What is a Merit Scholarship and How to Get One

Many students look for different ways to fund their college tuition depending on their family’s income level, the number of family members enrolled in college in the same academic period among various other hindrances.

The best way to manage this cost is by aiming at a scholarship or a grant which can be both merit and need based aids. If you are a high-achieving student and do not qualify for financial aid, the Merit scholarship can come to your respite. The best part about getting a scholarship is, you are not required to repay. 

This article addresses what exactly is  Merit scholarship, how you can get one, eligibility, application and much more.

What is a Merit Scholarship?

Merit scholarships are awarded to students based on their achievements, academic excellence, talent and performance on the standardized tests in various fields such as academics, athletics, art or special interests.

 Colleges aim at selecting the best eligible candidate among the diverse applicants and are mainly blind towards factors such as financial background. Students that are offered merit scholarships could use it to cover tuition, room and overall expenses at the college.

Check for your eligibility for the Merit Scholarship

The eligibility criteria to get the merit scholarship depends vastly on the type of scholarship you are applying for, some of which are as follows: 

  • You are required to have a strong cumulative GPA which varies on the scholarship you apply for. For example, you could qualify for a SHRM Foundation’s Graduate Scholarships with a CGPA of  3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • You must have high academic excellence and will be preferred to have topped at the previous educational institution.
  • Score high in competitive exams like SAT or ACT.
  • Be a citizen or an eligible non-citizen of the United States.
  • Must be a permanent resident of any of the states of U.S.
  • Must have applied for an accredited college or university program

How to apply for a merit scholarship

Applying for a scholarship could be confusing as well as overwhelming. You must always follow certain steps to get closer to bagging one:

Step 1: Start while still in school

Winning a scholarship is highly competitive and requires special educational skills and achievements to stand out in the crowd.

Usually you must present consistent improvement and accomplishments you earned during your freshmen, sophomore year and high school years. Starting early and constantly improving in your academics will help your application be unique and outstanding.

Step 2: Focus on what you want

You must plan and begin to aim at the merit award while you are still a high school student.

Focusing on which field you want to excel in is of utmost importance. You could get merit in academics by topping the class. Athletic or artistic merit rewards are given to students through their excellent performance in their chosen field.

To qualify for a merit-based reward in college, you require a strong GPA and high test scores. Your grades could determine your entry to the college as well as the scholarship.

You could start researching early on the scholarships you could gain on The College Monk, which has an extensive list of Merit scholarships detailed for you. 

Step 3: Be a Self Motivated Individual

You must be consistent and persistent in the efforts you put towards your achievements.

Being self motivated to gain excellence in your fields of interest could help in demonstrating yourself as an eligible candidate for the merit scholarships. Working on overcoming weaknesses and challenges helps in becoming well versed in the field.

You could initiate to get guidance from professors and coaches to improve on your assignments and move closer to your career goals. This might also help in getting a good letter of recommendation for the scholarship application.

Step 4: Score well on ACT/SAT

Your performance and scores in the competitive exams such as the SAT/ACT tests plays an important role in qualifying for the merit scholarships.

You must start preparing for the exam as early as possible by taking mock tests, solving previous years papers, planning a study schedule. Being well versed with the guidelines to the test helps you perform better.

A high SAT/ACT score increases your chances of getting the scholarship as it mainly depends on the academic performance.

Step 5: Find a scholarship that fits with your career goals

Every scholarship has vivid requirements and guidelines. You must find out whether those scholarships you are willing to apply are a good fit for your goals.

As  the application process of a scholarship is lengthy and time consuming, you may effectively spend time on the ones you have higher chances of getting selected in. You must research thoroughly on the scholarships, eligibility criteria, application process, guidelines and deadline. 

Here are a few websites such as Fastweb, Studentaid.gov, The College Monk, CollegeBoard to guide you through the various scholarships and their requirements to qualify for financial assistance.

Step 6: Create an outstanding application

Your application is a documentation that represents all your achievements, skills gained and achievements to make a good impression while applying for a merit scholarship.

 After listing the scholarships you want to apply for, you could start preparing your application to stand out among others. A strong application helps in maximizing your chances of winning the scholarship and it mainly involves a letter of recommendation, a unique essay, your score and academic details.

You could get a few people to proofread your application  before submitting it. It is always best to submit the application prior to the deadlines to avoid any last minute technical glitch.

Which are the Top Merit Scholarships?

Searching for  scholarships based on merit and your eligibility may be challenging. To make it easier for you, Here are few scholarships listed below:

Pure Merit Award Scholarships

  • National Merit Scholarship
  • Ronald McDonald Scholarship
  • Coca-Cola Scholarship

Merit with Financial Need Scholarship

  • Gates Millennium
  • Horatio Alger Scholarship 
  • Jackie Robinson’s Foundation Scholarship Program
  • Engebretson Foundation Scholarship
  • Jack Kent Cook Foundation College Scholarship Program
  • Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition


Students are offered various opportunities to manage their finance and to cover their tuition. This helps them to pursue their career goals and bag their dream job.

The first option for students is to aim at getting the scholarship as it doesn’t involve any repayment. Then comes other financial aids such as the student loans.

Finding the right scholarship always helps make your way to college easier and cuts down the overall cost of college. Earning a scholarship saves you from burning a hole in your pocket and at the same time substantiates your merit.