Merit Scholarships

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What is a Merit based Scholarship?

Merit scholarships are a type of gift aid that help pay for college for academic achievers. Most merit based scholarships go to students who stand out with strong academics.

Recipients of a merit scholarship may be high academic achievers or have strong athletic, artistic or other skills and values. Eligible students must also show a desire to serve the community or leadership skills.

Some merit scholarships also may look at financial need. But most of the time accomplishments and academic excellence are the primary factors to win a scholarship.

How Do You Get a Merit Scholarship?

Merit awards are different from needs based ones. To get a merit scholarship you need to have a good GPA, SAT/ACT test scores, and strong academics. On the contrary, a need based scholarship uses family income to make decisions. Instead, the 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 and college.

There are various criteria to qualify for a merit scholarship. Sometimes you need to be a member of a specific association or enrolled in the university. Other scholarship providers may specifically offer it to minority students, female students or for certain majors like STEM.

Either way, you’ll need to see if you qualify. One example is the Women Techmakers Scholars Program. It is an academic merit scholarship. In order to be eligible, eligible students must show strong 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 your SAT/ACT test scores.

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.

Who Awards Merit Scholarships?

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

Some scholarship providers are from local communities such as churches and cultural groups. Companies such as Google, Gates Foundation or Coca Cola also offer merit scholarships.

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 which sometimes look at financial need.

What GPA do You Need to Get a Merit based Scholarship?

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

For instance, you need a cumulative GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale to qualify for the SHRM Foundation’s Graduate Scholarships. This awards $5,000 to a graduate student pursuing an HR degree related program.

The Voice of Democracy Scholarship awards $30,000 to one national first place winner. Most high school students as well as military students may apply.

How Much is a Merit Based 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 scholarship varies. Some are for smaller amounts while others may be full-ride scholarships.

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. Then about 15,000 semifinalists move to finalist standing.

About 7,600 winners of Merit Scholarship® awards (Merit Scholar® designees) may be notified. Part of the decision making process looks at students’ abilities, skills, and accomplishments.

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 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 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 scholarships to see if you qualify.

List of Merit Based Scholarships

Check out our list of merit scholarships worth .

Ernestine F. Shaw Endowed Scholarship

This award is available for U.S.high school gradutes or older majoring in nursing. Students must be a resident of one of the following Kansas counties: Sedgwick or Sumner, attend a college or university in Kansas, and have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

Total: $500

Awards: 1

Deadline: June 30

AISES 3M Scholarship

This scholarship is available for U.S. undergraduate students who are majoring in a STEM field. Applicants must have knowledge and experiences with American Indian tribal cultures, and demonstrate the potential for career work and contributions to American Indian tribes.

Total: $5000

Awards: 2

Deadline: May 31

CeCNC Student Scholarship

This award is for U.S. college sophomores or older who live in and attend college in the California Bay Area. The student must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and must pursue a degree in direct marketing or interactive marketing.

Total: $3000

Awards: 1

Deadline: 

Greene County Single Parent Scholarship

Single Parent Scholarships are awarded to eligible single parents who are residents of Greene County, Arkansas. The applicant must have a grade point average of 2.0 or better and apply for a Pell Grant to be eligible for this award.

Total: $4000

Awards: 11

Deadline: July 15

Niagara University Achievement Award

This award is available to U.S. high school seniors who plan to attend Niagara University in New York. Recipients of this award must generally have an average GPA of 3.0 or higher and, SAT score (critical reading & math) ranging between 1030 and 1130 or ACT composites between 20 and 22.

Total: $60000

Awards: 200

Deadline: 

Unviersity of St. Francis President’s Leadership Scholarship

U.S. students who exhibit leadership in the workforce, academics, spiritual involvement, civic involvement or extracurricular activities and have a grade point average of 2.5 to 3.0 are eligible for this award upon transfer admission to the University of St. Francis in Illinois.

Total: $18000

Awards: 10

Deadline: 

Boren Scholarship Awards for International Study

This award is available to U.S high school graduates and undergraduate students who are planning to pursue a study abroad program. Scholarships are awarded with preference for countries, languages, and fields of study critical to U.S. national security.

Total: $10000

Awards: 165

Deadline: February 03

Aquinas College Transfer Scholarship

U.S. college students who have a grade point average between 3.00 and 3.49 and are planning to transfer to Aquinas College in Michigan are eligible for this award. Students must be traditional age students.

Total: $33000

Awards: 5

Deadline: 

GreenPal Scholarship

This award is for U.S. and international high school seniors or current undergraduate students. Students must be majoring in business and have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

Total: $2000

Awards: 1

Deadline: November 15

1-800-Wheelchair Scholarship Fund

International and U.S. undergraduate students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher are eligible for this award. Students must be 16 years of age or older. One to two $500 awards are offered each year. Preference will be given to students with a mobility disability. Click here to learn more and apply today!

Total: $1000

Awards: 2

Deadline: May 20

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