Merit-Based Scholarships

Discover merit-based scholarships and learn how to apply.

What is a merit-based scholarship?

For some students, understanding the cost of college can be the most stressful part of the application process. Rising college costs can make college feel unattainably expensive. However, that’s where merit-based scholarships can be helpful. Merit-based scholarships are one of the best ways to cover rising college costs because they do not need to be repaid like loans do. 

In addition, merit-based scholarships can provide access to opportunities or honors not offered to other students. In this guide to merit-based scholarships, we’ll walk you through the top 20 merit scholarships and give you tips on how to win merit-based scholarships of all kinds. These college scholarships can help cover rising college costs and make college more affordable and accessible. 

First, let’s answer the question: what is a merit-based scholarship? A merit-based scholarship is a sum of scholarship money awarded by a college, community organization, or private company based on a student’s achievements and accomplishments. A merit-based scholarship is different from a need-based scholarship, which is awarded based on a student’s financial need. Both can be used to help cover the cost of college.   

There are many different criteria you may need to fulfill in order to win a merit-based scholarship. For example, if you are the first in your family to attend college, you may be eligible for a first generation scholarship. If you have high standardized test scores, you may be eligible for ACT scholarships. If you have given extensive help to your community, you may be eligible for a community service scholarship. All of these criteria can help you earn a merit scholarship.

However, most merit-based scholarships do take your grades and academic achievements into account to some extent. Check out the gallery of articles on some of the most popular merit-based scholarships below for more details on how to win a variety of merit-based scholarships!

HOPE Scholarship: Introduction Working out how to pay for college can be stressful, especially as you juggle the other demands of transitioning from high school to college. Between applying for […]

National Merit Scholarship: Exploring how to become a National Merit Scholar! The path to covering the cost of college can be confusing and stressful. Between navigating financial aid and applying […]

How to win a Posse Scholarship Paying for college is an important consideration for any student beginning the college application process. To help offset the cost of college, many students […]

Boston University Scholarships – Introduction The cost of college is undoubtedly a substantial investment. While the Boston University tuition may seem overwhelming, remember that there are Boston University scholarships. These […]

What is the College Board? Have you encountered the College Board yet? Whether or not you’ve already started your scholarship search for College Board scholarships, you have used their services […]

Eagle Scout Scholarships: Introduction Finding merit scholarships to fund your college goals can be a challenge. Therefore, in this guide to Eagle Scout Scholarships, we’ll walk you through all of […]

Equitable Excellence Scholarship: Introduction Finding the top merit-based scholarships for college can feel daunting. With so many programs out there, it can be hard to conduct a scholarship search. It’s […]

Bill Gates Scholarship– Introduction In this article, we will discuss a highly competitive merit-based scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This merit-based scholarship is called “The Gates Scholarship” […]

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship – Introduction In this “Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship” guide, we will discuss merit-based scholarship opportunities for high school seniors. Specifically, we will cover the Jack Kent […]

How to win the Morehead-Cain Scholarship Of the many merit-based scholarships across the country, the Morehead-Cain scholarship is one of the most prestigious. There are several UNC scholarships and financial […]

Robertson Scholarship – Introduction In this “How to Win a Robertson Scholarship” guide, we’ll cover merit-based scholarship opportunities for high school seniors. Specifically, we’ll talk about how to win the […]

Ron Brown Scholarship- Introduction Applying to college can be a stressful and intimidating process, especially when trying to cover college costs. Navigating the scholarship search can be confusing for students. […]

UVA Scholarships- Introduction In this article, we will discuss two specific scholarships for college: the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and the Walentas Scholarship. We will provide information on eligibility […]

UT Austin Scholarships Guide Earning UT Austin scholarships is an excellent way to lessen the cost of college. Moreover, lucky for those interested in attending this leading research institution, there […]

How do I win merit-based scholarships?

