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What are Merit Scholarships?

July 09, 2018

Students in classroomMerit scholarships are a wonderful way to help reduce the cost of attending college. The key is understanding how to get them.

These scholarships are typically awarded based on your academic record, service commitment and/or extracurricular activities. They are completely separate from need-based aid and will not be impacted by your family's income or assets.

School Scholarships

Colleges sometimes award merit scholarships based on the information provided in your application for admission. In these cases, you are usually told in your admission letter or shortly thereafter how much the scholarship is worth. You may also be invited to compete for merit scholarships through an extra essay, project or on-campus competition. 

Outside Scholarships

Organizations other than colleges may also offer merit scholarships. There are several websites and apps that provide lists of scholarship applications. Finding scholarships can also be as simple as doing a web search.

Make sure to look for scholarship opportunities that speak to the unique abilities, talents and achievements you bring to the table. Scholarship information is free, you should never pay anyone to receive access to scholarship opportunities.

Fastweb.com is a gold standard in scholarship search. There are also new platforms like Raise.Me that allow you to earn scholarships during high school.

Remember: Be Authentic
Always make sure to be authentic and provide a clear picture of your talents and abilities when applying for scholarships. Colleges are not looking for cookie cutter perfection, they are looking for unique individuals.

Some scholarships are sponsored by companies that may ask you to talk about their products and services in the application. Make sure you are comfortable with the company and potentially having your name associated with the brand if they ask to use your application in promotional material.

Understand Scholarship Requirements

When you receive a merit scholarship make sure you understand the requirements. For example, you may have to maintain a certain grade point average or enroll as a certain major. Make sure to research merit scholarships at each school you are interested in and always pay close attention to deadlines.

Start Early and Keep Organized

To stay ahead of everything, plan to start your scholarship search as early as possible so you are aware of all requirements and deadlines.

It's always good to keep a list tracking the scholarships you are interested in, including organization, topic area, requirements, deadlines, dollar amounts and if they are renewable. A simple table like the sample below can keep you organized and on top of everything.

Sample Tracking Table

College/Organization

Specific Topic

Requirements

Deadline

Scholarship Amount

Renewable

Apex Hosting
via Fastweb.com

Minecraft in Education

500 Word Essay, 3.0 GPA

7/31/18

$2,000

No

Queens University of Charlotte

Totality of Application

Submit Application

 

Variable

Yes 

Christy MajorsChristy Majors is associate vice president for Student Financial Services at Queens University of Charlotte. She has a passion for financial literacy and helping students understand the financial aspects of achieving a college education. Full bio »

 

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