What You Really Need to Know About Merit Aid Grants and Scholarships

Imagine going to college for four years. At your commencement ceremony, a billionaire steps up to the platform and announces he is paying your entire college debt. You would be in total wonder. This happened at Morehouse College class of 2019. But just in case you are not as lucky to receive an unexpected full ride to college, merit-based awards are available to America’s students.

Students have several options when it comes to paying for college. Need-based financial aid offers a bridge between the cost of attendance and government-granted financial assistance. A college or a university can issue a onetime merit-based award or pay for a full ride at the school of your choice.

Not only does merit aid consider the academic success of students, but a student can obtain aid based on their special talents. Merit aid is awarded for athletic abilities, artistic capabilities, and community service.

Ivy League Universities

The Ivy League Universities on the East Coast do not offer merit aid. However, they do offer to meet the full financial needs of low-income students in certain situations. Harvard, for example, offers full tuition for students whose household income is less than $65,000 per year.

Small Liberal Arts Colleges

You may want to enroll in a small liberal arts college. However, you may be shocked by the sticker price. Small liberal arts colleges with a high cost of attendance have been known to offer generous aid packages to students who cannot afford the full cost of attendance.

Oberlin College, for example, offers 49% of students a generous aid package. Oberlin college costs $56,818 with the average reward being $16,998. Students will benefit from a rich curriculum and small class sizes.

Out-of-state Students Receive More Aid

Generous aid packages are given to out-of-state students to increase school enrollment. A consensus was taken for 367 public colleges and universities. Schools gave more merit aid awards to out-of-state students. The average award was $8,620. In-state students on average receive $4,676 — this was half the amount given to out-of-state students.

Student GPA Requirements

Some merit aid is contingent upon a student continuing to meet the established requirements. A student may need to maintain a certain GPA to continue to receive yearly aid, or a student may need to complete required annual forms, or a student must enroll and pass a required number of classes on a yearly basis. In this case, you want to check the annual requirements for your merit aid package.

The National Merit Scholarship Program

The National Merit Scholarship Program offers students $2,500 in scholarships. High school students take the PSAT to qualify for aid. By 2021, the organization will award $41 million annually.

Baylor University offers students who are National Merit Scholars full academic tuition. The University of Louisville offers National Merit Scholars full in-state and out-of-state tuition plus an allowance of $32,000 for a room, board, and books. In-state tuition starts at $32,000.

ACT and SAT Test Scores

Private colleges offer more need-based aid than public universities. Review your financial aid package from your selected school.

Some universities with honors colleges offer rewards based on SAT and ACT test scores. Mississippi State University offers students half-off tuition based on their test scores. For example, you can get tuition reduced by half with a 30 on the ACT.

Community Scholarships

Community organizations offer scholarships. These may be more challenging to find since they are not heavily advertised on the Internet. You want to search for scholarships at your school’s guidance counselor’s office or your local community newspaper. Two popular programs are listed below.

The Gates Scholarship

The Gates Scholarship offers rewards to up to 300 minority students who express great financial need. Students must exhibit community leadership and academic excellence.

Coca-Cola Scholars Program

Approximately 150 students receive $20,000 each for service, leadership, and academics. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program also gives out smaller rewards.

Private Awards

You do not have to be a straight-A student to receive a reward. Granting organizations sometimes award students aid based upon their application essay and strong community leadership skills. Unigo has over 3.6 million in available scholarships. Over $5 billion in private aid is awarded annually.

Review the terms of your reward

Some types of merit aid are onetime only. Other types of merit aid can be renewed annually. You want to check the stipulations and requirements for your merit-based aid package. Freshmen students generally receive more aid than upperclassmen.

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