Every merit-based scholarship has its own criteria, but the top merit-based scholarships tend to look at academic achievement first. To win these merit scholarships, you must have a high GPA and excel in the most challenging courses your high school offers. These achievements show merit scholarship committees that you are worthy of their investment and will succeed in college. 

Earning honors or awards in academics, athletics, or extracurricular activities will also increase your chances of winning merit scholarships. These recognitions show merit scholarship committees that you’ve had a positive impact on your community or school. In this, these awards show merit scholarship organizations that you will use their money to make a difference at your chosen college. Simply put, merit scholarship winners tend to stand out from their peers.

Another criteria that some merit-based scholarships use to choose their recipients is test scores. The best example of this is the National Merit Scholarship, which students qualify for by scoring highly on the PSAT. Although now many colleges are moving to test-optional admissions, strong test scores can help you earn some top merit-based scholarships.

Finally, some merit-based scholarships require students to demonstrate achievement within a specific field, organization, or activity. A community service scholarship recipient would need to demonstrate their commitment to helping others. Recipients of Eagle Scout scholarships must have achieved the highest rank in scouting while also showing accomplishments in other areas. 

When doing your merit scholarship search, be aware of any specific requirements that a merit scholarship may have. Don’t spend time applying for merit scholarships you aren’t eligible for. Instead, narrow your college scholarships search to those where you meet the criteria. Keep in mind there are many kinds of scholarships for college, so you will likely find at least a few merit-based scholarships or other college scholarships for which you qualify.     

Merit-based scholarships for high school seniors

There are thousands of merit-based scholarships available at the local, state, and national levels. Just about every university also offers its own college scholarships to applicants. In this guide, we will focus on 20 of the most well-known merit scholarship programs in the country. However, this is not an extensive list – there are far more than just 20 big college scholarships out there. 

Use the chart below as a guide to jump start your own merit scholarship search, and remember that it is important to also look for college scholarships in your local community. 

Merit-Based Scholarship Scholarship Application Link Application Open Application Deadline
1 Coca Cola Scholarship Apply here August October 
2 National Merit Scholarship Apply here Fall Term Fall Term
3 HOPE Scholarship Apply here Open The last day of the school term 
4 Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Program Apply here Varies by school Varies by school
5 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Apply here First Tuesday in September Last Friday in January 
6 Eagle Scout Scholarships Apply here December 1 January 31
7 Ron Brown Scholarship Apply here August 1 January 9
8 Gates Scholarship Apply here July 15 September 15
9 College Board Opportunity Scholarship Apply here December 6/July 1/October 1 June 30/October 31/February 28
10 University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship Apply here Fall Term Fall Term
11 Ohio State Scholarships Apply here August 1 November 1
12 Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Apply here September 1 Winter 2023
13 Emory Scholarship Apply here August 1 November 15
14 Equitable Excellence Scholarship Apply here October  December, or until 10,000 applications are submitted.
15 USC Scholarships Apply here August 1 December 1
16 Washington University Scholarship Apply here August 1 January 4
17 Vanderbilt Merit Scholarships Apply here August 1 December 1
18 Burger King Scholars Program Apply here October 15 December 31
19 UCSD Scholarship Apply here August 1 November 30
20 Rutgers Scholarships Apply here August 1 December 1

Let’s take a closer look at these merit-based scholarships one-by-one, beginning with the Coca-Cola Scholarship!

1. Coca-Cola Scholarship

What is the Coca Cola Scholarship?

The Coca-Cola Scholarship consists of three different merit-based scholarships offered by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. The three programs are: the Coca-Cola Scholars Program, the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team, and the Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise. The last two programs are targeted toward community college attendees and offer around 200 scholarships, ranging from $1000-$1500.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation offers the flagship Coca-Cola Scholarship, which is given to only 150 students per year. The Coca-Cola Scholarship is one of the largest and most competitive merit scholarship programs in the country, with applicants from around the country competing for a small number of Coca Cola Scholarship awards. Recipients must demonstrate outstanding academic achievement, leadership, and service to their school and community.

