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.

UCLA Graduate Education Scholarships

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: December 15, 2019

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).

Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: December 31, 2019

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, 2019

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.

Hawai'i Community Foundation Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: January 1, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

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.

Express Medical Supply Scholarship

Amount: $500

Deadline: January 6, 2020

Must be currently enrolled in accredited university. Applicants are asked to tweet a picture that represents the heart of your hometown to be considered for this scholarship.

Goldberg-Miller Public Finance Scholarship

Amount: $15,000

Deadline: January 18, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

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.

Kalamazoo County Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 1, 2020

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.

AGA Women's Scholarship

Amount: $20,000

Deadline: March 1, 2020

This scholarship is granted to a female Alabama resident, who is a graduate of an accredited secondary school and has shown evidence of academic excellence, good citizenship, sportsmanship and community involvement. Student must be in need of financial assistance to pursue their education and have an interest in golf.

Fontana Transport Inc. Scholars Program

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

First generation college prospective students who are underrepresented, low income, and passionate about pursuing a career in health related fields. Students are not required to be U.S. citizens, but must have a 3.5 GPA to be considered.

SPS Leadership Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

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, 2020

This scholarship is open to female students who are majoring in STEM fields. Applicants must be US citizens and members of the SPS national organization. Preference is given to students who have disadvantaged economic backgrounds, overcame significant obstacles in their lives, or are the first in their family to go to college.

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

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

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, 2020

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 the future.

Aysen Tunca Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

Applicants must be female students in the sophomore or junior year of college who are majoring in a STEM field, and members of the SPS national organization.

Peggy Dixon Two-Year Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

Applicants must be members of the SPS national organization who have completed 1+ semester/quarter of the introductory physics sequence and are transitioning from a two-year college into a physics bachelor's degree program.

SPS and AAPT Mary Beth Monroe Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

Applicants must be undergraduate juniors and members of the SPS national organization who are transitioning from a two-year college into a physics bachelor's degree program. Must provide official transcript to apply.

SPS Leadership Scholarships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15, 2020

Applicants must be undergraduate juniors who plan to be enrolled as undergraduates for 1+ more semester(s), and who are members of the SPS national organization.

Herbert Levy Memorial Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

Applicants must be undergraduate members of the SPS national organization, demonstrate financial need through a written statement, and provide an official transcript to apply.

Dan and Vicky Hancock Scholarship for Mechanical Engineering Excellence

Amount: $5,500

Deadline: March 15, 2020

This scholarship is open to mechanical engineering majors with a 3.0+ GPA (if college student) or 3.5+ GPA (if high school student), and total SAT score of 1220 or higher and/or an ACT composite score of 27 or above. See website for required documents.

Donald and Barbara Mozley Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

This scholarship is open to engineering majors at an ABET accredited program college with a 3.0+ GPA (if college student) or 3.5+ GPA (if high school student), and total SAT score of 1220 or higher and/or an ACT composite score of 27 or above. See website for required documents.

Fred M. Young Sr. / SAE Engineering Scholarship

Amount: $4,000

Deadline: March 15, 2020

This scholarship is open to engineering majors at an ABET accredited program college with a 3.75+ and 90th percentile scores on SAT I or composite ACT in both math and critical reading.

American Indian Law School Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15, 2020

This scholarship is awarded to a first-year student of Harvard Law School. The scholarship covers tuition for the three-year course of study for one Native student. Must be an American Indian or Alaska Native who are enrolled tribal members, or who are lineal descendants of an enrolled parent or grandparent.

Simpson Strong-Tie Academic Scholarships

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: March 22, 2020

The scholarship program aims to assist architecture, structural engineering and construction management students at seventy-six participating schools in USA. The Student Scholarship Program offers scholarships to support education and encourage the design and building of safer structures in our communities.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.