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How to Get Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships give all students an opportunity to use their achievements to contribute to the cost of college.Depending on whether they are pursuing merit aid from private sources or from colleges, students will use different strategies and different achievements to win money for college.

The family’s finances have nothing to do with winning merit scholarships. Instead, students can use their achievements, involvements, community service, passions, academics and other qualities to pursue money for college that never has to be paid back.

The two types of merit scholarships offer different benefits and reward different types of achievements. Private merit scholarships are typically not based on grades or academics. Instead, organizations reward almost everything else about a student, including community service, hobbies, passions, challenges, goals, heritage, religion, and more.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities use institutional merit scholarships to encourage students to choose their school rather than going somewhere else. A big tip is to look for schools where the student’s grades and SAT (or ACT) scores are higher than 75% of the students attending that school. This is often the formula that colleges use to determine who gets merit scholarships. A great place to find this information is on a college website.

Not all schools offer merit scholarships. And colleges do differ in how they decide who wins merit aid. However, this is a good general rule.

Here’s a tip to motivate your student: Research the test scores and average GPA for a college that your student wants to attend. The younger the student, the more incentive there may be to work harder in school and prepare for the SAT and ACT.

The higher your student’s grades and standardized test scores, the more colleges they will get into and the more institutional merit scholarships they can win.

On the other hand, academics (grades and SAT/ACT scores) take a back seat to all other kinds of achievements for getting private merit scholarships. And while students need to wait until junior or senior year of high school to explore institutional merit aid, they can get private merit scholarships starting in elementary school and all the way through graduate school.

This means that families can literally start winning money for college when their kids are in kindergarten! What a great feeling to be lowering the cost of college so early!

Private merit scholarships come in all sizes and reward almost every aspect about your student. To get the most merit aid, students should pursue local and national private merit aid. The local scholarships usually have smaller prizes and less competition. So, winning a few of these could equal the same money as a larger, more competitive scholarship.

The best part is that merit scholarships are based on students being rewarded for their own efforts. All merit scholarships give students “skin in the game” and all teens to make their own dreams come true.

Imagine your student contributing to the cost of college with money that never has to be paid back!

Don't worry! You don't have to navigate the world of merit scholarships alone! 

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