How much is the Coca Cola Scholarship?

The value of a Coca Cola Scholarship is $20,000, which can be applied to the cost of college at any accredited college or university in the country. You can find eligibility requirements and application details on the Coca-Cola Scholarship website. This is the most well-known of the merit-based scholarships.

Check out our guide on How to Win a Coca-Cola Scholarship here

2. National Merit Scholarship

The second merit scholarship we’ll talk about is the National Merit Scholarship. This merit-based scholarship offers college scholarships to around 7,500 students each year. In order to qualify for these merit-based scholarships, students must earn a high enough score on the PSAT/NMSQT in their junior year of high school. Around 50,000 students each year earn high enough scores to move on to the next stage. However, only about 16,000 of those recognized students go on to become semifinalists for a National Merit Scholarship.

At the semi-final step of the National Merit Scholarship, the committee uses additional criteria to evaluate applicants. Students must take either the SAT or ACT and earn high enough scores to qualify. In addition, National Merit Scholarship semifinalists must submit high school transcripts and an endorsement from their high school principal to the committee. 

Even though you must take a standardized test in order to be eligible, these are not just SAT or ACT scholarships. There are many steps that semifinalists must take. A full list of requirements for National Merit Scholarship semifinalists can be found here.

Finalists for the National Merit Scholarship receive a $2,500 scholarship to cover the cost of college at any accredited school in the country. Individual companies and colleges that sponsor National Merit Scholarship finalists may add their own awards as well. For more information about the National Merit Scholarship, you can visit their website at this link.

3. HOPE Scholarship

The HOPE Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship specifically for Georgia residents, though other states and schools have instituted HOPE Scholarship programs of their own. This merit scholarship provides financial assistance to cover college costs at any eligible institution in the state. 

The amount of the award is determined by the total cost of tuition at the recipient’s college. Students attending University of Georgia or Georgia Institute of Technology receive the largest merit scholarship awards, while those at less expensive schools receive smaller amounts.

In order to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship, students must have at least a 3.0 GPA and have taken a rigorous course of study at an accredited high school. The HOPE Scholarship program also awards the more competitive Zell Miller merit scholarship to eligible students who earn at least a 3.7 GPA in their core curriculum classes. Students must also earn at least a 26 on the ACT scholarships qualifying test or a 1200 on the Reading and Math sections of the SAT. Students can find more information about how to apply for the HOPE Scholarship at their website

4. Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Program

The Mastercard Scholarship Program seeks to empower the next generation of leaders in Africa by providing access to merit-based scholarships at partner universities around the world. Because the Mastercard Scholarship Program partners with colleges and universities throughout the world, students from any country are eligible to apply, provided they can meet the admissions requirements of the partner university. Keep in mind that these admissions requirements may include language proficiency tests if you are seeking college scholarships as an international applicant.

If you’re an American applicant and don’t want to travel to another continent, some of the partner institutions include Arizona State University and UC Berkeley, as well as McGill, UBC, and University of Toronto in Canada. Make sure you are applying to the Mastercard Scholarship partner university that is right for you. 

Remember that you must complete all required admissions documents in order to be eligible for college scholarships at your chosen partner university. You can visit this website for more information about how to apply for a Mastercard Scholarship and to see a full list of their partner universities. Now, let’s check out the next scholarship that can help you combat rising college costs!

5. Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is named after long-time US Senator Barry Goldwater and is one of the few merit scholarships on this list that is offered only to current college students. Sophomores and juniors at colleges with a Goldwater Scholarship campus representative are eligible to be nominated for these merit-based scholarships. 

The representative may nominate up to four students a year who are pursuing majors in STEM fields and intend to enter a research based career field in STEM. A full list of the eligibility criteria can be found here. The Barry M Goldwater Scholarship also requires applicants to submit three letters of recommendation, their transcript, and a sample research essay. 

