What is Merit Scholarship and How to Get One| APPLY

We are all aware that attending college is very expensive. But come to think of it; a student can still study and pay himself through college without paying through his nose.

Opportunities like merit scholarships, grants, and other financial programs have been provided to help students pursue their academic goals.

Most students turn to financial aid to help make the cost more manageable, but their options may be limited depending on the family’s income level. Many financial assets, such as grants and several merit-based scholarships, is need-based.

This means some families might not be opportune to get such favour and could be disqualified from receiving such assistance due to their income, even if they cannot pay for their child’s education out of pocket.

While both need-based and merit scholarships provide college students with free money to assist in paying for their school and other expenses, a merit scholarship is awarded based on the level of promise the student demonstrates, regardless of their financial status.

What Is a Merit Scholarship?

Merit scholarships are financial awards that help students pay for school. They’re one of the best forms of financial aid because they’re free money you never have to pay back, often with few to no strings attached.

A merit scholarship is usually open to students who show a high level of achievement in specific areas, such as academics, athletics, or the arts.

A merit scholarship is a financial award that most students get regarding their academic success in high school. Merit-based scholarships are not only limited to a student’s grades but also consider factors such as leadership roles, ACT and SAT scores, extracurricular activities, and school or community involvement.

Unlike need-based financial aid, merit scholarships do not consider the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

In most cases, merit-based scholarships can help by lowering or completely covering the cost of typical four-year college tuition.

Some scholarships for merit students are even awarded to cover multiple academic years based on continuing student performance and involvement.

Most generous financial aid awards come in the form of merit scholarships, which makes them particularly useful for students who fall into the gap of not being eligible to receive help as needed and cannot afford a college education.

The same merit grant can go to a student who lives below the poverty level with the same ease with which a student can go per cent.

Merit-based scholarships for college students

Merit scholarships are usually open to colleges and universities. However, many companies, organizations, and foundations also offer them.

This doesn’t mean that those with financial needs can’t qualify for merit scholarships as well (they certainly can!), but it does provide one option for families whose income would preclude them from receiving need-based assistance.

Although not all, most scholarship programs are merit-based, meaning scholars are chosen based on academic merit or in other forms such as leadership, athletic, or artistic merits.

However, Merit-based scholarships are called excellence scholarships since they seek out the most bright and talented students.

In this list, Kiiky.com highlights the most popular scholarships for merit students.

Foreign Governments offer some Merit-Based Scholarships.

Global Universities offer some Merit-Based Scholarships.

Easy Way of Getting A Merit Scholarship

There are two major sources of merit scholarships: Private organizations and colleges/universities. How you’d find (and apply) for these scholarships depends on their source.

A merit scholarship can come from several sources, so more opportunities are likely available than you’d initially realize.

Here are some of the most common places you can sort for scholarships for merit students.

Private Companies That Offer Merit-Based Scholarship

Various businesses may offer students merit scholarships for majoring in a related field. This can be used as a recruitment method, as they will probably entice scholarship recipients to join their company upon graduation or to improve their public image.

Providing these awards, it is essential to review any fine print to determine whether joining the business after graduation is a requirement.

University And Colleges

Merit scholarships are a widespread recruitment technique at several colleges and universities. Many educational institutions want to bring in the best and brightest students they can seek and those who show exceptional talent in sports, the arts, and community involvement.

Sometimes, they offer scholarships to help promote diversity or improve enrollment in under-represented disciplines.

Merit Scholarship Option from Member Organization

Specific professional and educational organizations also offer merit-based scholarships to qualified students. These are made available to help promote the organization’s field. Also, it encourages students to acquire a degree based on the group’s area of expertise.

Member organisations generally want the highest level of professionals associated with their group.

Therefore, merit-based scholarship is a way to attract talented students to the field and, ultimately, to the organization.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation 

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation offers a variety of opportunities for merit-based scholarships for college students worldwide.

The competition for prizes is fierce since the organization receives approximately 1.6 million applications annually. However, it is a very prestigious award, so it is generally helpful to request it.

Many, out of frustration, have settled for the average, while some had to quit pursuing those dreams altogether. This is painful and disheartening.

Not to worry; we are here to help.

How To Get a Merit Scholarship

Get ready to start seeking out your own scholarship money. Here are all the steps you should take to guide you if you want to optimize your chances of winning a merit award.

There is no difficulty nor fast rule regarding how to apply for scholarships for merit students. Like other scholarship programs, the organization offering these scholarships can set their requirements and screening criteria.

When you identify a scholarship you want to apply for;

First, read the application instructions properly as the school, business, or organization outlines. Next, follow all other instructions that follow.

Here is a list of how to get a Merit scholarship you should look out for.

#1. Start on Time: 

As stated earlier, you must be in it for the long haul if you hope to qualify for more competitive merit awards.

A typical merit award will ask for transcripts, records, or documentation going back to your freshman year of high school.

You need to show a pattern of consistent high-achievement or consistent improvement. This will help if you hope to come across as an exciting applicant.

#2. Choose your Focus:

As a young high school student, you must start thinking about the award type you will most likely qualify for. Are you trying to be a top-level student, a star athlete, a community service expert or some combination?

Merit awards are useless if you can not use them at the schools you want.

#3. Be Proactive:

It is essential to constantly demonstrate that you are an outstanding student (or athlete or volunteer) to be a candidate for the merit award. This means that you are responsible for handling any weaknesses in your performance before they become significant problems.

To be proactive, you can:

Consult teachers and trainers for additional help with tasks or problem areas.
Meet your counsellor or college counsellor regularly (maybe once every three months) to check college plans, grades, career goals, etc. This can also be useful if you need letters of authorization from your advisors later for scholarship applications.

