Merit Scholarships

Need based financial aid for families is determined by the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) which is required by every college and university in the country. Additionally, some private institutions also require families to complete the CSS Profile. As the cost of higher education has increased at an alarming rate in recent years, even more affluent families are finding they qualify for some need-based aid. Another development in recent years is the increase in the number of merit scholarships offered by colleges. Merit scholarships are not based on need, rather they are awarded to students who fit certain academic criteria, have special talents, or have been sought out as people who will add something special to the college community. Merit scholarships can range from several hundred dollars per year to as much as full tuition or more. All families should submit the FAFSA regardless of their perceived financial need as many merit scholarships require information from the FAFSA, and always click “yes” if the application asks if you are interested in merit scholarships.

We recommend that students build their list to include one or more colleges that offer merit scholarships. With few exceptions, ( the Ivies for example) most colleges offer merits, and these can usually be found listed on the college website. Some will require a brief application or an essay while others will be awarded automatically by the Admissions office on the basis of information in the student’s application.

Below is a sampling of some of the merit scholarships:

Private Colleges and Universities

  • Denison University
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges
    • Seneca Scholarship for Full Tuition
      • Awarded to three students each year, the Seneca Scholarship recognizes academic excellence, creative endeavors, and/or a student’s commitment to civic engagement. In order to be considered, students must first be a named scholar from the listing below and attend one of the Admitted Student events in the spring. Full Tuition does not include Room and Board.
    • Presidential Scholarship for Inclusive Excellence – $35,000/ year
      • Awarded to academically high achieving students of any background who have become leaders through their commitment to service in diverse communities, or substantial activism in areas that celebrate and promote communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, or those with disabilities. The Presidential Scholarship is awarded at the discretion of the Admissions staff to applicants who complete an admissions interview. Last year, a typical Presidential Scholar was above a 3.6 GPA or equivalent without test scores submitted, or scored a 1370 SAT or 30 ACT or above.
    • William Scandling’49 Trustee Scholarship –  $35,000/year
      • Requirements: 3.7 GPA minimum or equivalent and completed interview
      • Awarded to students who display academic excellence and the potential to complete honors level work, pursue top internship opportunities, and/or complete research on campus. Scholarship will be automatically granted to applicants who fulfill all requirements listed above and submit standardized test scores of 1370 SAT/30 ACT or better. The scholarship will be awarded at the discretion of the Admissions staff to applicants who meet the requirements above and do not submit test scores.
      • Upon enrollment, Trustee Scholars will be placed in a cohort with an alum mentor. Throughout the first year, scholars and mentors will meet at least once per month. You’ll have the opportunity to build shared experience with a group of your classmates and gain the insight needed to be successful at HWS from your alum mentor.
    • Elizabeth Blackwell Pioneer ‘49 in Science Scholarship – $35,000/year
      • Awarded to students who have completed advanced science coursework, research, or pursued serious STEM or pre-health experiences. The Blackwell Scholarship will be automatically granted to applicants who fulfill all requirements listed above and submit standardized test scores of 1370 SAT/30 ACT or better. The scholarship will be awarded at the discretion of the Admissions staff to applicants who meet the requirements above and do not submit test scores.
      • Upon enrollment, Blackwell Scholars will be placed in a cohort with an alum mentor. Throughout the first year, scholars and mentors will meet at least once per month. You’ll have the opportunity to build shared experience with a group of your classmates and gain the insight needed to be successful at HWS from your alum mentor.
    • Trustee Scholarship for Environmental Sustainability – $35,000/year
      • Requirements: 3.7 GPA minimum or equivalent, and a completed interview
      • Awarded for significant contribution in the areas of sustainability, energy use, climate change or other significant commitments to the environment. The Trustee Scholarship for Sustainability will be automatically granted to applicants who fulfill all requirements listed above and submit standardized test scores of 1370 SAT/30 ACT or better. The scholarship will be awarded at the discretion of the Admissions staff to applicants who meet the requirements above and do not submit test scores.
      • Upon enrollment, Trustee Scholars will be placed in a cohort with an alum mentor. Throughout the first year, scholars and mentors will meet at least once per month. You’ll have the opportunity to build shared experience with a group of your classmates and gain the insight needed to be successful at HWS from your alum mentor.
    • Finger Lakes Scholarship – $35,000/year
      • Requirements: 3.7 GPA minimum or equivalent, completed interview
      • Finger Lakes Scholars must also graduate in the top 10% of their high school class and receive a special nomination from their high school in the Finger Lakes Region of N.Y.