As the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is focused primarily on scientific research, this essay allows applicants to share their work with the committee. Recipients are given up to $7,500 for each remaining year of college to cover tuition, room, books, and fees not paid for by other financial aid sources. Additional information about the Goldwater Scholarship, including how to apply, can be found at their website

6. Eagle Scout Scholarships

The National Eagle Scout Scholarships Association offers merit-based NESA scholarships to Eagle Scouts around the country. Their flagship scholarships for college include the NESA scholarship, which offers Eagle Scout Scholarships of $7,500 or $3,500 to three members of their sixteen National Service Territories. This is primarily a community service scholarship, as the committee takes into account participation in school, scouting, and community service projects more than academic distinction.

Other Eagle Scout Scholarships include the Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship, which offers Eagle Scout Scholarships of $48,000 to one recipient and $16,000 to sixteen additional recipients. In addition to being community service scholarships, these larger awards also take into account applicants’ academic records and financial need. 

Additionally, recipients of these merit-based scholarships must have attained the rank of Eagle Scout before applying. To learn more about NESA Scholarships and other Eagle Scout Scholarships, check out their website! Now, let’s look at the next scholarship on our college scholarships list. 

7. Ron Brown Scholarship

The Ron Brown Scholarship Fund provides merit-based scholarships to academically gifted African-American high school students. Students can use these merit-based scholarships at any college or university in the country, regardless of major or career field. Applicants for the Ron Brown Scholarship must demonstrate a strong commitment to public service, community engagement, and global citizenship.

Although not labeled as a first generation scholarship, Ron Brown Scholarship recipients often come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and are the first in their families to attend college. The 40-50 annual winners receive $10,000 per year for four years to cover the costs of college attendance. One of the other features of the Ron Brown Scholarship is ongoing mentorship throughout all four years of college. See the website for an application and additional information about this merit scholarship. 

8. The Gates Scholarship

Unlike many other top merit-based scholarships, the Gates Scholarship takes into account a student’s financial need in addition to other merit-based criteria. Students must be eligible for a Pell Grant and be a member of a minority community in order to apply. Although not exclusively a first generation scholarship, many Gates Scholarship recipients are the first in their families to attend college. The Gates Scholarship also takes into consideration a student’s leadership skills, maturity, and resilience. A minimum GPA of 3.3 is required for this merit-based scholarship.

The Gates Scholarship covers the full cost of college at any four-year school not already covered by financial aid or a family’s Expected Family Contribution. Around 300 students each year receive the Gates Scholarship, one of the many first generation scholarships for college that help offset the rising college costs particularly for lower-income families. For more information about the Gates Scholarship, including application deadlines, visit their website at this link.  

9. College Board Opportunity Scholarship

The College Board Scholarships are different from other merit-based scholarships on this list because the winners are determined through random drawings rather than a criteria-based selection process. Also, even though these scholarships are sponsored by the College Board, they are not SAT or ACT scholarships and have no connection to standardized test scores. 

Students can earn entries for College Board Scholarships by completing tasks like building an online college list or preparing for the SAT. Students with more difficulty covering rising college costs are eligible to receive additional entries. College Board Scholarships offer monthly awards of both $500 and $40,000. Depending on the month, either 100 or 400 students will be offered the $500 award while only 2 students per month will receive the $40,000 award. 

Students who build their college lists or enter the Big Future scholarship search earlier will have more chances to win College Board Scholarships, as student names remain in the entry pool as long as they are eligible. For more details about College Board Scholarships and a full list of the tasks to complete, visit the CollegeBoard’s BigFuture website. Let’s look at the next of our scholarships for college!

10. University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship

The Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship are two top merit-based scholarships that cover the total cost of attendance at University of Virginia. Neither Jefferson Scholars nor Walentas Scholars must be Virginia residents. The scholarship will cover the increased college costs for out-of-state students. In addition, the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship provide enrichment experiences, like study abroad, career development, and access to a committed alumni network.

