Merit-Based Scholarships for College Students

Last updated: November 08, 2019

A merit scholarship is a financial award that students receive based on their academic success in high school. Merit-based scholarships are not only limited to a student’s grades, but also consider factors such as leadership roles, ACT and/or SAT scores, extracurricular activities and school or community involvement. Unlike need-based financial aid, merit scholarships do not take into account Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

In many cases, merit-based awards can help lower or completely cover the cost of a typical four-year college tuition. Some scholarships are even awarded to cover multiple academic years based on continuing student performance and involvement.

Some of the most generous financial aid awards come in the form of merit scholarships making them especially helpful for students who are caught in the gap of not qualifying for need-based aid and not being able to pay out-of-pocket for a college education. The same merit scholarship could go to a student living below the poverty level just as easily as it could go to a student in the 1 percent.

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Merit scholarships are commonly offered by colleges and universities, however, many companies, organizations and foundations offer them as well. Explore our guide to learn more about merit-based opportunities and use our interactive scholarship tool to sort through scholarships based on award amount and eligibility.

Tips for Maximizing Merit Aid

 

Apply where you rank high academically: Applying to colleges where your grades put you in the top 10 percent of the student body can help. If you’re in the top quartile, there is a good chance colleges will try to lure you with merit aid.

 
 

Negotiate: If you receive two or more admissions letters from universities, some institutions may be willing to match a merit grant that you were offered by another university.

 
 

Compare net prices before choosing a college: In some cases, the largest merit scholarships are offered because the college has the highest net price due to higher tuition. Subtract grants and scholarships from the total cost of attendance (including additional expenses like tuition, fees, room, board, books, and transportation).

 
 

Acceptance rate: Typically speaking, the more selective a school is, the more conservative it acts in distributing merit money. Lesser known schools can have a higher acceptance rate and offer more merit scholarships, so be sure to consider a variety of options.

 
 

Consider out of state options: To attract out-of-state students, some universities will offer merit-based awards. Call the admissions office to find out whether merit awards are offered to out-of-state students.

 
 

How to Pay for College

1

Scholarships

There are hundreds of scholarships for students who qualify for merit-based aid, which are awarded by local organizations, private companies, societies and more.

 
2

Grants

Grants don’t need to be paid back and are based on your financial circumstances. They are usually funded by the federal government, your state or college.

 
3

Fellowships

While scholarships usually fund tuition, fellowships typically cover graduate study, research projects and abroad experiences without needing to be paid back.

 
4

Student Loans

You can borrow money from the government or a bank, but it needs to be paid back with interest. The federal government offers many loan options—fill out the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify for financial aid. If you need help, use our interactive guide to learn how to answer every question.

 
5

Federal Work-Study Program

Provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to pay education expenses.

 
 

If you’re just beginning the process of finding suitable scholarships, make sure you’re prepared for the application process by starting a folder with the assets below.

Scholarship Application Preparation

Since merit scholarships are typically based on student performance, many awards also have prerequisites, such as requiring a portfolio of your work or a project report, which can take time to prepare.
GPA is a key factor in most merit-based scholarships. Try to get certified copies of your transcript early, so you have plenty of time to meet the deadline.
Good grades, tough courses and high scores on SAT or ACT standardized tests are most generally a prerequisite for merit-based awards and can help you stand out in the crowd against fellow applicants.
Your scholarship essay is what will bring attention to your application out of the pool of applicants. That’s why it’s important to craft a stand out piece that attests to your experience, adheres to the scholarship guidelines and most importantly, highlights your true personality.
Letters of recommendation are a true judgement of your character—something that can’t be revealed through your test scores or transcript. Reach out to former teachers, counselors or bosses, so that they can speak to your qualifications. You may also want to provide them with a resume that outlines your achievements and goals as well.
 

Merit Scholarships

Instructions: Click through the dropdowns below to sort by award amount.

Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: July 12, 2020

This scholarship helps defray the costs associated with the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Applicants must be a current Associate AIA member, holding an active National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) record and be eligible to sit for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program (NEALP)

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: July 15, 2020

Applicant must be an Ohio resident and enrolled in or be accepted for enrollment approved nurse education programs in Ohio colleges, universities, hospitals, or vocational schools. Must show academic excellence.

Joshua Gomes Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: July 15, 2020

Applicant must be HIV positive or have AIDS. Applicant must be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student. Application must include three letters of recommendation.

