Merit Scholarships

These are the Scholarships awarded based on the merits of the students and on the basis of their talents. These can act as a morale booster and encourage the awardee to perform better. To know more about this read the article.

Updated by Kritika Pathak on 8th February 2019

What is a Merit Scholarship?

Merit Scholarships are awarded to the students on the basis of their academic, artistic or sports qualities and performance. They are also awarded if a student is in need of financial assistance, however, his/her talents are evaluated and then the scholarships are rewarded. The merit-based scholarships are given looking at the individual’s talents and accomplishments.

  • Most of the colleges and universities offer scholarships on the skills student posses such as leadership qualities, their service to the community, along with good grades and academic record.

  • These scholarships can be renewed if the students maintain a good academic record for each year and are awarded by the colleges or the state. They are competitive but not as much as the need-based scholarship and are awarded to the eligible students.

  • Some of the industries offer merit scholarships in the form of community development and to put in some investment for the group in the future.

How to earn a merit scholarship?

1) Prepare beforehand- The students must start preparing for gaining the scholarship as the competition is high and many of the awards require the students to present their documents, college or school transcripts, and records.

  • It demands a student to be good and consistent in his/her academic performance or extra-curricular performance.

  • It’s not necessary to be completely perfect but as the freshman year don’t matter as much, however, it will certainly matter when you’re showing the records as it highlights the performance of students.

2) Concentration must be chosen- The students must research and look for the scholarships which would suit them.

  • There are wide varieties of scholarships available for the students; they just have to look at the right places. Students must think, what kind of award would they be suitable and qualify for? The basis for the scholarships must be decided whether it is based on academic, sports or other talents.

  • If you’re highly talented, you can opt for talent-based scholarships. Otherwise focusing on the academics would be a good option, since it can result in various other opportunities to receive a scholarship. It gets easier if the student has good test scores and a good grade point average or GPA.

  • Even if a student has a good record in community service under him/her, or have great writing skills, but the grades are not up to the mark, the chances of receiving the scholarship will reduce. 

3) Be responsible- It is necessary for the students to show that they've accomplished in their respective studies or extra-curricular activities, to run the competition of the scholarship award.

  • You should be proactive and become responsible and answerable for handling the weakness and problems in the performances. The students must be able to analyze the hindrances before it evolves into a bigger glitch.

  • Guidance from the teachers must be taken for the project and assignments as they can provide relevant help and guide the students in the right direction.

  • College counselors can provide help and guidance about the grades, college plans, ambitions etc. The students must meet them for the same as they can help by providing recommendation letters as well for various colleges and scholarships.

4) Preparation for the ACT or SAT scores- As the grades matter for getting a merit scholarship, the students must prepare for taking the either of the two tests, as the scores can help determine the scholarships. Tuition or guidance must be opted for, for the same.

5) Find the perfect scholarship- Students tend to get lost while finding scholarships. They apply to various places and hence waste their time. It’s better to find a scholarship which fits your need. 

There might be many scholarships for which you may be eligible; however, it’s better to apply for a few scholarships instead of filling an infinite number of forms, and carefully analyzing it as it saves time. It can be thought of as the same process as applying for colleges, the selected one.

6) Submission of the application form- The students should think about submitting a well organized and polished application form as it is what makes the first impression. The list of scholarship could be possibly looked for as it will help a student to be aware of the eligibility as well as about the perfect scholarship options.

  • At least four months prior to the deadline, the students must prepare to work on the application process. It also gives them time to ask for recommendation letters, if they’re an applicant for a particular scholarship.

  • The essays can be prepared for that duration of time.

  • In the end, students must get their applications checked with the right people for errors, spelling mistakes, incomplete information and so on. They shouldn’t wait until the actual deadline as in a hurry many issues might not get solved. Merit Scholarship Application must be submitted 3-4 days before the deadline.

Merit Scholarship Requirements and Eligibility

  • The student must be enrolled in high school and can be in his/her last year or already graduated.

  • The student must have a GPA of 3.7 or higher.

  • Must be a US citizen or a permanent resident.

  • Students should write the PSAT/ NMSQT during their third year of high school.

  • Should plan to enroll in college for the full time.

  • If the student clears the eligibility criteria and the selection index which varies for each state, will get notified.

  • Once short-listed, students can then proceed with completing the National Merit Scholarship Form.

How to find Merit Scholarships?

There are two sources of finding and applying for scholarships. First one is through the Colleges/Universities and the second option is through the private organizations.

  • Merit Scholarships through Private Organizations- Many of the scholarships are offered through private organizations. It is meant to provide financial assistance to the students on the basis of merits purely. You can look at various organizations and look for scholarships which are not so competitive. You can also research the skills-based scholarships.

  • Merit Scholarships through Universities/Colleges/Schools- This is an easier way to find the scholarship. A lot of times students get merit scholarship awards from various schools because they want to attract applicants and in order to get it, you must apply at that particular university or college and consideration will be given to you once the submission of the application is done. The colleges look for GPA, SAT or ACT scores and the rank in the class.

There exists a National Merit Competition which identifies the PSAT scores in the US. Public universities provide more scholarships as compared to private universities.



