Merit Scholarships: Finance Your Future for Free
You may have noticed terms like academic merit scholarships and merit-based scholarships flying around the web and might be a little confused as to what they are and how to snag one!
Define the Merit-Based Scholarship
A merit-based scholarship is a financial award that a college-bound student may receive based on high school success. Translation? If you have a high GPA and/or are actively involved in your high school and/or community — there’s a chance that you could qualify for a merit scholarship to help lower (or even completely cover) the cost of your four-year college tuition.
A merit scholarship is not just limited to your grades. This type of scholarship could also be awarded to a high – achieving college-bound student because of other factors, including community service, leadership roles, talent, and extracurricular activities – those other important factors of college admissions!
Find a Merit-Based Scholarship
So how does a student go about finding academic merit scholarships? Well, that depends. Many colleges and universities have institution-specific academic scholarships that they will try to match up to things like your high school GPA and standardized test scores depending on the scholarship.
You can also check the websites of the colleges you are interested in for specific scholarship information. Most colleges and universities have scholarship sections right on their website so you can see the basic requirements and deadlines – and get a better idea of what your GPA and extracurricular activities or even talents might help you qualify (and where you should apply)! But be forewarned – merit scholarships on the national level that are based on talent or athletic ability are very competitive.
Don’t overlook another important resource: your high school guidance counselor! He or she usually has a local listing of merit-based scholarships in your area or even the state.
These may be awarded from local businesses, organizations, and even clubs. Some may only be interested in your GPA and/or class rank when others will want to see community service or even a specific extracurricular activity (like a specific sport or ability). It really just depends on the source that will be financing your education.
Applying for a Merit-Based Scholarship
You will need to make sure that you fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Why? A College or university usually requires it! There is only so much funding to spread around to the students that want it — so many schools want to see if you qualify for government need-based grants or other aid first.
Just make sure to read the requirements carefully. While it might be tempting to apply for anything and everything – better use of your time would be to make sure that you are an exact match for the scholarship guidelines. If the numbers just don’t fit, why not work on it, and apply for the scholarship after you boost your grades, put in the required community service time, etc. — and then take the time to apply? Scholarship providers receive so many applications from students that do fit the criteria — if you aren’t a match, you will not be considered.
Losing a Merit Scholarship
Every merit scholarship will have its own rules, but in general – there will be a specific GPA to maintain. If you spend too much time socializing and your grades go below the set GPA…you could lose your merit scholarship.
Colleges want to make sure that students who truly care about their education continue to receive these financial aid gifts – so stay on task and try to remember the real reason why you went to college in the first place: your future!
Further scholarship resources here