How to get a Merit Scholarship
We all know that a college education is very expensive and more & more students are looking for scholarships. A merit scholarship is a great option, especially for high-achieving students, who may not otherwise qualify for need-based financial aid. However, there are lots of misconceptions related to merit scholarships. Either their approach is not correct, or they are not fully conversant with the rules. As a result, a large number of deserving candidates miss out on the great opportunity of getting financial aid.
In this blog post, we’ll try to eliminate some of the common misconceptions while focusing on a strategy to ensure you qualify for a merit scholarship. Before we delve further, let’s first understand what merit scholarship is.
What is a merit scholarship?
Merit scholarship is a financial aid awarded to students for their talent. They are awarded to students for either their academic or extra – curricular activities. While the need-based scholarship is awarded to students depending on their financial needs, merit scholarship is based on the level of achievements a student demonstrates irrespective of their financial status.
Merit scholarships are part of the admission procedure in colleges and universities to bring in the best and brightest talents in areas such as sports, arts and even community services, besides academics. Awarded on the basis of cumulative points of GPA, SAT scores and other factors, some of the institutions offer full-ride scholarships covering tuition fee and other expenses.
These scholarships are awarded either by the institution itself or outside the organization. Merit scholarships offered by the outside organizations are often targeted at particular niches such as certain demographics or disciplines. For example, at times, scholarships are offered to students interested in STEM majors or doing scientific research.
Getting a way to fund your college education in itself is a great achievement, but the entire process can be very confusing and overwhelming. The myths and misconceptions associated with these scholarships cause predicaments in candidates’ minds. Let’s go over some of the common misconceptions.
Common misconceptions about Merit Scholarships
The more, the merrier
Kind of a grey area, this exactly, cannot be termed as a myth. Logically speaking, the more the number of applications, more the chances of bagging the scholarship! Having said, a candidate should be wary of the time consumed in the application process. The volume of applications can easily be increased, but it tends to get time-consuming. Therefore, it is prudent to adopt a focused strategy involving applications related to your strength and interests. Primarily, a candidate should try to gauge the probability before applying for a scholarship.
Outside scholarships are easier to bag
There is no denying the fact that there are plenty of outside organizations awarding scholarships, but the fact of the matter is that opportunities are more in case of institutional scholarships. It is estimated that institutions grant 16 times more than outside organizations. Moreover, organizations offering merit scholarships usually focus on a particular area or ethnic group.
Top Institutions award merit scholarships
Contrary to the common belief, most of the top institutions do not offer merit aid. As a matter of fact, none of the Ivy League and half of the top 20 Universities and Liberal Arts College do not offer it. At the same time, these prestigious institutions are very liberal on need-based financial aid.
Merit-based aid will add up to need-based aid
Firstly, you need to be clear on the fact that if you have received need-based aid, then you can still apply for a merit scholarship. Now, in case you are fortunate to get both, then logically, both the scholarships amounts will add up. But, that’s not the case, and an institution will re-evaluate your financial need to decide the total amount to be disbursed. Suppose you’ve received $25K as need-based aid and you also qualify for $15K merit scholarship. Now ideally your scholarship will add up ($25K + $15K = $40K). However, the institution will re-evaluate and may reduce the amount of need-based financial aid as per the actual expenses deemed fit.
There are plenty of opportunities for getting merit scholarships. However, you should bear in mind that bigger the award, bigger will be the competition. It is always advisable to start early and have a focused approach with a clear understanding of how an institution defines ‘merit’. Chances of winning a scholarship is very high if your strengths are aligned with the qualities an institution is seeking.