#4. Get an ACT/ SAT Prep Plan:

Standardized test grades are often a big part of qualifying for merit scholarships. The earlier you start laying out a plan for preparing and taking either the ACT or the SAT, the better off you’ll be. To begin formulating a plan, check out these guides:

  • Should you take the ACT or the SAT?
  • How long should you study for the ACT or the SAT?
  • ACT/SAT dates and study plans
  • How to get a perfect score on the ACT or the SAT

#5. Find “Good Fit” Scholarships:

Not all the scholarships you are interested in will necessarily be appropriate, even if technically you meet all the eligibility criteria. The progress of scholarships will not be the only thing you can think of when you compile these applications, so it is essential to use your time efficiently when choosing scholarships.

You can offer infinite applications from a technical point of view, but you are likely to waste your time. Do not just want to apply for a prize or two prizes; keep using a set of scholarship numbers, so aim for 8-10 applications.

Think of it as if you were considering making progress towards universities: select some “access scholarships”, a few “security”, and some “specific”. Use your strengths (such as academics, sports, and community service) to choose the right scholarships (and cancel scholarships that do not fit your time).

For example, if you are at the top of your class but have only played JV-level sports, you may not be the best provider of the prize for athletes.

#6. Submit Published Polished Applications:

As with your college applications, you only have one opportunity to make a good impression when you apply for merit scholarships (especially when it comes to more competitive prizes, where scholarship committees need to handle thousands of applications).

If possible, start preparing an initial list of scholarships for new students at the beginning of the year. This may seem a bit proactive, but remember that many of the best scholarships are worth the end of the year.

This initial investigation will also help you stay on track to meet the requirements.

Start thinking seriously about your applications four months before they expire. This gives you time to request letters of recommendation (if any). It also gives you the opportunity to receive comments on article projects.

Finally, ask 2-3 trusted people to see your applications before sending them to verify clarity, typographical errors or missing information. Do not wait until the actual deadline for your application; you never know when you may have technical problems that may prevent transmission. It is best to schedule an application 3-5 days before the legally due date.

Top Merit-Based Scholarships

If you’re eager to research merit awards, the following scholarships are an excellent place to start. You’ll find a list of some of the most significant pure merit scholarships and a list of merit + financial need-based scholarships.

For more comprehensive lists of top scholarship programs, check out our guides to the best scholarships available for high school juniors and seniors.

Things Merit Scholarships Can Pay For

How you can spend a scholarship can also vary from one organization to another. Some will provide funds directly to the college or university, giving them their use for study.

However, depending on how the school manages its funds, it can also allow excessive funds to be directed to costs such as room, food, library purchases, and other internal expenses. It is also possible to return any surplus to an applicant.

In other means, money can be spent on almost anything. This money is for education (of course) and living expenses, such as room, food or almost anything else.

For instance, a student could use the money to purchase new gadgets such as a new computer for school, keep their car’s gas tank full, and pay their cell phone bill.

When the award is provided in cash, there are usually no restrictions on how the money can be spent as long as your student meets the terms of the merit scholarship, like staying in school.

Pure Merit Awards

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

Merit And Financial Need Awards

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

Merit Scholarships And Income Taxes

Sadly, so many applicants are not clear on whether scholarships for merit students’ awards are taxable and like many other tax topics.

Also, scholarships are tax-free as long as the following conditions apply.

  • Your student is a degree candidate and taking courses at an eligible educational institution (which generally includes colleges and universities with a regular faculty, set curriculum, and enrolled student body)
  • The funds are for tuition, fees, books, and supplies.
  • The money is not wages for teaching or other forms of work

Suppose you are unsure that using a scholarship to pay certain expenses will be subject to taxes. In that case, it is best to consult a tax expert who can assess your situation and decide by applicable tax legislation.

Website To Find Scholarships for Merit Students

When searching for external scholarships at the official site, it is worth looking for merit scholarships they can automatically qualify for if an applicant hasn’t already chosen their preferred university.

Merit-based scholarships for college students are one of the largest sources of funds for college, thereby making it possible to significantly reduce a student’s college bill or achieve a free ride.

Few Tips for Maximizing Merit Aid 

Apply where you rank high academically:

Applying to colleges where your grades put you in the top 10 per cent of the student body can help. If you’re in the top quartile, there are good chance colleges will try to lure you with merit aid.


If you receive two or more admissions letters from several universities, some institutions may be willing to match a merit grant that you were offered by another university.

Compare net prices before choosing a college:

The largest merit scholarship holds in most cases because the college has the highest net price due to higher tuition. Subtract grants and scholarships from the total cost of attendance (including additional expenses like tuition, fees, room, board, books, and transportation).

Acceptance rate:

Speaking, the more selective a school is, the more conservative it acts in distributing merit money. Lesser-known schools can have a higher acceptance rate and offer more merit scholarships, so consider various options.


What does the phrase scholarship by merit mean?

Students who demonstrate excellence in academics, athletics, or other unique skill areas are given merit scholarships.

Why should you be awarded a merit scholarship?

Your future objectives and goals are just as important as your past accomplishments in demonstrating why you are deserved. Scholarship sponsors are looking to support students who have the potential to succeed or who want to give back to their communities.

What merit scholarship has the highest award?

The highest-rewarded merit scholarships include:
Program for National Merit Scholarships.
Program for Gates Millennium Scholars.
Scholars at Dell.
Bursary awarded by Barry Goldwater.
The Foundation for Coca-Cola Scholars.
Undergraduate Udall Scholarship.
Scholarship for Buick Achievers.
Scholarship from Foot Locker.


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