Schools known for Merit Awards

The search for Merit Scholarships has many layers. If you are a top-notch student from a middle-income family and had your sights set on top-tier liberal arts schools or the Ivy Leagues, you might want to rethink your college lists.  These top tiers offer financial aid but not merit awards.  You are expected to pay their hefty $50K+ tuition and room and board.

Time to find schools that offer merit awards. In July 2012, The New York Times created a terrific chart of more than 600 schools that offer merit awards  Colleges and Universities That Award Merit Aid” .  Click on the column headers and you can sort by either  size of school, % of students getting awards, etc. Note that the stated tuitions for the public schools are in state tuition.

This tool is one of the best we have seen, so below is a screen shot  of the chart which has been sorted to show the schools which have awarded the greatest % of freshman students merit awards. Note that the public state schools list only the instate tuition, whereas out-of-state students often pay twice as much. Also not consider is how difficult it is to be accepted for example Cooper Union’s acceptance rate is about 10%, however, Colby-Sawyer is about 30%.



Some colleges have automatic Merit awards based on your SAT, ACT or GPA. These colleges will post their requirements and the amount of awards on their websites, for example University of Miami in Florida says “have significant achievement on standardized tests and a minimum requirement of a 1350 SAT (math and critical reading sections) or a 31 ACT to receive consideration”. No separate application is required to be considered!

Other colleges are not as forthcoming with how they decide who is offered merit awards since their criteria may change from year to year. Qualifications may change for reasons such as the college’s own endowment funds may have decreased, or they may decide to offer awards to a specific type of student that brings geographical diversity to the school.

Another cause for award qualifications changing is when school suddenly becomes a “HOT”  because their team won a National Championship. Usually positive publicity for a college give applications a boost.  When 1000s more kids apply to a school, the average SAT scores go up.  This means that the student with  combined 1300 on their SATs, who once received a $10K merit award would probably not be awarded the $10K if they were applying in a “HOT”, since now this college is attracting more applicants with higher SATs.

Your ultimate stratgey to win merit awards is to have SAT  or ACT scores which are significantly  higher (100 points or more) then the  average enrolled student at that institution. This is what make you an attractive candidate to the school, which will earn you awards, since your academic credentials will help the improve the school profile and their rankings!