Christa Mcauliffe Teacher Incentive Program

Amount: Varies

Deadline: July 15, 2020

The scholarship awards legal residents of Delaware, who are high school seniors and who rank in upper quarter of class and have a combined score of 1010 on the SAT. The applicant must be enrolled in Delaware college undergraduate program leading to teacher certification.

Bright Flight Scholarship

Amount: $1,000-$3,000

Deadline: July 31, 2020

Applicant must be a Missouri resident graduating from high school and score in the top 3% of students in the state taking the ACT or SAT.

Marketing & Public Relations Scholarship Program

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: August 1, 2020

The scholarship is open for an undergraduate student who is pursuing marketing, public relations or communications as majors. The applicant must demonstrate a high level of writing skill, academic excellence, and creativity.

Concordia University Freshman Academic Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: August 1, 2020

Applicant must be an incoming freshman enrolled at Concordia University for the fall semester. Award amount is determined by cumulative high school GPA and composite ACT score.

Concordia University Church Worker Assurance Program

Amount: Varies

Deadline: August 1, 2020

Applicant must be a new student pursuing a certified Church Professional Program within the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS). Applicant must a member of an LCMS congregation.

Florida Stormwater Association Educational Foundation's Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: August 7, 2020

The scholarship awards financial aid to qualified students attending Florida colleges and universities who are interested in pursuing stormwater research, management or finance. Graduate student applicants in colleges or schools of engineering, natural science, public administration (or closely related fields) are eligible to apply.

South Dakota Jump Start Scholarship

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: September 1, 2020

Eligibility for this award includes being a South Dakota resident, having graduated from a high school in South Dakota in 3 years or less, and enrolling in a college accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. See website for more information.

South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship

Amount: $6,500

Deadline: September 1, 2020

Applicants must be residents of South Dakota upon high school graduation, and meet specific ACT and GPA criteria. Click apply for more details.

Cameron Impact Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: September 11, 2020

Applicant must be a graduating high school senior for the class of 2019, have at least a 3.7 GPA, and show leadership qualities and a strong work ethic. Applicant should excel in a varity of extracurriculars. Must include two letters of recommendation.

Fulbright Scholar Program

Amount: Varies

Deadline: September 15, 2020

This program offers teaching and research awards to college students. Employees and immediate family members affiliated with the U.S. Department of State are ineligible to apply. See site for details.

Ashley Soul Conroy Foundation Scholarship

Amount: $4,000

Deadline: October 1, 2020

Applicant must be enrolled in a 4-year college or university and have at least 30 hours of completed undergraduate credit by the time of the study abroad term start date.Applicant must be enrolled in a study abroad program that is at least 14 weeks long and have at least a 3.0 GPA.

GreenPal Scholarship for Tomorrow's Entrepreneur

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: October 15, 2020

This scholarship supports and advocate entrepreneurial spirit of today's generation. Final winner of scholarship will receive four awards of $500 for each semester completed. Applicant must be graduating High School's Senior with a declared major or minor in the college of Business, Economics, or Finance.

HubShout Internet Marketing Scholarship

Amount: $100

Deadline: November 1, 2020

The scholarship is to support the next generation of professionals or students with a demonstrated passion for Internet Marketing. There are two application Deadlines first is March 1st and next is November 1st of each year. The scholarship is open to students with at least one year of college.

ADEA/GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Preventive Dentistry Scholarships

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: November 1, 2020

Applicants must be enrolled at a dental school full-time, possess a superior academic record, have an interest in preventive dentistry, and be an ADEA individual member nominated by the applicant’s respective dean/dean designate. See website for required application materials.

Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Amount: $30,000

Deadline: November 1, 2020

The fellowship is a one-year grant for independent exploration outside the United States, awarded to graduating seniors which are nominated by campus advisors of one of 40 participating partner colleges. All majors and fields of inquiry are eligible. Please ask the respective campus advisor about internal deadlines. The national selection process begins in November. Awards are announced in mid-March.

BlankStyle Scholarship Fund

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: November 30, 2020

Eligible applicants for this award include any college student who has achieved academic excellence.

SimpliSafe STEM Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: November 30, 2020

SimpliSafe scholarship is for students in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The program provides financial assistance to Bachelors, Masters, or PhD students enrolled in STEM degree programs. Applicant must be a US Citizen or legal permanent resident.

