Writen by Prepscholar
To locate merit scholarships offered by external organizations, try searching online for the phrase merit scholarships paired with the specific interest or activity in which you excel, such as community service merit scholarships or writing merit scholarships. You can also consult our insider’s guide on the best available scholarship databases and search tools.
But if you’re looking for the top merit scholarships available, start with the following list.
Since 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Program has issued financial awards to U.S. citizens or permanent residents in high school who take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in their junior year or earlier. Among high scorers, approximately 16,000 are selected as semifinalists, and 15,000 become finalists after meeting specific academic and other qualifications. Ultimately, 800 finalists receive Special Scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s (NMSC’s) corporate partners, whereas 7,250 finalists will win one of three types of awards: a one-time $2,500 National Merit Scholarship from the NMSC, a corporate-sponsored scholarship, or a college-sponsored scholarship.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards a $20,000 merit prize each year to 150 high school seniors who are not the children or grandchildren of current or former Coca-Cola employees. The scholarship recognizes students who have earned at least a 3.0 GPA, demonstrate leadership, and possess a passion for school and community service as well as social justice. The selection process comprises multiple stages, including essays at the semifinal stage and interviews if you’re selected as a finalist.
A four-year merit award covering full tuition, fees, and books at any accredited U.S. college or university, the Cameron Impact Scholarship recognizes up to 15 high school students each year for exemplary academics (i.e., at least a 3.7 cumulative GPA), extracurricular participation, leadership, and community service. To be eligible, you must demonstrate a commitment to having a direct positive impact on your local and global community in and after college. Early applications are due in May; regular applications are due in September.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in STEM, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship provides up to $7,500 to college sophomores and juniors who are U.S. citizens, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and intend to pursue graduate-level research in the natural sciences, engineering, or mathematics. The multistage scholarship application involves being nominated by a Goldwater campus representative and requires several components, including a profile and pre-application, a questionnaire, a research essay, recommendation letters, and transcripts. The deadline for being nominated is the last Friday each January.
Each year, the Carson Scholars Fund selects students in grades 4–11 who demonstrate academic excellence and a passion for community service to receive $1,000. To be eligible, you must have a minimum 3.75 GPA. However, you cannot apply directly; you must first be nominated by an educator at your school, and there can be only one nominee from each school per year.
Applications include an information form, teacher recommendation letters, evidence of community service, and an essay. Nominations open in mid-October and close in mid-December each year; applications are due in mid-January.
Recognizing leadership, determination, and resilience, the Equitable Foundation awards $5,000 scholarships, renewable for up to four years, to 100 students per year. They also offer one-time scholarships of $2,500 to another 100 students each year. These scholarships are intended to cover tuition, room, board, and books.
The organization additionally provides scholars with mentoring and networking opportunities as well as professional development.
The program has additional benefits for those affiliated with the recipients. For example, your high school will receive a $500 grant whether you win a renewable or one-time scholarship. And if you attend a public school, you can choose an educator who has made a difference in your life to receive a $500 gift card.
To be eligible, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident. The application includes an essay in which you’re asked to describe how you demonstrate courage in pursuing what’s possible, strength in overcoming obstacles, and wisdom that you share with others. You can begin submitting applications in October; the deadline is in mid-December.
As an Equitable Excellence scholar, you can award an educator with a $500 gift card from the organization.
The Davidson Institute is a nonprofit that serves profoundly gifted students who have scored in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Each year, it awards $10,000, $25,000, and $50,000 to high-achieving students who have completed a substantial piece of work—defined as an idea, project, discovery, performance, or other accomplishment that experts would acknowledge as meaningful and exhibiting the potential to make a positive difference in the local or global community. Work in the visual arts does not qualify, but contributions in science, technology, engineering, math, literature, philosophy, music, or an out-of-the-box discipline are eligible.
Applicants can apply in teams, but both team members must meet the requirements. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is 18 years old or younger as of the application deadline, but there is no minimum age for eligibility. The application process does require nomination by at least two people, and the deadline is mid-February.
If you are a high-achieving student who has already demonstrated scholarship, a dedication to community service, leadership, and character, chances are that you have been inducted into the National Honor Society (NHS) chapter at your school. If you are a senior and an active member of your NHS chapter, you may be eligible to apply for a nonrenewable merit scholarship from the NHS.
In 2023, 575 semifinalists will receive $3,200 while 24 national finalists will be awarded $5,625 and 1 national finalist will receive $25,000. National finalists also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, for a weeklong scholarship event focused on leadership.
The deadline is in late November or early December each year.