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How to Find Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships are usually awarded to students based on their superior academic performance. Here's how to find and qualify for them.


  • TIP: Start your search early so that you meet any deadlines.
  • Step 1: Do a web search, and check sites like and for the availability of other merit scholarships you may qualify for. These sites may list thousands of merit scholarships that you have never heard of.
  • Step 2: Contact the financial aid offices of the colleges you wish to apply to, and inquire whether they award merit scholarships. But be aware, the competition for these scholarships is fierce. Good luck!
  • FACT: As of 2009, only half the students who enrolled in college went on to eventually earn a bachelor's degree.
  • Step 3: Inquire of organizations that you or your family belong to about the availability of merit scholarships. Local churches, community groups, and service clubs often offer merit scholarships to qualified students.
  • TIP: Your counselor may be aware of private companies and professional organizations that make unpublicized scholarships available to members of your class.
  • TIP: Merit scholarships are typically awarded to students with excellent academic records who graduate in the top 5 to 10 percent of their class.
  • Step 4: Examine the requirements for a National Merit Scholarship if you scored very well on your PSATs. About 15,000 high school students are chosen as National Merit finalists based on their PSAT scores. From their, scholarship recipients are chosen based on activities, grades, school recommendation, and personal essay.
  • Step 5: Ask your academic guidance counselor for information about merit scholarships that you may qualify for. The counselor will be familiar with your academic record and be able to advise you about the ones you are most eligible for.
  • Step 6: Realistically assess your chances of being awarded a merit scholarship. Know that very few students qualify for merit scholarships that cover full tuition, room, and board, but there are many scholarships out there that will help defray tuition costs.

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