How to Win Merit Scholarships
If you are reading this article, it means you are on Scholarships360, which is a very good thing! Learning about scholarship opportunities is the first step on the path to winning scholarships. While individuals scholarships are important, the really big money comes from college-specific merit scholarships. These scholarships are awarded by specific schools. Cumulatively, colleges and universities spend billions of dollars on scholarships for students, so yes, there is a lot of money out there. Below, you will be able to see our process for maximizing your chances to win merit scholarships.
We would like to note that this article is focused on merit scholarships that individual colleges award. This does not take into account any need-based aid that you could potentially receive. If you want to estimate what your need-based aid package would look like, you should check out the Net Price Calculator.
Step 1: Find the colleges that offer the scholarships
The first step to winning college merit scholarships is identifying colleges that actually offer these scholarships! We have also compiled the following lists for students, parents, and school counselors to use as they navigate the admissions process:
These are some of the many top tier colleges and universities that offer scholarships (including numerous full-ride scholarships).
No, you don’t have to be a straight-A student or class valedictorian for merit scholarship consideration. The schools on this list are great colleges that also award merit scholarships to students who are more average.
These colleges don’t exactly offer merit scholarships, but they are quite a bit more affordable than many American universities (including some universities that offer free tuition!). If you are feeling adventurous these are definitely colleges to consider.
Do you love all things creative? These colleges offer scholarships to talented musicians, artists, and writers!
Step 2: Identify which schools are actually of interest for you
What good does a merit scholarship do for you if you NEVER could imagine attending that school? Not much good. If you are looking for merit scholarships, money should not be the only driver of why you want to apply. With this said, theses schools do not have to be your tip-top first choice!
Step 3: Assess your “chances” for receiving a merit scholarship
Tools like Naviance (if your school has it) or Cappex Scattergrams will allow you to compare your SAT or ACT scores, as well as your GPA, in order to see how you stack up against a college’s applicant pool. Every college will award merit scholarships differently. When you are researching schools, you should note if the school specifies any particular range or minimum for GPA/test scores. This will help you get a rough estimate of how you stack up to other applicants. While essays and recommendations do matter, scholarship awarding tends to be heavily driven by GPA and test scores.
Step 4: Cast a wide net
There are no guarantees in the admissions process, so it is important to account for this. If you really want to receive a merit scholarship and your ability to attend college will hinge on this, we would suggest making sure that EVERY school on your list awards merit aid. If you want to have some options for merit aid, you should probably apply to 4-5 schools that you 1) really like 2) have a good shot at winning a merit scholarship at.
College-specific merit scholarships provide an important way to pay for college. However, as we mentioned need-based financial aid can also be quite generous so using tools like the Net Price Calculator is highly recommended. Of course, you should also be applying for private scholarships through Scholarships360 too! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments!