Merit Aid FAQ
What is Merit Aid?
"Merit Aid" is the general term for grants, scholarships and discounts that a college awards to an admitted student without regard to financial need. Merit aid may be based on academic or athletic achievements, special talents such as music, where the student lives or other demographic characteristics. Merit aid, also known as non-need-based aid, is different from need-based aid which is awarded based on the student's economic situation.
What's the difference between merit aid scholarships and typical private scholarships?
Merit aid scholarships are offered and awarded by a college. Many scholarships are renewable each year and are often awarded to more than one student. These awards range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, and may even cover a student's full bill for tuition, room and board.
Most private scholarships are funded by corporations, individuals or private groups. These awards are typically one-time-only payments of $1,000 to $2,000. Also, the application pool for these scholarships is often highly competitive and only a select group - think students with the highest GPAs - receive the awards.
The MeritAid.com database does not include private scholarships. If you are interested in private scholarships, Cappex.com is a good place to start your search.
How much merit aid exists?
There is more than $13 billion of merit aid available to undergraduate students. Most of that, about $11 billion, comes directly from colleges. The other $2 billion is provided by state governments.
How many merit aid scholarships are available?
MeritAid.com lists more than 23,000 individual merit aid scholarship programs offered by more than 1,800 colleges across the country. Meritaid.com is the Internet's largest single source of information about merit-based scholarships.
Which colleges offer merit aid?
Almost every traditional four-year college, public or private, offers some form of merit aid. Some colleges offer more than others, and a handful - typically a few dozen of the most selective private colleges - offer none at all.
How difficult would it be for a user to find this aid without MeritAid.com?
Very. There are more than 2,000 four-year colleges in the United States. Colleges with merit aid may offer anywhere from a few dozen opportunities to hundreds of individual programs. Some merit awards are well known and heavily advertised while others are harder to find. We work with colleges to make sure our merit aid scholarship listings are comprehensive and include offers you may not be able to find anywhere else.
What is the difference between state and institutional merit aid?
The biggest difference is in the provider: The college or the state. State merit aid may be used at more than one college within that state, and the student typically must attend a college in their state of residence. Merit aid from a college may only be used at that college.
What can merit aid be used for?
Each scholarship will have its own stipulations. Most merit aid goes directly to the college and can be used for tuition, room and board or other fees. The scholarships may only be used at the college offering the awards. State aid is similar, but may be accepted at any college that meets certain criteria - any public college within the state, for example.
How do I get merit aid?
In many cases, applying to a school is enough to be considered for the many merit aid opportunities available, assuming you get in, of course. However, some colleges or scholarship programs may have special application requirements, so always check with the college if you're not sure. If you have financial need, sometimes colleges will award you with a scholarship based fully on that need, or will combine a need-based award with a non-need-based award.
Should students consider factors besides merit aid when choosing a college?
Absolutely. Merit aid is just one piece of the college financing puzzle. Knowing the available merit aid opportunities from a college before you apply will give you a better idea of the true costs of attending college. There are some colleges that may be more affordable than you think. But merit scholarships don't guarantee a college is a good fit for a student. Available academic programs, social culture, size and location will go a long way in determining if a potential college is really home. Examine all these aspects of a college before deciding if it offers everything you need for a successful college experience.
Does merit aid exist for transfer students?
Yes! In fact, many merit aid opportunities are designated specifically for transfer students. Merit scholarships available to transfer students will be noted on Meritaid.com
Does merit aid exist for international students visiting the United States?
Yes. Often international merit aid is available for graduate students, but there are some merit-based scholarships for undergraduate international students. Meritaid.com lists many of them, but to make sure you are aware of all opportunities, check with the individual colleges' international students office.