      • Upon enrollment, Finger Lakes Scholars will be placed in a cohort with an alum mentor. Throughout the first year, scholars and mentors will meet at least once per month. You’ll have the opportunity to build shared experience with a group of your classmates and gain the insight needed to be successful at HWS from your alum mentor.
    • Dean’s Scholarship – $30,000/year
      • Awarded to academically high achieving students who display a commitment to community engagement, civic responsibility, or creative endeavors. The Dean’s scholarship is awarded at the discretion of the Admissions staff. Last year, a typical Dean’s scholarship awarded student was above a 3.5 GPA or equivalent without test scores submitted, or scored a 1320 SAT or 29 ACT or above.
      • Dean’s Scholars will be invited to a celebratory dinner hosted by the First-Year Deans in both the fall and spring semesters of their first-year at HWS. You’ll have the opportunity to build community with other Dean’s Scholars and get-to-know the Deans that you’ll be working with throughout your HWS experience.
    • Centennial Center Scholarship – $30,000/year
      • Awarded to academically high achieving students that are leaders in their communities, demonstrate strong problem solving skills, and may be great candidates for leadership programs in the Centennial Center at HWS. The Centennial Center scholarship is awarded at the discretion of the Admissions staff. Last year, a typical Centennial Center scholarship awarded student was above a 3.5 GPA or equivalent without test scores submitted, or scored a 1320 SAT or 29 ACT or above. Students are required to complete an interview.
    • Edward G. Rigney ‘31 Scholarship for Debate – $30,000/year
      • Awarded to students who have contributed significantly to debate programs, Model U.N., Mock trial, or other similarly relevant pursuits. The Debate scholarship is awarded at the discretion of the Admissions staff. Last year, a typical Debate scholarship awarded student was above a 3.5 GPA or equivalent without test scores submitted, or scored a 1320 SAT or 29 ACT or above. Students are required to complete an interview.
    • The Civic Engagement Scholarship – $25,000/year
      • Awarded to students who demonstrate a heightened awareness of issues that impact the greater good and who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to community. The award can be renewed annually by displaying an interest and related investment in the Geneva community. Civic Engagement Scholars will work in a cohort along with other recipients to serve in and with organizations that support the Finger Lakes region. Recognizing that service is a privilege, the review committee welcomes applicants who have a record of innovative approaches—whether modest, earnest or exhaustive—to serving others.
    • Arts Scholars Program – $3,000-25,000/year
      • The Arts Scholars Program is designed for talented first year applicants who would like to continue their work in the fine or performing arts while pursuing a rigorous program of study in any of the liberal arts and sciences programs offered by the Colleges. Scholarships are awarded on the recommendation of the fine and performing arts faculty.
      • If chosen as an Arts Scholar, you will not be required to major in a fine or performing art—the entire range of departmental and interdisciplinary majors and programs is available to you. However, it is the expectation that you will participate every year for four years in the art for which you were designated a scholar.
    • Please click each scholarship below to view specific requirements: 
  • Quinnipiac University 
    • First Year merit scholarships range in amounts from $12,000-28,000 per year and are renewable for 4 years
    • Grants are also available to international students (limited)
      and to athletes.
    • All merit scholarships are awarded by the Admissions Office; no other application necessary
  • Ohio Wesleyan University
    • All admitted students will be considered for a merit scholarship based on academic achievement.
    • Wesleyan and Shubert Scholarships – Eligible students will be invited to compete for these scholarships at the time of admission.
      • The Wesleyan is a $10,000 award that is added to any other merit or need-based aid.
      • The Shubert is a full tuition scholarship that replaces other awards.
    • Alumni Referral Award – $1000/year if referred by an OWU alum
    • Meek Community Service and Leadership Award
  • St. Lawrence University
    • Trustee Scholarship – To top male and female students, full tuition
    • Momentum Scholarships – Based on academics, extracurriculars, character, up to $35,000/year
    • Sesquicentennial Scholarship– Based on academics, extracurriculars, character, up to $30,000/year
    • University Scholarships – Based on academics, extracurriculars, character, up to $25,000/year
    • Canadian Scholars Program – From $25,000 to $50,000 /year
    • Specialty scholarships that require a short application and essay
      • Kirk Douglas Scholarship – Students from low income and/or underrepresented backgrounds. Chosen by the Admission office to apply. Covers full expenses to attend.
      • Presidential Diversity – Awarded to students who have made an impact on their community on issues of diversity – $32,000/year
      • Vilas Scholarship – Students interested in business or entrepreneurship- $32,000/year
      • Leadership Scholarship – Students who are strong leaders – $20,000/ year
      • Community Service Scholarship– $20,000/year
      • Other awards are listed on the College website
  • Syracuse University
    • Syracuse awards merit scholarships based on the following criteria:
      • Academic credentials
      • Performance on standardized tests (if submitted)
      • Class rank
      • Portfolio or audition results (if relevant)
      • Leadership, community and extracurricular involvement
      • Overall citizenship

