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.

Anna N Dosen Serbian Educational Fund

Amount: $3,000

Deadline: March 31, 2020

Graduating seniors and undergraduate students are eligible to apply for this award. Must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher and pursue a degree in health related fields. Preference to students of Serbian heritage.

HENAAC Scholars Program

Amount: $500-$10,000

Deadline: April 1, 2020

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.

Great Minds in Stem Scholarship Program

Amount: $500-$10,000

Deadline: April 1, 2020

Applicants must be of Hispanic origin and/or must demonstrate leadership or service within the Hispanic community. Applicant must also be enrolled in an accredited 2 or 4-year undergraduate or graduate program and have at least a 3.0 GPA. Must be pursuing a STEM degree.

"Inspire Our Future" $500 Scholarship

Amount: $500

Deadline: April 1, 2020

All teachers in all levels of education are welcome to apply for this scholarship. Application includes responding to a question on the website in the provided link.

CIC/Anna Chennault Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: April 24, 2020

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.

CIC/Anna Chennault Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: April 24, 2020

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: $15,000

Deadline: April 30, 2020

One female and one male student will be awarded this scholarship based on leadership in athletics, academics, and community service. Eligible applicants include high school seniors and undergraduate students with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

North Carolina Home Builders Educational Foundation, Inc. Scholarships

Amount: $15,000

Deadline: April 30, 2020

One female and one male student will be awarded this scholarship based on leadership in athletics, academics, and community service. Eligible applicants include high school seniors and undergraduate students with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Wildcat Excellence Tuition Award

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2020

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.

Wayne K Latham Project Management Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2020

Applicants must be Dallas or Forth Worth residents enrolled in or applying to a project management related degree program or a field benefiting from project management, the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Students in Texas, USA attending or planning to attend a college in the USA are also eligible to apply.

BioWorks IPM/Sustainable Practices Scholarship

Amount: $4,000

Deadline: May 1, 2020

Applicant must be an undergraduate sophomore, junior, or senior with at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicant should be pursuing a career in floriculture and preference is given to students who are interested in furthering the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or sustainable practices.

Baptist Life Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: May 1, 2020

Baptist Life has been supporting and insuring Christians by awarding scholarships to a limited number of students who have achieved excellence in their studies and personal lives. Awards are based on academic achievement, financial need, and ambitions/goals and are applicable for for one school year only.

Wildcat Excellence Tuition Award

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2020

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.

Dr. Harold Kerzner Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 2, 2020

The scholarship is open to all students who are pursuing degrees in Project Management or related fields of study. Undergraduate, Graduate and Doctoral students are eligible to apply. There are four academic scholarships valued at up to the US $7,500 each which are offered to students who fulfil the criterion.

Dwaraka R. Iyengar PMI Dallas Chapter Area Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 2, 2020

The scholarship is open for applicants who are enrolled in or applying to a project management related degree program or a field benefiting from project management.The eligible students must be attending or planning to attend an accredited degree program that lives and goes to school in the PMI Dallas Chapter area.

James Rankin Memorial Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 2, 2020

Applicants must be Dallas or Forth Worth residents enrolled in or applying to a project management related degree program or a field benefiting from project management, the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Students in Texas, USA attending or planning to attend a college in the USA are also eligible to apply.

James Beard Foundation Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 15, 2020

This scholarship program assists aspiring and established culinary professionals who plan to further their education at a licensed or accredited culinary school or hospitality institution, college, or university.

Science Post Graduate Scholarship Fund

Amount: Varies

Deadline: June 1, 2020

The specific purpose of this program is to provide financial assistance to eligible American Indian and Alaska Native undergraduate, graduate and professional degree candidates to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research.

Bishop Thomas V. Daily Vocations Scholarship

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: June 1, 2020

Applicant must show academic merit and provide a letter of recommendation from an academic official of the seminary and a professor. Must be studying theology of the Catholic priesthood and preference is given to members of the Knights of Columbus or whose fathers are members.

Cap Lathrop Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: June 1, 2020

The Cap Lathrop Scholarship is offered to Alaska Natives with preference given to descendants of Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) who are majoring in broadcast, telecommunications, business, engineering, journalism, and other media-related fields.

Van Nattan-Hansen Scholarship Program

Amount: Varies

Deadline: June 15, 2020

Applicants must provide official transcript showing a 3.0+ GPA, dated and signed letter of intent with interest and declared major in astronomy/physical sciences, and letters of recommendation from at least 2 reputable sources.

NLEAFCF General Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: July 1, 2020

To apply, student must be enrolled in college, maintain a 2.7 GPA, and be a dependent child, stepchild or legally adopted child of an eligible law enforcement officer or firefighter who was killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

First Responders Children's Foundation General Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: July 1, 2020

The applicant must be the child of a first responder. Candidates must be pursuing their first degree, and must submit a FAFSA and Student Aid Report.

CSX Pride in Service Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: July 1, 2020

The applicant must be the child (biological, adopted or step-child) of a first responder who resides within one of the 23 states where CSX operates. Candidates must be pursuing their first degree at an institution that participates in the federal financial aid programs. Candidates must submit a FAFSA and Student Aid Report.

Christopher Lawton Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: July 1, 2020

This scholarship is awarded annually to a student who is the child of a law enforcement officer or firefighter lost or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, scholarly achievement, leadership and community service. Preference will be given to first responder fields-related majors.

Victoria Ovis Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: July 1, 2020

Awarded annually to a child of a law enforcement officer who was killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, scholarly achievement, leadership, and community service. Must attend school in New York State or the New York metropolitan area. Preference will be given to criminology and pre-law majors.

Vincent Bennett Jr. Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $20,000

Deadline: July 1, 2020

Awarded annually to an incoming freshman who is the child of a law enforcement officer or firefighter who was killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Must demonstrate financial need, scholarly achievement, leadership and community service. Preference will be given to engineering majors.

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.

Creative Biolabs Scholarship Program

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: July 20, 2020

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.

Creative Biolabs Scholarship Program

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: July 20, 2020

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, 2020

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.

GMR Web Team Digital Marketing Scholarship Program

Amount: $500

Deadline: July 30, 2020

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cameron Impact Scholarship

Amount: $50,000

Deadline: September 13, 2020

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.

Cameron Impact Scholarship

Amount: $50,000

Deadline: September 13, 2020

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.

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.

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.

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 15, 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.

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.

a/e ProNet David W. Lakamp AIA Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: February 1, 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.