What You Need to Know About Merit-Based Financial Aid

by | Oct 16, 2021

While most financial aid is offered based on the financial need of students and their families, there is another category of aid called merit-based financial aid. Similar to need-based financial aid, merit-based aid can have a significant impact in reducing total college costs and making the sticker price of a college more favorable. Get to know the facts about merit-based aid below.

What is merit-based financial aid?

Merit-based financial aid (also called merit scholarships or merit awards) is financial aid offered in recognition of student achievements (e.g. academic, athletic, artistic, etc.). Unlike need-based financial aid, merit-based financial aid does not consider the financial need of the student or family. Most merit-based aid is awarded directly by colleges and universities, but not all colleges and universities offer merit-based aid (see below).

Does every college/university offer merit-based financial aid?

Unfortunately, no. Not every college offers merit-based financial aid. And, for those colleges that do, offering practices vary significantly between colleges. So, if you are applying to five colleges and three of them offer merit-based financial aid, you will (most likely) see three very different merit-based financial aid offer amounts (and any of them could, of course, could be zero).

Will I receive merit-based financial aid every year I’m enrolled?

It depends. Most merit-based financial aid is renewable, meaning you will receive the scholarship every year as long as you meet the minimum scholarship requirements (e.g. maintain a certain GPA, enrollment status, etc.). If you are offered any merit-based financial aid, be sure to check with the financial aid office regarding any renewable requirements.

How do I apply for merit-based financial aid?

At some institutions, you will be considered for merit-based financial aid “automatically” after you apply for admission and are being considered for acceptance. However, some institutions will have separate applications, with their own deadlines and requirements (e.g. essay, letter of recommendation, etc.) to be considered for merit-based financial aid. This is especially true for bigger scholarships and awards.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC


Weil College Advising

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