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How to Maximize Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships are typically awarded on the basis of academic, athletic, or artistic achievement. Here are some ways to capitalize on your award.


  • Step 1: Do your homework. Subtract the amount of the scholarship award from the total cost of attending each school you are considering.
  • Step 2: Be prepared to bargain. If you receive 2 or more scholarship offers from different schools, and the award from your first choice school compares unfavorably with the other others, ask your first choice school whether they will match the other offers. With a little bit of luck, they will!
  • FACT: In 2010, ranked Williams College in Massachusetts the best college in the United States.
  • TIP: Some schools limit the scholarship award to 4 years, even though many students take longer to finish their degree.
  • Step 3: Ask whether there is a cap on the number of years that you can renew a scholarship.
  • Step 4: Search college and financial aid websites for the availability of merit scholarships that match your qualifications.
  • Step 5: Find out whether the merit scholarship you are interested in can be renewed. Some schools set stiff renewal requirements, including maintaining a high GPA or sticking with the major you received the award for, even if you want to switch programs.
  • Step 6: Apply to schools where your grades will put you in the top 25 percent of the entering class. Most merit scholarships are awarded to students in this quartile.

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