CBIZ Accounting Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: December 1, 2020

Applicant must be an upper division student pursuing a degree and career in accounting. Must have at least a 3.2 GPA.

Dr. Gary and Katy Kessler Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: December 1, 2020

Applicant must be a graduating senior in the Religious Studies and/or Philosophy Programs. Preference given to those in pursuit of a joint degree in both fields.

Dr. John & Emily Coash Scholarship Endowment

Amount: Varies

Deadline: December 1, 2020

Applicant must be an undergraduate or graduate student majoring in geology or nursing.

UCLA Graduate Education Scholarships

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: December 15, 2020

Several awards are available of up to $5,000 each, from which fees are paid, for graduate students in any field of study who are blind or who have a severe vision impairment. Proof of financial need via copy of DREAM Act Application (for California AB540 students).

WSCGA Foundation Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: December 15, 2020

The WSCGA Foundation wants to support the athletic dreams of young golfers through scholarship awards. The applicant must have completed high school, be a female Golfer and be a Southern California resident. The awards are allocated on merit basis.

Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: December 31, 2020

The scholarship is merit-based, need-based and aims to encourage students to pursue sports journalism as a career. Applicants must be an undergraduate student enrolled full-time taking or planning to take journalism courses. Applicants must be AAJA member and committed to its mission.

Simplr Artificial Intelligence and Technology Scholarship

Amount: $7,500

Deadline: December 31, 2020

Simplr is offering a $7,500 scholarship to the student that writes the best essay on Artificial Intelligence. Students must be pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science, math, information technology (IT) or a law degree. Students studying under the DACA program are eligible.

C. Richard and Audrey Barnes Nursing Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 1, 2021

Applicant must be pursuing an undergraduate nursing degree and be a member of an underrepresented minority group.

Hawai'i Community Foundation Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 1, 2021

Hawaii Community Foundation is providing a wealth of financial support to qualified students throughout Hawaii. With over 250 scholarships, Hawaii students can surely find a scholarship that applies to them.

Hatton W. Sumners Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 1, 2021

Students ranking in the top third of their class on an annual basis in Texas and Oklahoma are encouraged to apply for this award. The selection committee will review academic performance, civic engagement, and leadership abilities.

Idaho Postsecondary Credit Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 1, 2021

Applicant must be a resident of Idaho with 10 or more postsecondary education credits at the time of graduation or graduated from high school with an associates degree. Must have obtained a matching academic scholarship that is merit-based from a business or industry, or entities representing business or industry.

The Payette Sho-Ping Chin Memorial Academic Scholarship

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: January 1, 2021

The scholarship aims to support a woman studying architecture within a NAAB-accredited bachelor or master’s degree program. Applicant must be a US citizen who is a rising 3rd or 4th-year undergraduate or graduate student in the NAAB-accredited architecture program.

National Washington Crossing Foundation Scholarship Awards

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 15, 2021

The scholarship is open to all high school seniors who are U. S. citizens and are planning careers of service to the United States in local, state, or federal government. The scholarships range is from $500 to $5,000.

AIA/Architects Foundation Diversity Advancement Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 15, 2021

The scholarship aims to support students from a minority race or ethnicity who intend to become architects. US residents who are entering, attending or transferring to a professional program in architecture that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) are eligible to apply for the scholarship.

Walter Byers Graduate Scholarship

Amount: $24,000

Deadline: January 17, 2021

The scholarship is a means of recognizing academic performance by student-athletes who have competed in intercollegiate athletics as a member of a varsity team at an NCAA member institution. Every year one male and one female student-athlete are awarded a the scholarship. The applicant must have undergraduate cumulative grade-point average of 3.500 or better. Be a graduating senior or be enrolled in graduate study at an NCAA member institution.

Goldberg-Miller Public Finance Scholarship

Amount: $15,000

Deadline: January 18, 2021

The GFOA scholarship aims to recognize outstanding performances by graduate program students preparing for a career in state and local government finance. Applicant must be enrolled in a full-time course at the graduate level in college and be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or Canada.

Frank l. Greathouse Government Accounting Scholarship

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: January 18, 2021

The scholarship aims to recognize outstanding performance in accounting studies and to encourage careers in state and local government. The applicant must be full-time; graduate or upper level undergraduate and willing to pursue fields with a specific focus on government and its administration.

