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Best Merit-based Scholarships for High School Students – 2024 [With Application Tips]

Written by Medha Pandey

Updated on: 17 Jan 2024

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Are you a student planning for college and looking for ways to finance your education? Merit-based scholarships can be a great opportunity to help you cover your college expenses. 

Merit-based scholarships are offered to students based on their academic achievements, talents, or other educational criteria. These scholarships can help lighten the burden of tuition fees and other educational expenses. 

But with so many scholarship options available, how do you know which ones are the best for you?  In this article, we will list the best merit-based scholarships available and provide helpful tips for applying.

What is a merit-based scholarship? 

Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students who are good in academics, and sports, or excelling in other fields like art. Merit scholarships are offered based on a student’s exceptional abilities, achievements, or characteristics. 

These merit-offering criteria include academic performance, extracurricular activities, special talents, personal statements or essays, and letters of recommendation from mentors, educators, or local authorities from students. 

Most merit-based scholarships are based on class rank, GPA, SAT and ACT scores, club membership, athletic participation, community service, leadership positions, and other notable achievements. Merit Scholarships can also be offered based on artistic or musical aptitude, writing prowess, or other special skills.

Benefits of merit-based scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are very helpful in providing financial support for a student’s educational needs. Depending upon the type of merit-based scholarship you choose, they may help you:

Cover your tuition fee: Some merit-based scholarships cover the entire tuition fee for your four-year college degree. 

Cover college degree cost: Merit-based scholarships may also cover full college degree expenses starting from tuition fees to food and books. 

Cover attendance cost of one academic year:  Also, some scholarship programs based on merit help you cover the cost of attending college or university for one year.

Provide a reward amount: Then there are merit scholarships that help you with a certain amount of money to meet your study expenses.

Top merit-based scholarships for High School students

A student can get a scholarship based on merit from his/her school directly. Or they can search for merit-based scholarships at colleges or universities from online resources based on their skills and field of interest. 

Here’s a list of top merit scholarships for high school students: 

1. QuestBridge Match Scholarship 

Award Amount 

A full 4-year scholarship will be provided with a scholarship of $200,000.

Eligibility 

  • You should be a high school student. 
  • Eligibility depends on your academic results. The test scores, writing ability, and class rank regarding financial need are considered.  

Deadline 

Last week of September.

Click to Apply

2. The Burger King Scholars Program                             

Award Amount

$1000 to $60000.   

 Eligibility 

  • You must be a citizen of the U.S. or a Canadian citizen living in the U.S. 
  • The students must acquire a minimum GPA of 2.0 to qualify for a scholarship. Other skills, community services, and work experience are also considered.  

 Deadline

 Mid-December

Click to Apply

3. The Gates Scholarship         

Award Amount

Full cost of attendance that includes tuition fee, transportation, and more.  

Eligibility 

  • An American Indian, African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, or Pacific Islander American with a minimum of 3.3 GPA can enroll. 
  • A high school student getting in the top 10% of the graduating class is eligible for the scholarship.  

Deadline

15th September.

Click to Apply

4. The Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Scholarship             

Award Amount

  • The award of $1,000-$4,000 is given to the student per year in his full college career.
  • Weekend interviews are set for students who can participate and win a chance to get an award of $5,000 to $12,500 per year.

 Eligibility 

  • You must be a U.S. citizen. Apply with financial information and an essay. 
  • You are qualified based on academic achievements, financial needs, community services, and leadership skills.

 Deadline

15th November.

Click To Apply

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5. The GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship 

Amount award

A scholarship of $10,000 is given for an additional 3 years. (total $40,000).

Eligibility 

  • Must be a U.S citizen with a 3.0 GPA. 
  • Must also have leadership qualities. 
  • Must be committed to civic engagement.
  • Must be in high school, graduating in 2024.

Deadline

Early January.
Click to Apply

6. Davidson Institution Fellows Scholarships

Amount award

$10,000,$25,000, and $50,000 are awarded to students who have performed well and accomplished a good piece of work. 

Eligibility 

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. 
  • No minimum age eligibility is required. 
  • The application process must be nominated by at least 2 people.

Deadline

14th February

Click to Apply

7. The Carson Scholars Fund

Award Amount

The Carson Scholars award an amount of $1,000.

Eligibility 

  • A minimum 3.75 GPA is required for eligibility. 
  • Direct application is not available for this scholarship. A student must be nominated by the educator from your school.

    The overall process is provided here

Deadline

12th January 2024

Click to Apply

8. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship

 Award Amount

 A $ 7,500 scholarship is awarded to college students and juniors. 

