What is an academic merit scholarship?

Merit scholarships are scholarships awarded for achievement and are not financial needbased. They can be awarded on the basis of academic, athletic, artistic, or special interest merit.

Academic merit scholarships are typically awarded by a college’s admissions office and are based on the key characteristics admissions officers look at: a student’s grades and standardized test scores. These scholarships can be large and cover complete tuition. Both in-state and out-of-state students may be eligible for generous scholarships.

Do all schools award academic merit scholarships?

First the bad news: All the Ivy League schools, as well as several other very selective schools like Stanford, MIT and Caltech, do not give any academic merit scholarships. No matter if you discovered a cure, created the world’s greatest invention, won an Academy Award or an Olympic gold medal, you will not receive money from these colleges.

Now the good news: Most other schools – including the University of Chicago, Duke, and Harvey Mudd – provide generous merit scholarships.

What are the requirements for academic merit scholarships?

As with almost everything, colleges have different requirements. Here are some good tips to follow:

Fill out the FAFSA/CSS Profile: Some colleges only provide students with merit aid if they have filled out the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile. Fill out these financial aid forms to make yourself eligible for merit scholarships from schools like Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech.

Meet deadlines. Most colleges require students to submit their application by a certain deadline to be considered for merit scholarships. Make sure you complete the college’s application by the deadline.

Follow additional directions. Many schools automatically consider students for merit scholarships, yet others do not. Check to see if the school requires you to check off a box or write a separate essay. If they require additional information, make sure to get it in to them on time.

Check all scholarship opportunities available. Some schools like Stevens Institute of Technology, Case Western, and Clarkson award students for competing on FIRST teams. Other schools reward students for their specific major, for leadership or community service involvement. Check to see if anything fits your background and apply.

Consider National Merit Scholar options.  Some colleges like Baylor University provide full tuition academic scholarships if the student is a National Merit Scholar and selects the school as their top choice. Other colleges like Northwestern and Bowdoin may give up to $2,000 scholarships to National Merit Scholars.

Where do I find out about merit scholarships?

Check each college’s website.  Alternatively, sites like Scholarships360 offer lists, though, none completely list all the colleges and their merit aid offerings.

How many students receive merit aid?

A surprisingly large number of students receive non-need-based aid.  Check out these statisticsfrom U.S. News & World Report.

What about Honors Colleges or Honors Programs?

Some state universities like the University of Florida, University of Michigan and University of Virginia have Honors Colleges / Honors Programs. Select students are admitted to Honors Colleges and oftentimes receive tuition breaks. Admission to Honors Colleges and Programs may be based on a holistic approach including outstanding academic achievement, academic leadership and ability to appropriately express oneself.

Is there help available when it comes to merit scholarships?

The college advisors at International College Counselors are available to help with merit scholarships whether you need to find them or apply to them.  Please contact us with any questions you may have.


International College Counselors helps students from all over the world find, apply to, and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert educational consultants are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college admission process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college advisor, please visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.



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