Minorities In Government Finance Scholarship

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: January 18, 2021

The scholarship aims to recognize and encourage outstanding graduate or upper level undergraduate minority students enrolled in a course of study preparing for a career in state or local government finance. The applicant must be willing to pursue fields with a specific focus on government or nonprofit management.

Government Finance Professional Development Scholarship

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: January 18, 2021

The scholarship aims to support the studies of part-time students with a career interest in state and local government finance. The applicant must be employed at least two years by one or more state or local governments and willing to pursue fields with a specific focus on government and its administration.

Jeffrey l. Esser Career Development Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 18, 2021

The scholarship aims to advance the public finance careers of individuals employed at least three years by one or more state or local governments. Applicant must be enrolled in a Part-time course, pursuing an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree and be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or Canada. Additionally, the applicant must be willing to pursue fields with a specific focus on government and its administration.

AVMF/Winn Feline Foundation Scholarship

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: January 31, 2021

The scholarship is merit and need based for a 2nd or 3rd year student who demonstrates an interest in feline veterinary medicine. The recipient of this award must be able to document a history of participation in activities that benefit the health and welfare of cats, including research, shelter work, cat clubs and other community service programs.

Immokalee Achievement Award

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: February 1, 2021

The Scholarship is for a student from Immokalee High School graduating senior who has or will be applying to a community college, or an advanced education trade school, for a course or courses leading to a specialized trade or job skill.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation Scholarships

Amount: $1,600

Deadline: February 1, 2021

Grand Rapids Community Foundation is offering multiple scholarships that benefit students of many ages, academic abilities and areas of interests. The general scholarship online application enables a person to qualify for 50 scholarship funds.

a/e ProNet David W. Lakamp AIA Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: February 7, 2021

he a/e ProNet David W. Lakamp scholarship is awarded annually to fourth-year students in a NAAB accredited degree program or Foruth-year student of a fourh-year pre-professional degree program in architecture accepted for direct entry to a two-year NAAB-accredited M.Arch program or First-year student in an NAAB-accredited M.Arch degree program.

The Business Forum Scholarship Program

Amount: Varies

Deadline: February 7, 2021

The mission of scholarship is to foster the personal and professional growth of women in their higher education. Applicant must be a female US citizen or permanent resident residing in Dane County and must demonstrate financial need while applying for the scholarship.

Lewis B. Barber Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $5,100

Deadline: February 10, 2021

This merit-based scholarship aims to provide financial aid to students who graduate from public or private high school in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry or Lee counties in Florida. Applicant must pursue certification to teach deaf/blind or attend seminary/pre-seminary school to study church, Christian music or Christian education.

Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce / Ralph A. Richardson Scholarship Richardson Fund

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: February 10, 2021

This merit-based scholarship aims to provide financial aid to students who are graduate or high school senior of Estero High School, or the child of a current Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Member.

Dorothy Curtis Brown Scholarship Fund in Memory of Ann Nutt

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: February 10, 2021

The Dorothy Curtis Brown Scholarship awards a student who is enrolled at an accredited college or university in Southwest Florida and want to obtain a Child Development Associate Certificate (CDA), Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. All High School Seniors Undergraduates and Graduates are eligible to apply.

Couse-Gram Scholarship Scholarship

Amount: $950

Deadline: February 10, 2021

The Couse-Gram Scholarship awards a Moore Haven High School student pursuing post-secondary education. The scholarship is merit-based open only for Florida students.

Paul B. & Aline Flynn Scholarship

Amount: $3,000

Deadline: February 10, 2021

Students pursuing a degree from a 4-year accreddited college in communication or jounralism are encouraged to apply

Doris W. Frey Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,700

Deadline: February 10, 2021

The scholarship awards students studying Christian ministry/youth ministry, teaching, Christian counseling, nursing or medicine. Students must graduate from a public or private high school in Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Glades or Lee County. All High School Seniors, Undergraduates, and Graduates are eligible to apply.

Bruce T. Gora Scholarship

Amount: $1,200

Deadline: February 10, 2021

The scholarship provides aid to a high school senior or undergraduate student who is pursuing photography (digital or traditional), architecture or music (priority to a brass instrument player or trumpeter) at an accredited college, university or technical school in Florida from a public or private school in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry or Lee County.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF)

Amount: $500 - $5000

Deadline: February 15, 2021

Applicant must be of Hispanic heritage to apply. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for application. All majors are accepted, but HSF places emphasis on STEM.

