Merit-Based Scholarships for College Students

Last updated: October 11, 2018

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.

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.

Pride Foundation

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 11, 2019

Pride foundation is offering mutliple scholarships to promote leadership and diversity in the LGBTQ community. Scholarships are organized in four distinct categories: academic pursuits, community leadership, cultural identities, and geography. There is only one application for 50 Scholarships. Applicants must be a resident of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington but may study elsewhere and must be pursuing post-secondary education.

Walter Byers Graduate Scholarship

Amount: $24,000

Deadline: January 11, 2019

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.

The Business Forum Scholarship Program

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 28, 2019

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: $5,000

Deadline: February 24, 2019

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: $2,800

Deadline: February 24, 2019

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 24, 2019

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 24, 2019

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 24, 2019

The scholarship awards students who graduate from a public or private high school in Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Hendry or Glades counties. and pursuing a degree in Communication or Journalism. All High School Seniors, Undergraduates, and Graduates are eligible to apply.

Doris W. Frey Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,750

Deadline: February 24, 2019

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: $1,150

Deadline: February 24, 2019

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.

Immokalee Achievement Award

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: February 24, 2019

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.

BioWorks IPM/Sustainable Practices Scholarship

Amount: $4,000

Deadline: May 1, 2019

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.

Joe Perdue Scholarship

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: May 1, 2019

Applicant must be at least a college freshman and be actively pursuing a career in in the private club industry.

Wildcat Excellence Tuition Award

Amount: $2,000-$12,000

Deadline: May 1, 2019

This award is a highly competitive undergraduate tuiion scholarship offered annually. Applicant must be pursuing a first time bachelor's degree and be an Arizona resident. Applicants are chosen based on coursework and standardized test scores.

Baptist Life Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: May 1, 2019

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.

EMU Recognition of Excellence Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: June 1, 2019

Recipient can renew this award up to four semesters. Applicant must be a transfer student enrolling in Eastern Michigan University and be an active member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society with a GPA of at least 3.5

Ashley Soul Conroy Foundation Scholarship

Amount: $4,000

Deadline: June 1, 2019

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.

Bishop Thomas V. Daily Vocations Scholarship

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: June 1, 2019

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.

NLEAFCF General Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: July 1, 2019

Applicant must be pursuing a bachelor's degree, associate's degree, or certificate at any accredited college, university or technical/vocational institution and maintain a 2.7 GPA. Applicant must 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.

ASDSO Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 29, 2019

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.

National Washington Crossing Foundation Scholarship Awards

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 15, 2019

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.

Kalamazoo County Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 1, 2019

The scholarship focuses on the sources of aid available in Kalamazoo County, including scholarships offered by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. There are many scholarships available for both undergraduate and graduate students. See the description of individual scholarship for details.

SPS Leadership Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15, 2019

The scholarship program wants to encourage the study of physics among the students. The SPS Leadership Scholarships awards students who are physics majors in the latter stages of their undergraduate careers and who are undergraduate members of the SPS national organization.

SPS and AAPT Mary Beth Monroe Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2019

The scholarship program wants to encourage the study of physics among the students. The program awards students who are physics majors in the latter stages of their undergraduate careers and who are undergraduate members of the SPS national organization.

Peggy Dixon Two-Year Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2019

The scholarship program wants to encourage the study of physics among the students. Interested applicants must be undergraduate members of the SPS national organization and must be transitioning from a two-year college into a physics bachelor's degree program.

AWIS Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2019

This merit-based scholarship program wants to encourage undergraduate female students who are majoring in physics, including space physics and geophysics, or geoscience. Interested applicants must be undergraduate members of the SPS national organization and intend to continue scholastic development in physics.

SPS Future Teacher Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2019

This merit-based scholarship program wants to encourage undergraduate students who are majoring in physics. Interested applicants must be members of the SPS national organization and be participating in a teacher education program and ultimately intend to pursue a career in physics education.

Aysen Tunca Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2019

This merit-based scholarship program wants to encourage undergraduate female students who are majoring in STEM fields. Interested applicants must be US citizens and members of the SPS national organization. While awarding this scholarship, preference will be given to a student with a disadvantaged economic background or someone who overcame significant obstacles in her life or someone who is the first person in her family to go to college or major in a STEM field.

Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) Academic Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2019

The scholarship wants to encourage the study of physics among the students who are undergraduate members of the SPS national organization. The program awards students who are US citizens, currently majoring in physics or a related science and intend to contribute to scholastic development in physics.

Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) Underrepresented Student Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2019

The scholarship wants to encourage the study of physics among the groups that are underrepresented in science and engineering. U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are undergraduate student members of the SPS national organization are eligible to apply. The program awards students who are majoring in physics or a related science and intend for continued scholastic development in physics in future.

WSCGA Foundation Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15, 2019

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.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: April 1, 2019

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

CIC/Anna Chennault Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: April 22, 2019

The scholarship is merit-based and aims to encourage students to pursue journalism as a career. Applicants must be committed to AAJA’s mission and must be a graduating high school senior that has been accepted to a U.S. college.

Dr. Harold Kerzner Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2019

The scholarship is open to all students who are pursuing graduate or undergraduate degrees in Project Management or related fields of study from accredited, degree-granting colleges and universities. 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 1, 2019

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 1, 2019

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 from Dallas/Fort Worth or attending or planning to attend an accredited degree program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Students in Texas, USA attending or planning to attend an accredited degree program at any college or university in the USA are also eligible to apply.

Wayne K Latham Project Management Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 1, 2019

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 from Dallas/Fort Worth or attending or planning to attend an accredited degree program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Students in Texas, USA attending or planning to attend an accredited degree program at any college or university in the USA are also eligible to apply.

American Indian Law School Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15, 2021

The American Indian College Fund will award the second American Indian Law School Scholarship to a first-year student in the 2021-22 Harvard Law School. The scholarship covers all costs of attendance, including tuition for the three-year course of study at Harvard Law School, for one Native student. Th eligible applicants must be an American Indian or Alaska Native who are enrolled tribal members, or who are lineal descendants of an enrolled parent or grandparent.

Idaho Postsecondary Credit Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 1, 2019

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.

Goldberg-Miller Public Finance Scholarship

Amount: $15,000

Deadline: January 18, 2019

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, 2019

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, 2019

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, 2019

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, 2019

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.

AIA/Architects Foundation Diversity Advancement Scholarship

Amount: $4,000

Deadline: January 1, 2019

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.

The Payette Sho-Ping Chin Memorial Academic Scholarship

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: January 1, 2019

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.

Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Amount: $30,000

Deadline: January 1, 2019

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.

Cap Lathrop Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: June 1, 2019

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. The applicant must be pursuing a 2-year, 4-year, or graduate degree program with a major in broadcast, telecommunications, business, engineering, journalism, and other media-related fields.

GMR Web Team Digital Marketing Scholarship Program

Amount: $500

Deadline: January 3, 2019

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.

Toptal Scholarships

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: March 31, 2019

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.