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.

VSGC Graduate STEM Research Fellowship Program

This scholarship is available for U.S. graduate students who have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and are enrolled in a field of study that includes coursework related to an understanding of or interest in aerospace. Students must enroll or plan to enroll at one of the five Virginia Space Grant Consortium universities.

Total: $5000 Awards:  40
Deadline:  January 31
2020

VSGC Undergraduate STEM Research Scholarship Program

This scholarship is available for U.S. college juniors or seniors who have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and are enrolled in a field of study that includes coursework related to an understanding of or interest in aerospace. Students must be enrolled at one of the five Virginia Space Grant Consortium universities.

Total: $8500 Awards:  15
Deadline:  January 31
2020

Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship

This scholarship is available for a Texas high school senior who is a member or the child of a member of a local union that is affiliated with the Texas AFL-CIO and the local Central Labor Council.

Total: $1000 Awards:  30
Deadline:  January 31
2020

Francis Walton Memorial Scholarship

This award is for a licensed radio amateur who is a resident of Illinois, Wisconsin, or Indiana and is pursuing a degree in one of the specified areas.

Total: $500 Awards:  2
Deadline:  January 31
2020

ASCE (Maine Section) Scholarship

This scholarship is available for Maine high school seniors who plan to study civil engineering. Students must be residents of Maine and attend a Maine high school.

Total: $2000 Awards:  2
Deadline:  January 31
2020

ASA Minority Fellowship Program

This award is available for minority students who are currently enrolled in and have completed at least one year of a graduate program in sociology and are working toward a Ph.D. in the field.

Total: $18000 Awards:  12
Deadline:  January 31
2020

Leatrice Gregory Pendray Scholarship

This scholarship is available for undergraduate women who have completed at least one year of study with a grade point average of 3.3 or higher. Students must plan to enter into some field of science or engineering encompassed by the technical activities of AIAA.

Total: $1250 Awards:  1
Deadline:  January 31
2020

AIAA Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship Program

This scholarship is available for undergraduate students who have completed at least one year of study with a grade point average of 3.3 or higher. Students must plan to enter into some field of science or engineering encompassed by the technical activities of AIAA.

Total: $5000 Awards:  8
Deadline:  January 31
2020

AIAA Foundation Graduate Scholarship Program

This award is for U.S. and international graduate students studying at a U.S. institution. Applicants must be active members of AIAA, have a 3.3 grade point average, and be conducting research in a subject area relevant to the technical activities of AIAA.

Total: $5000 Awards:  11
Deadline:  January 31
2020

AIAA Foundation Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award

This award is for graduate students who are majoring in engineering or science and have a GPA of 3.3 or higher. The student must be an AIAA member in good standing.

Total: $5000 Awards:  2
Deadline:  January 31
2020

Varian Radiation Therapy Advancement Scholarship

This award is for applicants who have already attained certification from the ARRT or other equivalent certifying organization and plan to pursue additional education in radiation therapy OR have completed an entry-level program and are transitioning directly into a higher radiation therapy program. Students must study in the United States and be members of ASRT.

Total: $5000 Awards:  9
Deadline:  January 31
2020

AIST Midwest Member Chapter Scholarship

This scholarship is available for U.S. high school seniors and undergraduate students in Northwestern Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa who are planning to major in engineering and pursue a career in iron and steel technology. Applicants must be AIST Midwest Chapter members or dependents of AIST Midwest Chapter members.

Total: $3000 Awards:  14
Deadline:  January 31
2020