B. Bradford Barnes Memorial Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: February 28, 2021

The scholarship awards legal residents of Delaware, who are high school seniors and who rank in upper quarter of class and have a combined score of 1290 on the SAT. The applicant must be enrolled in full-time at the University of Delaware.

Charles l. Hebner Memorial Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: February 28, 2021

The scholarship awards legal residents of Delaware, who are high school seniors and who rank in upper quarter of class and have a combined score of 1000 on the SAT. The applicant must be enrolled in full-time at the University of Delaware and majoring in the humanities or social sciences. Preference will be given to political science majors.

NAAAP Philadelphia Future Leaders Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: March 15, 2021

This scholarship recognizes and rewards Asian American students in the Philadelphia region who have demonstrated strong leadership potential. Applicant must be a graduating high school seniors and current college students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and belonging to Greater Philadelphia region details of which are given below. Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, and Bucks Southern New Jersey: Camden and Atlantic County Delaware: New Castle County

ASDSO Scholarship

Amount: $5,000 - $10000

Deadline: March 31, 2021

The ASDSO Scholarships are awarded annually to undergraduate students who are U.S. citizens enrolled in accredited programs in engineering or fields related to the design, construction, or operation of dams. Students must be enrolled in an accredited civil engineering program, or in a related field as determined by ASDSO. Also, the applicant must demonstrate an interest in pursuing a career in hydraulics, hydrology or geotechnical disciplines.

Toptal Scholarships

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: March 31, 2021

Toptal is supporting future female leaders (CEOs, founders, world leaders who want to change the world) by offering a $10,000 scholarship and one year of mentorship.

HENAAC Scholars Program

Amount: $500-$10,000

Deadline: April 1, 2021

Applicant must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate college or university program and be pursuing a degree in STEM. Applicant must be of Hispanic descent and/or must deminonstrate significant leadership or service within the underserved community. and have at least a 3.0 GPA.

UU Ministerial Student Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: April 15, 2021

Scholarship funds are available to students in aspirant or candidate status and enrolled in a Master of Divinity Degree program leading to fellowship as a Uniterian Universalist Minister.

CIC/Anna Chennault Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: April 21, 2021

This scholarship is for LGBTQ students entering college with a visual arts portfolio. Applicants do not need to pursue a major in arts in college.

North Carolina Home Builders Educational Foundation, Inc. Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: April 30, 2021

Each year, the North Carolina Home Builders Educational Foundation awards scholarships based on a combination of need and merit to four-year college students entering their junior or senior year and technical school students entering their second year who have declared their major in a construction-related field

Joe Perdue Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2021

Students who plan to seek a managerial career in the club industry and are attending an accredited, 4-year college or university undergraduate program may apply; Minimum GPA of 2.5 of 4.0 scale or 4.5 on 6.0 scale.

Christos And Georgia Trakatellis Fellowship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2021

The Christos And Georgia Trakatellis fellowships are awarded based on merit and need and available only to graduates of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.

Beulah Frey Environmental Scholarship

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: May 1, 2021

The scholarship awards are available to high school seniors applying to two or four-year colleges/universities for the upcoming academic year to further their studies in environmentally-related fields. The applicants must be from Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Wildcat Excellence Tuition Award

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2021

Applicant must be a graduating senior from Snake River High School and must be planning to attend a 2 or 4 year college or university program. Must have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA, include two letters of recommendation, and preference is given to students attending an Idaho college or university.

Creative Biolabs Scholarship Program

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: July 20, 2021

Students worldwide are eligible to apply for this scholarship. Undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. students, majoring in a science related field such as biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and molecular biology, are encouraged to apply. Must have a 3.0 GPA to be considered.

GMR Web Team Digital Marketing Scholarship Program

Amount: $500

Deadline: July 30, 2021

The digital marketing scholarship program is to support undergraduate level marketing students who are pursuing a marketing degree or a business degree with an emphasis in marketing. The scholarship is awarded both spring and fall semester with deadline dates as January 3rd and July 30th.

Cameron Impact Scholarship

Amount: $50,000

Deadline: September 13, 2021

Eligible applicants must maintain a GPA of 3.7 or above during high school, be in the high school graduating Class of 2020, be involved in community service and extracurricular activities, and be planning to enroll in a full-time course of study toward a bachelor’s degree at an accredited four-year U.S. college or university for the full academic year following high school graduation.