Both the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship require nomination from an applicant’s high school. Each high school can name only one candidate, so anyone interested in becoming one of the Jefferson Scholars should inform their high school as soon as possible. 

Only one Jefferson Scholarship and one Walentas Scholarship are offered each year, making Jefferson Scholars and Walentas Scholars some of the most selective merit scholarship winners in the country. For additional information on eligibility requirements and how to apply for these merit-based scholarships, see the program website.

11. Ohio State Scholarships

There are many Ohio State Scholarship programs available for students attending one of the largest public universities in the country. The most selective Ohio State Scholarship is the Eminence Scholarship which covers college costs for eight semesters at The Ohio State University. Eminence scholars must demonstrate strong academic commitment, good character, and a passion for serving others.

The other flagship Ohio State Scholarship is the Morrill Scholarship, which covers up to the total college costs at Ohio State for an out-of-state resident. The Morrill Scholarship recognizes a commitment to diversity and social justice as well as academic excellence. In addition to the Eminence Scholarship and Morrill Scholarship, students can apply for other college scholarships at Ohio State, like the Land Grant Opportunity Scholarship (Ohio residents only) or the National Buckeye Scholarship (Non-Ohio residents only). 

All students must apply by November 1st in order to be automatically considered for any of these top merit-based scholarships. See the merit scholarship website for more details about the Morrill Scholarship, Eminence Scholarship, and other college scholarships.

12. Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Foundation offers a variety of merit scholarships to students. The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is open both to high school graduates and community college transfers going into a four-year college or university. Students awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship are eligible for up to $55,000 of financial assistance per year, along with ongoing mentoring and membership in the Cooke Scholars community. This mentoring is particularly useful for first generation scholarship recipients, as it provides helpful support while the student is in college

In order to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, students must have at least a 3.5 unweighted GPA and demonstrate financial need. Eligible students must also be enrolling in a four-year college or university in order to receive this merit scholarship. 

However, there are no other limitations on the college you attend or the degree/major you pursue with the provided merit scholarship funding. For more information about how to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, click here. Now, let’s keep going down our list of scholarships for college. 

13. Emory Scholarship

At Emory University in Georgia, the Office of Financial Aid sponsors a variety of Emory Scholarship programs. These programs are designed to offset the rising college costs for students attending Emory University. Some Emory Scholarship awards, like the George W. Jenkins Scholarship are open to all first year undergraduate students. Others, such as the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship, are limited to certain demographics, like Southern Christian women interested in health-care fields.

Be sure when conducting your merit scholarship search and browsing the Emory Scholarship website that you look at scholarships that you are eligible for. For example, the Woodruff Dean’s Achievement Scholarship is extremely lucrative, but only available to rising sophomore students, not incoming first-years. 

There are many different merit scholarships available and also need-based grants as well, so don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA when applying for these awards. To see a full list of Emory Scholarship programs, check out their website

14. Equitable Excellence Scholarship

The Equitable Excellence Scholarship awards an annual merit scholarship of $5,000 to one hundred recipients each academic year. They also offer an additional one hundred single year $2,500 college scholarships to combat the rising college costs for many families. These scholarships may be applied toward college costs at any two-year or four-year college in the country. Applicants only need to be college-bound US residents in order to apply for the Equitable Excellence Scholarship.

The Equitable Excellence Scholarship is co-sponsored by three major organizations: NCAN, Common App, and Scholarship America. All three of these organizations seek to make college more accessible by providing support for high-school students throughout their transition to college. 

While NCAN promotes FAFSA completion and helps students get federal and school grant money, Scholarship America helps students find need-based and merit-based scholarships for college. For more information about the Equitable Excellence Scholarship, click here. Below, we’ll keep exploring more merit-based scholarships for college. 

15. USC Scholarships

The University of Southern California offers many USC Scholarship programs to incoming students. These USC Scholarships include the USC Trustee Scholarship, which covers the total cost of attendance for students across all four years at USC. In addition to the USC Trustee Scholarship, which is offered to around one hundred students per year, there are over 20 other USC Scholarship offerings available on their website.

