pursue a career in a field related to public beautification such as architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, horticulture, environmental and marine sciences, urban and land planning, or environmental design.

Total: $1000 Awards:  1
Deadline:  June 30

Future Counselors of America Scholarship

U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who are majoring in psychology and plan to seek a career in relationship counseling or a related field are eligible for this award. Students must have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and submit an essay on the psychology of online dating.

Total: $1000 Awards:  1
Deadline:  June 30

Alaska Performance Scholarship

This award is available to Alaska resident high school students who are planning to attend an eligible postsecondary institution in Alaska. The student must complete a required APS high school curriculum and meet various qualifying ACT/SAT, GPA, and WorkKeys scores.

Total: $4755 Awards:  2300
Deadline:  June 30

Bounce Energy BE MORE Scholarship

This scholarship is available for high school seniors and current college students who are residents of Texas, or attend high school or college in Texas. Students must be under the age of 24 and must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

Total: $2500 Awards:  1
Deadline:  June 30

New York State Scholarship for Academic Excellence

This award is available to New York high school seniors who are planning to study in an approved undergraduate program of study in a New York State postsecondary institution. The student must demonstrate outstanding academic achievements and be ranked among in the top percentiles of the graduating high school class.

Total: $1500 Awards:  8000
Deadline:  June 30

South Carolina Palmetto Fellows Scholarship Program

This scholarship is available for South Carolina resident high school seniors who are planning to attend an eligible South Carolina institution. Students must have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and an SAT score of 1200 or higher or an ACT score of 27 or higher, and rank in the top six percent of their class; students may also qualify with a grade point average of 4.0 or higher and an SAT score of 1400 or higher or an ACT score of 32 or higher.

Total: $10000 Awards:  6800
Deadline:  June 30

Marjorie A. Johnston Memorial Scholarship for Adult Students

This scholarship is available for adult re-entry students who are at least 25 years of age and residents of Butler County, OH. Applicants must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and plan to major in nursing or a related healthcare field.

Total: $2500 Awards:  1
Deadline:  July 1

UPE/ACM Scholarship Award

The Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery is offering two scholarships for a UPE member that is majoring in information technology. Applicants must be undergraduate or graduate students.

Total: $1000 Awards:  2
Deadline:  July 1

Saint Mary's College of California Transfer Honors at Entrance Scholarship

This award is available to college students who are planning to attend Saint Mary's College of California. Students must have a grade point average of 3.25 or higher and have 30 or more transferable academic semester units at the time of acceptance.

Total: $12000 Awards:  100
Deadline:  July 1

Louisiana Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Honors Award

This award is available to Louisiana high school students who are planning to attend a postsecondary institution in Louisiana. Students must have complete a required high school core curriculum with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and have an ACT score of 27 or higher (or the SAT equivalent).

Total: $7618 Awards:  10250
Deadline:  July 1