More colleges are offering merit-based tuition discounts that take the form of grants and scholarships, are based on a student's academic record or character, and are funded by endowments, according to Kiplinger. Academically talented high school students can find merit-based scholarships to fund their education from sources such as national honors programs, the intended school, community associations and corporations.
National Merit Scholarship Program
Students take the PSAT/NMSQT qualifying test to compete for the National Merit Scholarship Program awards. Commended students do not continue on in the competition, but they receive letters of recognition and sometimes receive scholarships from other business sponsors and universities. Semifinalists outscore all other PSAT/NMSQT test takers in their state and have a record of consistently very high academic performance in all of grades 9 through 12 and in any college course taken, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Semifinalists move to the finalist round based on a combination of PSAT/NMSQT scores, high school records, school recommendation, student activity and essay. They compete for renewable $2,500 scholarships, corporate-sponsored merit scholarships and college-sponsored merit awards.
College and University Programs
Colleges and universities offer merit-based scholarships to freshman students, typically with a high school GPA of 3.0 or better. Scholarship amounts vary. For example, Terra Community College in Fremont, Ohio offers a $1,500 Great Start Merit Scholarship and Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida offers $10,000 to students with at least a 2.8 GPA and an SAT score of 950 or better. Scholarship deadlines vary according to the school, with some schools offering rolling applications.
Academically talented students may also receive merit-based scholarship awards from various corporations around the country. For example, The Coca-Cola Corporation grants $20,000 scholarships to 50 national scholars and $10,000 scholarship awards to 250 regional scholars. To be eligible, high school seniors must have at least a 3.0 GPA by the end of their junior year, receive two recommendations and complete an essay. Another example is the Elks National Foundation, which awards as many as 500 four-year scholarships to students based on scholarship, leadership and financial need. The Elks awards range from $4,000 for runners-up to $60,000 for the first-place winner.
Other Merit-Based Awards
Bright students may also receive awards based on their ethnicity, religion, corporate or a variety of other affiliations. For example, African-American high school students with a 3.0 or better who enroll at University of Colorado can apply for the Sydney D. Walker African-American Scholarship. Students whose parents are actively employed by a Wal-Mart division can pursue the Walton Family Foundation Scholarship.
- National Merit Scholarship Corporation: National Merit Scholarship Program
- National Merit Scholarship Corporation: Requirements and Instructions for Semifinalists in the 2011 National Merit® Scholarship Program
- Lynn University: Merit Scholarship
- Terra Community College: Great Start Merit Scholarships
- Coco-Cola Scholars Foundation: Coco-Cola Scholars Program
- Elks National Foundation: Most Valuable Student Foundation
- honors graduate image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com