It stands for Preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test which is administered by College Board and it is conducted for providing scholarships to the meritorious students. PSAT scores or National Merit Scholarship Scores help determine the shortlisting of the students as PSAT finalists. Around 3.5 million students write this exam every year. It determines the scholarships being provided to the students which are worth $2500. The rate of students clearing the exam is of 1%, which means the exam is highly selective. The scholarships can be renewed for each year in college.

PSAT National Merit Scholarship Eligibility

  • A student must be enrolled in a high school.

  • The student must plan to enroll for full-time in college starting the fall following the graduation from high school.

  • Candidate must be a citizen of the US or must be planning to become a US citizen legitimately. (If a permanent resident lawfully)

It uses a selection procedure which is based on the test scores, reading and mathematics skills. The National Scholarship Semi-finalist list is out in the month of February and is notified to the students by email. Around 15 thousand students are shortlisted. National Merit Finalist list is announced in the month of April and is notified to the principles of the respective schools, who later tell the students who qualified the exam.

Types of Merit Scholarships Awards

1) Merit Scholarship award on the basis of SAT/ACT Scores

The students writing the SAT/ACT tests can get scholarships on the basis of the scores.  The students can earn scholarships from the institutes just on the basis of their GPA, test scores or the class rank.

2) Corporate Sponsored Merit Scholarship

This scholarship program is aimed to provide the merit scholarships to the talented students who have great potentials. It is awarded through National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Many universities and colleges tend to enroll the academically talented students for the scholarship.

  • It conducts the program for business organizations, corporations, and company foundations. They are mostly targeted for the employee’s children and the members. Some are also offered for any particular community.

  • The students earn around 2500 dollars of scholarship. It can be renewed, but that decision is up to the committee.

  • Finalists of National Merit Scholarship Awards receive the corporate-sponsored merit scholarship as the companies write around 1000 awards which are sponsored by the corporate.

  • They also provide around 1200 special scholarships for the outstanding students who are not the finalists.

3) College or University sponsored Merit Scholarship Award

The universities and colleges support around 4000 Merit Scholarships awards for the students who will get admitted into the institute or are already enrolled. The finalists who notify the National Merit Scholarship Commission about their plans about attending the sponsored institute will get considered for the merit scholarship.

  • The college awards can be renewed up to four years at a sponsored college/institution.

  • It provides money which ranges from $500 to $2000.

  • The winners are selected by the college sponsor officials and decide the amount to be awarded to each student. 

  • The college-sponsored merit scholarships are withdrawn if the students don’t attend college which is financing scholarship.

4) Academic Merit Scholarship

The academic merit scholarship is awarded by the colleges/universities as well as many private organizations. They are awarded on the basis of scores and also some scholarships are given on the basis of particular subjects. Others can be general in nature.

The scholarships search can be done through the internet.  

Academic Scholarship Requirements

  • The student must be in high school moving towards graduation or already a graduate.

  • Must be a US citizen.

  • He/she must plan to enroll in college/university.

    The scholarship is awarded on the basis of the ACT or SAT scores, the GPA in high school and overall academic performance. They also consider class rankings in some cases and look if the student is involved in community service or extra-curricular activities.

  • Mostly the scholarships are awarded to the students who have performed exceptionally in the school or college.

  • It can provide full scholarship or small awards. In some cases, students must be recommended by the school teacher. Other scholarships which are especially sponsored by independent organizations are open for all the applicants if they clear the eligibility criteria.

  • It can provide a long-term benefit to the students. After graduation from college, a student can work in good organizations. The scholarship can help add a good impression of a student on his/her resume as it highlights the dedication and hard work of a student.

5) Athletic Merit Scholarship

The universities tend to promote sports and usually compete to get the best athletes on their campus. Hence the Athletic Scholarships are sponsored by the universities and colleges to get the best of the students. The scholarships are rewarded for the excellent performance in sports. Many students attend the college on the basis of the athletic merit scholarship and it is awarded for various sports such as football, golf, baseball etc.

  • The students must start preparing for the scholarship beforehand. They should act before junior year in high school and start looking for scholarship opportunities, as well as the programs which suit them. The choice of sport must be chosen as well. They should contact the institutes offering the particular scholarship, its requirements, and eligibility.

  • There are many scholarships offered by the private and business organizations and they should be looked upon as well.

  • Most of the scholarships require the students to be nominated by a high school coach or any other official. The college plan must be made early for getting the best scholarship since the competition is really high for the same.

  • The academic record should be good as well along with the sports record, in order to qualify for the merit scholarship, as it is taken into consideration as well.

  • The process is long which includes interviews with the colleges along with the college scouts reviews. The ACT or SAT scores are taken into consideration as well. And hence it’s a long process but once you find the right scholarship, it can be really fruitful for the next few years.

6) Artistic Merit Scholarship

  • This scholarship requires a student to display high artistic qualities and expertise in the particular area. It includes various talents in the fields like music, creative writing, visual arts etc. The scholarships are sponsored by the universities, public and private organizations.