Although the selection criteria for each USC Scholarship varies by award, high academic achievement and a rigorous high school course curriculum are the most important. The USC Trustee Scholarship also takes into account students’ involvement, leadership, and perseverance in the face of challenges. 

Furthermore, there are many different minority groups, such as the Black Alumni Association, APAA Alumni Association, and Latino Alumni Association, that offer college scholarships to students belonging to that group. These merit-based scholarships are extremely competitive, but has tips for how to win these scholarships for college!  

16. Washington University Scholarship

Another top school that offers college scholarships for its incoming first-year students is Washington University in Saint Louis. These Washington University Scholarships can cover up to the total cost of attendance and you do not need to fill out a separate application in order to apply. However, this means you should spend extra time writing your Common App and supplement essays, because the merit scholarship committee will use these to determine your qualifications for these college scholarships.

Many of the individual colleges within the university offer Washington University Scholarships, including the Fox School of Design, the Olim Business School, and the McKelvey School of Engineering. Preference for many of these merit-based scholarships will be given to students who demonstrate academic interest in cross-curricular learning within the liberal arts. For more information about the different Washington University Scholarships, you can visit the school’s website here.

17. Vanderbilt Merit Scholarships

The top 1% of first year applicants to Vanderbilt University are eligible for awards through the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship Program. These top merit-based scholarships are renewable for all four years a student attends Vanderbilt University. The three signature awards in the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship Program are Ingram Scholarship, the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship, and the Chancellor’s Scholarship. All three cover the full cost of college at Vanderbilt for the approximately 250 students per year who receive them.

Students are encouraged to submit a separate application in order to be considered for all three top merit-based scholarships, while the application is required for the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship. Different merit scholarships require responses to different short essay prompts, so answer as many questions as you can to be considered for the most Vanderbilt Scholarships. 

For a full list of Vanderbilt Scholarships and more information about the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship, you can visit their website here. For tips on how to win these merit scholarships from a trained college advisor, check out this article

18. Burger King Scholars Program

The Burger King Scholars program is a merit scholarship program sponsored by the founder of Burger King, James W. McLamore. Burger King Scholars receive anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000, which can be used at any four-year college, community college, or technical school in the country. The committee recognizes students with a high GPA, strong work ethic, and commitment to community service by providing them with scholarships for college.

The Burger King Scholars Program is overseen by Scholarship America, one of the largest databases of college scholarships in the country. Burger King Scholars also do not need to be employees or related to employees of Burger King in order to apply, as long as they are current high school students. However, older employees or their spouses/family members are also eligible to become Burger King Scholars through Scholarship America. For details on how to apply, click here. Now, let’s check out the last two college scholarships on our list!

19. UCSD Scholarship

There are several college scholarships offered through the UCSD Scholarship Program to help cover the college costs at the University of California San Diego. Many of these merit-based scholarships are renewable, meaning your UCSD Scholarship will be available every year you attend. However, you must be a first-year student entering UCSD in order to receive any UCSD Scholarship and some merit scholarships have even more specific qualifications.

When conducting your scholarship search on the UCSD website, pay attention to deadlines and apply for your UCSD Scholarship before November 30th. Once you apply, make sure you fill out your FAFSA in order to be eligible for the most possible UCSD Scholarships. Then you will automatically be entered into the pool for any UCSD Scholarship you are eligible to receive.

20. Rutgers Scholarships

Rutgers Scholarships are available to first year students entering Rutgers University as well as those transferring in from a qualifying community college. Students applying before the priority deadline of December 1st are given priority consideration for Rutgers Scholarships so it is important to submit your application early. 

There is no separate application, however, for Rutgers Scholarships. For more information about the Rutgers Scholarships that might be available to you, check out the financial aid section of their school website

Now that we’ve gone through our list of the two merit-based scholarships, hopefully you have a better idea of how to cover the cost of college. 

