Scholarships Friday: Merit Aid


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merit aidFinancial aid is always on the minds of parents and students, especially when they begin to research college costs and their financial aid statistics. The terms can be a bit confusing and today I want to discuss merit aid and answer a few questions about what it is, how do you find it, and how do you apply for it.

What is merit aid?

“Merit Aid” is the general term for grants, scholarships and discounts that a college awards in the financial aid package without considering financial need. Merit aid is based on several factors: academics, athletics, special talents such as music, where the student lives or other demographic characteristics. Merit aid is different from need-based aid which is awarded based on the student’s economic situation.

How do you find merit aid?

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. lists more than 23,000 individual merit aid scholarship programs offered by more than 1,800 colleges across the country. is the largest single source of information about merit-based scholarships.

You can also search on the college’s website. 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.

How do you apply for 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.

When will I know if I receive merit aid?

Once the college offers you admission, they will follow the offer with a financial aid package. The merit aid they award will be listed in the package. This offer typically comes after the acceptance letter arrives.

Almost everyone qualifies for some form of financial aid, but don’t assume you won’t qualify for merit aid. Check out for a list of 5 myths about merit aid. Visit their website for the best database on merit aid scholarships.


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