Public Colleges and Universities

  • Miami University Ohio
    • Ohio Governor’s Scholarship – Full tuition and general fees for the top student from each county in Ohio
    • Presidential Fellows Program – Covers tuition, room, board, fees, books, and a $5000 stipend for enrichment
    • Academic scholarships based on weighted GPA. See below for for Fall 2022 Merit Scholarships
Weighted High School GPAOhio Resident (annual amount) Non- Resident (annual amount) 
4.30+$4,000 to $13,000$15,000 to $34,000
3.95 – 4.29$3,000 to $8,000$10,000 to $23,000
3.75 – 3.94$2,000 to $7,000$6,000 to $18,000
3.50 – 3.74Up to $6,000Up to $12,000
  • University of Massachusetts – Amherst
    • Chancellor’s, Director’s and Dean’s Scholarships 
      • Based on academic and personal qualifications
      • No special application required
      • Recipients will be notified at time of acceptance
    • Flagship Award
      • Based on an academic, personal, and extracurricular information
      • Must be low income or 1st generation
    • Honors to Honors and Community College Scholarships
      • Awarded to deserving graduates of community colleges
      • $6,000/year
    • Additional merit scholarships are listed on the UMass website
  • University of Connecticut
    • First year students are automatically considered for most merit scholarships. No special applications required; most are renewable for four years.
    • STEM scholarships awarded to students who have had extraordinary involvement in the field and plan to major in a STEM discipline.
    • Global Excellence Awards
      • Awarded to academically outstanding international students.
    • Global Distinction Awards
      • Awarded to outstanding international students who have also demonstrated leadership.
    • Numerous merit scholarships are available to Connecticut residents.
  • University of New Hampshire
    • College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
      • Additional application required
      • Eligible students will be notified of eligibility
      • Variable amounts
    • Paul College of Business and Economics
      • No additional application required
      • Recalculated GPA of 4.2+ required
      • $5,000/year
      • Numerous other scholarship for diversity, athletics, international
    • *UNH recalculates each applicant’s GPA using a weighted 4.0 scale using core academic courses in English, math, science, social science and foreign language.  Electives that fall within one of the five core academic courses will be included in the UNH recalculated GPA. Academic achievement in the classroom is the most critical factor in awarding merit scholarships at the University. Scholarships are intended to recognize, and reward behaviors valued by UNH. Additional scholarships are available for current UNH students, students in specific college divisions, individual programs, and applicants to the Manchester Campus.

Merit-Based Scholarships: General Information

ScholarshipWeighted GPA RangeNH Resident Non-NH Resident
Trustee’s Scholarship4.01 and above$9,000$12,000
Chancellor’s Scholarship3.90 – 4.00$7,000$10,000
Presidential Scholarship3.70 – 3.89$5,000$8,000
Dean’s Scholarship3.50 – 3.69$3,000$6,000
Director’s Scholarship3.10  – 3.49$1,000$4,000
  • University of Michigan
    • Most merit scholarships at U Michigan are awarded automatically on the basis of academic qualifications. No special application necessary.
    • All students should fill out the “My Scholarship Profile” found on the website in order to be considered for special departmental and other scholarships.
  • University of Vermont
    • Presidential Scholarship 
      • Awarded to out-of-state students with the highest academic credential
      • Amounts range from $16,000-18,000 per year and $20,000 if invited to enter the Honors College.
      • Renewable for 4 years
    • Trustees Scholarship
      • Range in amounts from $4,000-15,000 per year.
    • Other scholarships targeted to specific audiences (see website)