Which colleges offer merit-based scholarships?

College scholarships can come from a variety of sources such as private companies, local organizations, and colleges and universities themselves. It is important, when conducting your merit scholarship search, that you consider all possible options for receiving merit-based scholarships. In fact, college scholarships offered by the schools on your college list are more advantageous because you are only competing against other applicants to that school, as opposed to applicants from across the country.

Many of the schools from the list above, including Ohio State, Vanderbilt, UCSD, USC, Rutgers, Emory, Virginia, and Washington University, offer extensive merit scholarships that can cover up to the full costs of college at that university. However, they are by no means the only schools that offer top merit-based scholarships. 

For example, the University of Chicago offers a first generation scholarship as well as general merit scholarships for deserving applicants. Often, students do not even need to submit a separate application to be considered for these merit-based scholarship opportunities.

So, when building your college scholarships list, don’t forget to check the websites of top schools on your list to see what merit-based scholarships they might offer. It’s important to do this as soon as possible, because most schools award merit scholarships early on in their admission process, meaning that students who apply sooner often receive priority consideration. Be sure to review the deadlines and guidelines for your chosen schools and make sure you are meeting all requirements.

Where to find merit-based scholarships?

Some of the best places to find merit-based scholarships are online databases like Fastweb or Scholarship America. Fastweb allows students to input information about their demographics, location, and interests in order to receive matches to merit-based scholarships that they are eligible for. Scholarship America sponsors many college scholarships and offers a database of awards that students can browse through. These two websites are a great place for students to start their college scholarships search.

You can also use our resources here at to help you in your scholarship search. We understand that college costs are increasing and that students are more invested than ever in finding merit scholarships that are right for them. We will be publishing even more articles like this one in the next few months both to help you find merit-based scholarships and help give you the best chance of actually winning them. You can also get additional tips and information right now by checking out this college scholarship webinar.

Doing additional online research can help you find even more merit-based scholarships. As mentioned above, looking at the financial aid section of a college website can help you find the merit scholarships they offer exclusively to their students. Additionally, reaching out to places where you work or clubs you belong to is an excellent way to boost your scholarship search. You may find merit-based scholarships that you didn’t even know existed!

The final resource for finding college scholarships is your high school counselor’s office. Your local community may offer merit-based scholarships to students exclusively at your high school and the counseling office is usually the best place to find a list of those merit scholarships. Groups that offer these merit and community service scholarships  include the Elk’s Lodge, Lyons Club, DAR, Knights of Columbus, and many more! 

Merit-based scholarships: Final Thoughts

Whether you are looking for a first generation scholarship, a community service scholarship, or ACT scholarships based on high test scores, there is a merit scholarship out there for you! These merit-based scholarships take many forms, and there are many different factors considered when they are awarded. You can find scholarships from a variety of sources at the local, state, and national level. Even the schools you are interested in likely offer top merit-based scholarships exclusively to their applicants.

Don’t limit yourself to only the most popular or the largest scholarships for college. Remember that every little bit helps cover the rising costs of college and that smaller awards tend to have less competition, meaning your chances of winning are higher. Use websites like Scholarship America to do a broad search, then narrow down your options and apply for the merit scholarships you are eligible for.

When it comes to winning merit scholarships, it is important to both excel academically and demonstrate leadership and success outside of the classrooms. Merit scholarship recipients tend to earn high grades in difficult high school classes, so make sure to keep up with your studies in high school in order  to put yourself in the best position to win merit scholarships. Also, think about ways to use your passions and interests to serve others in your community.

Merit scholarships are not easy to earn, but they are incredibly rewarding to receive and can open doors to mentoring, job opportunities, and much more. Most importantly, merit-based scholarships help to cover the cost of college for you and your family. We wish you the best in your merit scholarship search. If you need additional assistance, feel free to register for an account with us.

You can get personalized college advising and help with every stage of the merit scholarship process, including applications, essays, and interviews!