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

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

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
2020

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
2020

Eric Delson Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship is available for undergraduate and graduate students with a bleeding disorder who are attending or accepted to an accredited postsecondary institution in the U.S.

Total: $2500 Awards:  3
Deadline:  July 1
2020

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
2020

Louisiana Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Opportunity Award

This award is available to Louisiana students who are planning to attend an approved postsecondary institution in Louisiana. Students must have completed a required high school core curriculum with a minimum grade point average of 2.5 and have an ACT score of 20 or higher (or the SAT equivalent); students must file the FAFSA to qualify.

Total: $4500 Awards:  25207
Deadline:  July 1
2020

Louisiana Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Performance Award

This award is available to Louisiana high school students who are planning to attend a postsecondary institution in Louisiana. Students must have completed a required high school core curriculum with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and have an ACT score of 23 or higher (or the SAT equivalent).

Total: $5400 Awards:  12452
Deadline:  July 1
2020

Louisiana Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Tech Award

This award is for Louisiana high school students who are planning to enroll in skill or occupational training at an approved two-year postsecondary institution in Louisiana. Students must have completed a required high school core curriculum with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher, and have an ACT score of 17 or higher (or the equivalent SAT score).

Total: $2000 Awards:  1666
Deadline:  July 1
2020

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
2020

University of Indianapolis Transfer Academic Award

This award is available to U.S. undergraduate students who are planning to attend the University of Indianapolis as transfer students. Students must have completed 15 or more transferable hours of credit and have a grade point average of 2.7 or higher.

Total: $13000 Awards:  10
Deadline:  July 1
2020

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Associate Degree Academic Transfer Scholarship

This award is for U.S. students who are transferring to the University of Louisiana Lafayette after earning an associate's degree. Students must be residents of Louisiana and have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

Total: $1400 Awards:  50
Deadline:  July 1
2020

Rockefeller State Wildlife Scholarship

This scholarship is available for Louisiana students who are pursuing a major in forestry, wildlife, or marine science at a Louisiana public college or university. Students must have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher (or 3.0 or higher if a graduate student).

Total: $3000 Awards:  30
Deadline:  July 1
2020

St. Cloud State University Academic and Cultural Sharing Scholarship

This award is available to international undergraduate and graduate students who are planning to attend St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. The student must have an F-1 or J-1 visa status, maintain a 2.5 cumulative grade point average as an undergraduate student or a 3.0 cumulative grade point average as a graduate student, and complete two cultural sharing activities every semester.

Total: $8000 Awards:  10
Deadline:  July 1
2020