Eligibility 

  • You must be a U.S. citizen with a minimum of 3.0 GPA. 
  • Your goal must be to graduate in mathematics, natural sciences, or engineering. A
  •  Goldwater Campus representative must nominate you for the scholarship. 
  • You also have to submit transcripts and recommendation letters with research essays. 

Deadline

The last Friday of January each year is the deadline for application.

Click to Apply

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9. Cameron Impact Scholarship

Award Amount

A merit scholarship of 4 years is awarded to the student. It covers full tuition fees, fees, and books of the college or universities they are studying in.

Eligibility 

  • A minimum of 3.7 GPA is required. 
  • You must have qualities to have an impact on the global community. You must have a positive impact in and after college.

Deadline

Applications start from 1st February 2024 for 2025 classes.

Click to Apply

10. The Equitable Excellence Scholarship

This merit-based scholarship program has replaced the AXA Achievement Scholarship.

Amount Award

  • The authorized distribution for new awards is up to $750,000, with 100 renewable awards of $5,000 each. 
  • 100 one-time awards of $2,500 each. 
  • The top 100 applicants receive renewable awards for up to four years or until a bachelor’s degree is earned. 
  • The next 100 applicants receive non-renewable awards. 
  • A $500 gift card will be provided to each recipient’s teacher of choice.

Eligibility 

  • High School seniors in the 50 US states, DC, or Puerto Rico are encouraged to enroll in an accredited college or university for the upcoming academic year. 
  • They must demonstrate ambition and self-drive, provide a release to publicize their achievements, and have a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale. 
  • They must also provide photographs for program promotion and information.

Deadline

Fall 2024

Click To Apply 

⭐Graduating soon? Discover opportunities with the Best Scholarships for High School Seniors.

11. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship  

Award Amount

Covers tuition fees, living expenses, food, books, and more.

Eligibility

  • You must plan to graduate from the U.S.
  • Plan to enroll in a four-year college that has been accredited starting in the fall of 2024.
  • Have a minimum, cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.5 or above.
  • Demonstrate Unmet Financial Need

Deadline

August 24, 2023: Application opens. Apply online in the Common App.
November 16, 2023: Application submission deadline.

Click to Apply

12. National Merit Scholarship 

Award Amount

Covers tuition fees, living expenses, food, books, and more.

Eligibility

  • You must plan to graduate from the U.S.
  • Plan to enroll in a four-year college that has been accredited starting in the fall of 2024.
  • Have a minimum, cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.5 or above.
  • Demonstrate Unmet Financial Need. 
  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT in October 2023. 
  • Meet other program entry requirements.

Deadline

See details
Click to Apply

13. National National Eagle Scout Association STEM Scholarship

Award Amount

$3500 to $48000

Eligibility

  • To apply for NESA scholarships, one must be a member of the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA). 
  • Eagle Scouts can apply from their senior year of high school to their junior year in an undergraduate program, or until midway through an associate degree program or skilled trade program. 
  • Full-time students in academic or skilled trade programs are eligible. 
  • NESA scholarships are not available to students enrolled at military academies or graduate students seeking doctorate or master’s degrees.

Deadline

11:59 pm, 31st January, 2024

Click to Apply

14. American University National Achievement and National Merit Scholarship

Award Amount

$6,000 to $22,000.

Eligibility 

  • You must demonstrate your academic excellence and rank within the top 10 to 15 percent of AU’s admitted students.
  • Be a freshman in AU-affiliated college. 

Deadline

Freshmen receive notifications at the time of admittance.

🎉Do check other scholarships you might be eligible for. Click here.

Click to Apply

15. UNCF STEM Scholarship

Award Amount

Covers college degree expenses


Eligibility 

  • Merit scholarships are typically given to students based on their academic, athletic, or artistic abilities, and also to those connected to a specific group or organization.

Deadline

See details

Check other merit-based scholarships offered by UNCF

Click to Apply 

🏅Excel in sports? Check out: Best Athletic Scholarships.

16. CIRI Special Excellence Award

Award Amount 

Up to $6,000 for full-time academic year.

Eligibility 

  • You must have a 2.5 GPA.
  • You must have a high school diploma.
  • You must attend an authorized institution.

Deadline 

1st June.

Click here to apply

17. Coca-Cola Scholarship Program

Award Amount 

$20,000

Eligibility 

  • You must be a citizen of the U.S.
  • You must pursue a degree from an authorized U.S. institution.
  • You must have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0/B in high school.
  • Students enrolled in U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, or select DoD schools graduating in 2023-2024 are eligible for this award.

