5 Tips for Securing Merit Scholarships

5 Tips for Securing Merit Scholarships

Merit aid is a powerful way to finance a college education.

Merit aid is a type of financial assistance that recognizes student achievements in a range of activities. Institutions award merit aid to students based largely on their academic accomplishments in high school or scores on standardized tests like the PSAT and SAT exams. However, merit aid can also be awarded for achievements in athletics, the arts, community service, or other activities.

Colleges and universities award merit aid to attract talented students to their institutions. It’s also a great way to add diverse experiences and perspectives to a student body.

Merit aid differs from need-based aid, which is awarded based on a student’s and their family’s ability to pay. Need-based aid is calculated after students and families submit applications that detail income, tax information, and living expenses.

Not all colleges and universities provide merit aid, so it’s important to do research about the available aid and the institutions that provide it. Below are 5 tips for securing merit scholarships.

1. Choose the Right Schools

While none of the Ivy League schools offer merit aid, there are plenty of prestigious and competitive schools that do. Be sure to examine the school’s financial aid websites or call and ask for information about merit aid.

One set of schools to consider – state universities that have honors colleges, which are looking to attract talented students.

2. Understand How Merit Aid Works

In most cases, merit aid is awarded in the form of scholarships. That means it’s money that does not need to be paid back upon graduation.

In most cases, merit aid is designed to offset the cost of tuition, which means you will not be cut a check for the merit aid awarded. Instead, it will be deducted from the tuition bill you receive. Merit aid for books or other supplies may work differently.

3. Fill out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step for most merit aid programs. The FAFSA provides colleges and universities with a clearer financial picture of applicants’ needs and is used to determine need-based aid. Merit aid usually stacks on top of need-based aid.

4. Position Yourself Best

What activities are you involved with at your high school? Have you had any leadership positions? When filling out applications for merit aid, be sure to list all the organizations you’ve been involved with, both in school and in the community, along with the leadership roles you’ve held. Look to those civic organizations, including religious and service organizations, to see if they offer merit aid to members. Also consider your hobbies, volunteer activities, and household obligations as paths for potential merit aid.

5. Understand Renewal Criteria

Colleges may have stipulations on merit aid you receive. In some cases, you are required to maintain a minimum grade point average to continue receiving your scholarship. In other cases, merit aid may be tied to pursuing a particular career or participating in an extracurricular activity.

Contact Accolade Financial

There are lots of options for paying for college. At Accolade Financial, we help students and their families best finance higher education. To learn more, schedule an appointment today.