Merit Scholarships: Everything Your Need to Know
These are monetary gifts awarded by institutions to superbly gifted students, who have set themselves apart by their exceptional performance in schoolwork, regardless of whether they require the monetary assistance or not. Thus, merit scholarships don’t take into account EFC (Expected Family Contribution). Instead, they focus on a student’s grades and their excellence in areas like sports, music, arts, etc., along with considering other factors, such as SAT and/or ACT scores, leadership roles, extracurricular activities, and involvement in the school or community.
In several cases, merit-based scholarships s can help reduce or completely cover the cost of standard four-year college tuition. A handful of scholarships are even awarded for meeting the expenses of multiple academic years based on continuing student eligibility, performance, and involvement.
Students who neither qualify for need-based financial aid nor can afford to pay for a college education out of their pockets can find a solution in merit scholarships. Since such scholarships don’t take an applicant’s financial needs into account, they can be awarded to a student living below the poverty line just as easily as they can be given to a student who belongs to the top 1% of the nation’s wealthiest families.
Though merit scholarships are usually offered by colleges and universities, there are many organizations, companies, and foundations as well that grant such financial aid to deserving applicants. However, it’s important to know the details and read the fine prints of merit scholarships offered by private organizations, as they often have a caveat. For example, a company offering merit scholarships to students majoring in a specific field may use the opportunity as a recruitment method. Thus, it can ask scholarship recipients to join the company upon graduation for one to two years, at the least. Such caveats are usually used to improve the company’s public image. If the company in question is an extremely desirable employer, such conditions may not be a problem. Else, being bound by an agreement could pose problems in the students’ lives later, especially if they get good job offers from other, more reputed employers or consider changing their major in the future.
No fixed rules exist about how a student should apply for merit scholarships. Generally, the organizations offering such financial aids can set their own screening criteria and other requirements. Once students have shortlisted a few merit scholarships they plan to apply to, they should ensure they meet the eligibility criteria. Additionally, they need to read the application instructions outlined by the school, organization, or business and follow them to the letter.