How to win a college merit scholarship
Scholarships are free money that represent one of the best ways to pay for college and graduate debt-free. While private scholarships are an important part of any strategy to pay for college, one of the downsides is that many times they are not renewable, and individually, they are not going to be worth a ton of money. College-specific merit scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college because they are generous and renewable across your four years of college! Here are six important things you need to know if you want to win a college merit scholarship.
- Resource: Use the Scholarships360 Scholarship Search Tool to discover scholarships that are the best fit for you.
Choose the right colleges
One of the biggest mistakes students make when building their college list is not paying enough attention to merit scholarships. As a rule of thumb, you want to identify colleges where your admissions “stats” align with the percentage of students winning merit scholarships. So, if a college offers merit scholarships to 25% of applicants, you should be in the top 25% of applicants as far as test scores and GPA.
Research the specific scholarships
College merit scholarships can vary from college to college. At some schools, all admitted students are automatically considered for merit scholarships. At other colleges, students will need to complete an essay, separate application, or interview as part of the scholarship application process. Some colleges will even offer merit scholarships for students who have a specific talent in art, music, theater, or another area.
Cast a wide(ish) net
If you are serious about winning a merit scholarship at a specific college, you will need to cast a wide net. While being towards the top of the applicant pool will generally make you a strong candidate for merit scholarships, there are no guarantees. This is why we recommend that you apply to 10 colleges where you will be seriously competitive for merit scholarships. This will increase your odds of having a few merit scholarship offers to choose from.
Mind your deadlines
Some colleges will ask students to apply by a specific deadline to be eligible for merit scholarships. Make sure that you are applying by the necessary deadlines (remember, this deadline may be different than the admissions deadline).
Don’t forget to apply for need-based financial aid too
Remember, you can apply for both merit scholarships and need-based financial aid! Make sure that you submit your FAFSA and any other required financial aid documents by the necessary deadline. This will ensure that you are being considered for all potential scholarships–merit and need-based–at the colleges on your list.
Read the fine print about scholarship renewal
Most college-specific merit scholarships will allow you to renew the scholarship from year to year. However, the college may include certain requirements, such as a specific GPA or a certain number of credits that you might take, that you have to maintain in order to keep receiving the scholarship. This is important to know going into your freshman year so you aren’t caught off guard by losing your scholarship if you don’t take enough credits or do poorly in a few classes.
- Check out our list of top colleges that offer merit scholarships.
- If you are a B student, you can consider these colleges for merit scholarship opportunities.
- Don’t forget to apply for private scholarships through our Scholarship Search Tool.