Scholarships for Which You Must Be Nominated

  • Washington University
    • Danforth Scholarship
      • In order to broaden access, this scholarship no longer requires a nomination
      • Based on leadership in service and a strong commitment to community, intellectual and creative acuity, a commitment to diversity and kindness.
      • In addition to Washington U application, applicants must complete a special Danforth application and, if a finalist, travel to campus for an interview and related experiences.  (paid for by University)
      • May receive full-tuition scholarships with a $2,500 stipend or half-tuition scholarships. Renewable for four years.
  • University North Carolina – Chapel Hill
    • Morehead Cain Scholarship
      • Must apply EA by Oct. 15th
      • Must be nominated by a counselor or teacher
      • High school must be listed as a program participant
      • Includes all expenses for four years plus summer enrichment programs
      • Based on leadership, moral character, academic achievement, physical vigor
      • Oldest merit scholarship in the US
  • University of Virginia
    • Jefferson Scholarship and Walentas Scholarship
      • Must be nominated
      • Covers full tuition for four years ($293,000 for non-Virginian students and  $157,000 for Virginian students as well as a stipend for books, room and Board, and personal expenses ($71,000 for non-Virginia residents and $36,000 for Virginia residents) 
      • Both scholarships are awarded to students with exceptional character, leadership and academic achievement; the Walentas recipients must also be the first in their family to earn a four-year college degree
      • Interviews are part of the selection process
  • Davidson College
    • Belk Scholarship
      • Must be nominated by counselor, head of school or Admissions staff
      • Provides comprehensive funding (tuition, fees, room and board) plus special study stipends that allow you great flexibility in the on- and off-campus opportunities you choose to explore
      • Eight in each enrolling class
      • Selected on the basis of academic excellence and purposeful engagement in the classroom, in student and civic organizations, on the athletic field, or in the arts. While academic achievement is paramount, Belk Scholars also exhibit intellectual curiosity and a commitment to both their local and global communities.
  • Northeastern University 
    • Torch Scholarship
      • Must be nominated by a non-family adult who knows the student well (teacher, counselor, pastor, etc.)
      • Low income or first generation students
      • Full scholarship plus the support to succeed
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    • Rensselaer Medal Award
      • Participating high schools can nominate one junior who excels in math or science each year
      • Worth up to $120,000 if student is accepted and enrolls
  • University of Connecticut
    • Nutmeg Scholarship
      • Must submit 2 letters of recommendation from a teacher and or counselor to be nominated
      • Must be a Connecticut resident graduating from a Connecticut high school
      • Must be high achieving
      • $20,000/year

In addition to the merit scholarships awarded to students by the institution, we strongly recommend that all students use search engines to locate other scholarships for which they may be eligible. To make it easy for you, just click on the links below! 

Access Scholarships  

Financial Aid Search Engine

FastWeb

Scholarship America

Scholarships.com

Bold.org

These search engines represent a small percentage of sites that list scholarships. Be sure to Google specific sites that may describe you based on your ethnicity, special talent, first gen status, religion, etc.

Students who have worked with Education Station and PES this year have been awarded institutional merit scholarships of over $3.4 million thus far, and the season is far from over. Remember to build your college list to include some institutions that offer substantial merit scholarships. It is so easy and can make the difference between graduating debt free or with few loans, to graduating with loans of $40,000 or more. Generally speaking, the amount of merit aid a student will be offered is directly related to how much the institution would like to have you in their class and try to convince you to enroll.  More specifically, the brighter you shine in their applicant pool, the more merit money you could be offered. For this reason, it is a good idea to apply to several colleges where your academic credentials place you at the top of those who are typically admitted. 

For students who qualify for need-based financial aid, merit scholarships can add to the grant money of the financial aid package and, at the very least, often replace the loan and/or work study component.

In conclusion, there is lots of merit money out there. Apply! It is easy.

Resource guide created by Cindy Pendergast