merit scholarship

Financing education is not an easy job for everyone. Millions of students struggle with their ways to finance a college education every year. In fact, the College Board recently estimated that two-thirds of college students paid for college with the help of financial aid. While this funding often comes in the form of federal loans or private grants and loans, it also sometimes comes as a scholarship.

Scholarships can be broadly classified into two categories: Merit Scholarships and Need-based Scholarships. Need-based scholarships are awarded to students taking into account their financial need. Merit scholarships are entirely different.

This article will introduce you to merit scholarships along with information like who grants them, and where to find merit scholarships that fit you. 

What Is a Merit Scholarship?

A merit scholarship is not awarded on the basis of financial need, rather it is given to the students who have exhibited excellent academic performance. An applicant’s performance within a targeted area is evaluated by the scholarship committee and t the most outstanding applicants in that area will ultimately receive the merit scholarships regardless of financial condition.  

The merits for which these scholarships are awarded are not always the same. They vary depending on the organization that is granting them. Some merit scholarships are holistic, that is, they look at overall academic performance, test scores, and teacher recommendations. Others are based entirely on your performance on a standardized test or on your performance and dedication within a certain field of study, like music or math.

Sometimes, merit scholarships can have non-merit criteria. For instance some colleges provide certain merit scholarships only to students in specific states or regions. Some are awarded to graduates of specific high schools or to members or a specific community, like a church or civic group. Some merit scholarships are for students of a certain gender, race, or background. Just because a scholarship is merit does not necessarily mean that it is blind to other factors, aside from your financial background.

Who Awards Merit Scholarships?

The organizations funding scholarships vary as widely as the merits upon which they are based. The only common factor is that they are all privately funded. There are no federally funded merit scholarships. 

Local groups, like local community or cultural organizations are some of the merit scholarship providers. Others are national groups like the Gates Millennium Scholarship or the Coca Cola Scholars Scholarship. Most colleges also award their own merit scholarships, which are sometimes endowed gifts from alumni.

Size and scope of the funding organization has a great role in competition for merit scholarships. Smaller organizations, like town and regional groups, will be less competitive than national groups that receive applicants from across the country. In order to determine how likely you are to be a competitive candidate, consider how large population applications are received from.


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