Deadline 

2nd October.

Click here to apply 

18. Straight A Scholarship

Award Amount 

9 female and 9 male high school students will receive $20,000 each.

Eligibility 

  • You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • You must be a student within the Anthony Muñoz Foundation’s Area of Impact.

Deadline 

23rd February.

Click here to apply 

19. SHPE Chevron Scholarship

Award Amount 

$5,000

Eligibility 

  • You must be a citizen of the U.S.
  • You must be an active member of SHPE.
  • You must have a 2.5 GPA.
  • You must plan to pursue a STEM degree.
  • You must enroll in an affiliated two or four-year University or college in the U.S.

Deadline 

14th April.

Click here to apply  

20. CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Award Amount 

Tuition assistance is up to $18,000 and $25,000 for STEM field positions.

Eligibility 

  • You must be a citizen of the U.S.
  • You must have a maximum yearly income of $120,000 or $50,000 if independent.
  • You must be 18 years of age by 15th September.
  • You must have a 3.0 GPA.
  • Although it is ideal to have two 90-day tours, just one 90-day tour is necessary. moreover, readiness to work full-time at the CIA upon graduation

Deadline 

30th June.

Click here to apply 

🎗️Pursuing higher education? Read Best Scholarship for College Students.

🌞Planning a productive summer? Uncover the Best Scholarships for Summer Programs.

How to apply for a merit scholarship?

Merit-based scholarships are challenging to get. Once you’ve decided to pursue a merit scholarship, these pointers might help you succeed more.

1. Apply as soon as possible

It takes time to apply for many prizes since they are competitive. It’s common to need to acquire transcripts, documentation, and recommendation letters. Many also need you to submit a clear and comprehensive essay outlining your objectives. Give these tasks enough time to complete so that you appear attentive and organized.

2. Improve your GPA

See which rewards (given your skill sets, grades) and test results, you are eligible for. As a general guideline, concentrate on improving your grades

💯On your way to calculate your GPA? Read: How to calculate GPA?

3. Take Initiative

It might be helpful to schedule regular meetings with your guidance counselor, coaches, and teachers to take proactive steps. This not only helps to keep you on course but also creates a network of potential references.

4. Make an ACT/SAT ace plan

Test-day anxiety and a lack of a study strategy cause many students to perform less well than they had planned. Study and practice like a pro for the SAT and ACT exams. You need to know the subject matter, how long to study for, and effective study techniques for the day to achieve this.

📖Useful resources:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What colleges give the most merit scholarships?

Many colleges and universities offer merit-based scholarships to support their student’s academic achievements and goals. Some reputed merit-based scholarships can be found in these colleges in the USA:

1. Hollins University
2. Agnes Scott College
3. Monmouth College
4. Maryville College
5. Hendrix College
6. Austin College
7. Young Harris College
8. Augustana University
9. Saint Xavier University
10. Florida Southern College
11. Birmingham Southern College
12. Manchester University
Virginia Wesleyan College
St. Catherine University
Wittenberg University

What are most merit scholarships offered to students based on?

Merit scholarships are typically awarded based on a variety of criteria that showcase a student’s exceptional abilities, achievements, or characteristics. These criteria commonly include:
Academic Performance: Candidate’s class rank, GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and academic achievements.
Extracurricular Activities: Club membership, athletic participation, community service, leadership positions, and other noteworthy extracurricular achievements.
Particular Talents or Skills: Particular talents, such as artistic or musical aptitude, writing prowess, or other special skills.
Personal Statements or Essays: Applicants’ goals, motives, and points of view through the analysis of their written personal statements or essays.
Strong letters of recommendation from mentors, educators, or local authorities can support a student’s merit scholarship application.

Which scholarship gives the most money?

Elks National Foundation and Davidson Fellows Scholarship program offer up to $50000 in scholarships in the USA.

How can I increase my chances of earning a merit scholarship?

Increase the chances of earning a merit scholarship to colleges and universities that focus on academics by studying hard and getting high grades, preparing for the SAT/ACT. The high scores on these standardized tests maximize your chances to earn a merit scholarship. 

How do I find college merit scholarships? 

By working well in your studies, you can raise your chances of receiving a merit scholarship to academically-focused schools and institutions. gaining good marks and getting ready for the SAT and ACT. Your chances of receiving a merit scholarship are increased if you receive excellent results on these standardized examinations.

Written by by

Medha Pandey

Reviewed by by

Prerit Jain

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