Did you know that more than 1,800 colleges throughout the United States over 23,000 Merit Aid scholarship programs across the country? Financial help for college bound students comes in many shapes and sizes – Scholarships, Merit Aid, Financial Aid, Tuition Reimbursement Programs, so on and so forth. Yet, Merit Aid scholarships often falls between the cracks of what college bound students and their parents consider when searching for college scholarships and grants.
Unlike financial aid loans and many scholarships out there, Merit Aid is available to for a variety of prospective college students, regardless of their defined “need.” This means that a Merit Aid scholarship is not awarded based on a student’s economic status or background. Almost every traditional four-year college or university, whether public or private, offers some form of Merit Aid.
What is Merit Aid?
Merit Aid is the general term for grants, scholarships and discounts that a college awards to an admitted student without regard to financial need. Merit Aid is based on the characteristcs of the student applying. These characteristcs may include academic achievements, athletic involvement, and/or special talents (i.e. music or dance). Student location and demographic characteristics may also be considered when awarding Merit Aid.
What’s the difference between merit aid scholarships and typical private scholarships?
Merit Aid scholarships are offerred by and awarded through traditiona, four-year colleges and universities. Many Merit Aid scholarshipsa re renewable from year to year. These scholarships are often rewarded to more than one student. Awards range anywehre from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Some Merit Aid awards may even cover a student’s full tuition and living expense (room and board).
Whether offered via third party or through the college or university you are applying to, most private scholarships are funded by corporations, individuals, or private groups. Private scholarships are typically only one time payments of $1,000-$2,000. The number of applicants for private scholarships are typically high, making the scholarship very competitive.
How much Merit Aid is awarded and where does it come from?
More than $13 billion of Merit Aid is available to undergraduate students. Approximately $11 billion is funded directly from traditional, four-year colleges and universities while the other $2 billion is provided by state governments.
If you are a student looking for merit aid, here are some tips to improve your chances of receiving merit aid from our friends at International College Counselors:
1. Find schools that offer merit aid to students. Do your research. Your best bet is to search each college’s financial aid website. The New York Times has created a chart of colleges and universities that award merit aid. Click here to see the list. US News and World Report also published a list of 10 schools where merit aid awards are most common. This list is based on data reported directly from the schools listed.
2. Search http://www.MeritAid.com. As the name suggests, this is a good source for researching Merit Aid opportunities.
3. Choose colleges where you’d be considered at the top of your game. If your grades and test scores put you in the top 25 percent of the student body, there is a good chance a school will try to woo you with merit aid.
4. Take stock of your abilities. Merit aid also means athletic achievements and special talents. If you are skilled in sports, music, etc. – merit aid and scholarships that focus on these abilities are worth looking into.
5. Consider your interests. Your sports, hobbies, clubs, and other extra curricular activities may also be a pathway to scholarships. Among the countless activities and associations that offer merit aid are beauty pageants, service clubs, ice skating, honor societies, and 4H.
6. Evaluate merit aid scholarships that promote diversity. You may find you qualify for many merit scholarships simply because of who you are or where you live. A number of schools use merit aid to attract students who are different than the majority of their student body. Some things that may help qualify the student are being from out of state, being a minority, and gender.
7. See if your major provides merit aid. A number of merit scholarships are earmarked for students seeking a particular major towards a particular profession.
8. Look into merit aid offered by state governments. Accessing this money will typically require a certain GPA, test scores and residency. Two examples: Graduating high school students in the state of Florida if they earn at least a 3.5 average in high school; New York State Scholarships for Academic Excellence program provides top scholars with $1,500 scholarships to study at in-state colleges.
9. Apply Apply Apply and keep on applying for scholarships. Utilize these popular scholarship websites and direct scholarship links from the college of your choice. These are a form of merit aid under another name. We mentioned a few roads to scholarships up above but there are literally thousands of scholarships with all sorts of eligibility requirements.
10. Negotiate. If you have received admissions letters from two or more schools of equivalent standards, don’t be afraid to ‘bargain.’ Some schools may be willing to match a merit grant offered by another school.
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