  • Students must look for scholarships and start preparing beforehand. They should look into the field which has them interested in and then follows the scholarship search henceforth. By following this, a student can find a suitable and beneficial merit scholarship for him/her in the particular art form chosen.

  • It requires the students to prepare a portfolio and present it along with Standardized Test Scores (SAT) and the high school transcripts.

  • The portfolio can consist of artworks, poetry, dance or music performance, etc, depending on the talent. Students are judged on the basis of the portfolio they present and then short-listed.

  • All the merit scholarships are basically the same; it’s just the content and the subject which changes. And hence, students should start looking for the ones which are suitable for them.

How difficult is it to get a scholarship?

  • It depends on the type of scholarship you’re opting for. If the award is huge, the competition will obviously be bigger.

  • It can be difficult only in a way as it demands high and long-term dedication along with good grades and academic performance to stand out from the crowd.

  • If the scholarship is applied on the talent basis, the student must remain great in his sphere, however for the merit scholarship, if a student is applying on the basis of GPA, his/her grades should be maintained. Nothing extra has to be done if the merit of a student is great.

How to lookup for Merit Scholarships?

Majority of the scholarships which demand the GPA or the test scores are merit-based scholarships. They are dependent on the achievements of a student, not financial assistance. Students must look for pages which provide the title as ‘Merit Scholarships’ or the ‘Academic Based Scholarships’.Most of the universities and colleges have a separate merit scholarship page. You can look up by typing the institutes' name and then scholarships or can look in the financial aid page. It will provide information about both need and merit-based scholarships. Other ways to look up for the information is by contacting the college or the admission office.

Students must keep these things in mind-

  • The scholarships you are looking for must be for freshmen. (Applicable for high school students).

  • You should see whether there is any distinction between applicants for in-state and out-state.

Some examples of Merit Scholarships are:





Energy Education for Michigan


It is available for the undergraduate students residing in Michigan pursuing a major in Energy-Related field. 


 Number of Awards are 5 worth 500 dollars each.


The deadline for the scholarship is August 10th, 2018

Jim Dodson Law Scholarship


It is available for the undergraduate students who have a GPA of 2.75 or above. The student must have been diagnosed with a brain injury or give care for anybody who has.


Number of Award is 1 worth $1000. 


The deadline for the scholarship is August 15th, 2018.

Saline County Single Parent Scholarship

 Available for single parents pursuing an undergraduate degree, residing in Saline County. Should have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Must be near poverty level or children under age of 18.

 The number of awards is 50 and the prize money is $500.

Application deadline is on August 15th, 2018.

Boomer Benefits Scholarships


It is available for U.S. students at the age of 50 and above, who are going back to college. The GPA must be 3.0 or higher. Community service commitment must be seen.


The number of awards is 1 worth $1000.

The application deadline is August 15th, 2018.

Annual Diversity Scholarship


The award is for the first year undergraduate law students who belong to diverse backgrounds that represent the US. Must be US citizens and good academic performance.


The number of awards is 3 worth $15000.

 Application deadline is on 15th August 2018.

Advancing Women in Technology Scholarship Program


It is available for women residing in California and pursuing a major in technology fields or STEM. GPA must be 3.0 or higher.


 The Number of Awards are 4 worth $5000.


The application deadline is August 31st, 2018.

RS to BSN Challenge


Available for the graduate and undergraduate students pursuing nursing having a GPA of 3.5 or higher.



Number of Award is 1 for $1000.


The application deadline is September 1, 2018.


The merit-based scholarships are less competitive as compared to the need-based scholarships. The chances are higher to earn a merit scholarship here especially with so many options available, on the basis of the eligibility. Maintaining grades is the most important criteria here, and other criteria’s can include talents or athletic skills, along with decent grades or GPA. Students should also try applying for local awards, as many people are not even aware of it. Research about eligibility and requirements should be done beforehand to be prepared for applying for the merit scholarships and earning it.                                                                                                                          Source:


  1) How do I get a merit-based scholarship?

A merit-based scholarship is given to those students who excel in academics, athletics, artistic in addition to a special interest. To receive a merit-based scholarship you need to do good in any field of your interest. Financial needs are also considered while awarding you a scholarship, but being good and talented and excelling in your field of interest is the primary objective. 

  2) After receiving the scholarship, is it possible to increase the grant amount? 

No, you cannot increase the grant amount of a merit-based schoalrship once you receive it. But if your family's financial status has fallen you can apply for a need-based scholarship. 

  3) Can I use the merit-scholarship amount to cover my room and other expenses? 

You are eligible to use the amount only by the guidelines provided by the Merit-Schoalrship providing Organization. Some Organizations may allow you to use the merit-Scholarship grant amount in your room as well as other expenses, while some may only restrict till your college/tuition fees.  

  4) If there is a gap year, will I still be eligible to keep the scholarship amount? 

No, the merit-scholarship award will not be considered for next sememter. The scholarship will only be awarded for the given semester in which you apply for and continue your studies. 

  5) Will I be able to apply for a merit-based scholarship after my 1st year in college? 

No, the college will not allow you to apply for a merit-based scholarship after your incoming year in college. But there are other Organizations which provides merit-based scholarships where you can apply.