When it comes to merit-based financial aid, students are awarded based on their academic accomplishments, special skills, and demographics. You may qualify for merit-based financial aid if you’ve earned good grades in high school, or you’ve gained special recognition for your skills in any field, or for your dedication to community service, or belong to a racial minority majoring in a specific field. All of these require persistent hard work and commitment and if you qualify, it makes sense that you should look for ways to maximize your financial aid opportunities.

Academics

Good grades pay, in multiple ways. Not only can a high GPA or an impressive ACT/SAT score boost your acceptance odds, it can also qualify you for more scholarship opportunities. Class rank can sometimes pay a factor too, so study hard!

Extracurricular Activities

What you do outside of school hours matters too. Colleges love seeing students dedicated to one or two (maybe three) extracurricular activities throughout their high school career—dedication over quantity. But extracurriculars can also earn you scholarships—especially if you plan to continue that extracurricular in college. Keep an eye out for scholarships relating to your favorite sports, arts, and community services.

Demographics

Believe it or not you can find scholarships that award you for being you. Are you a member of a racial minority? There are scholarships for that. Have strong faith in a particular religion? There’s a scholarship for that. Have a disability or health condition? There’s a scholarship for that. Have a niche hobby? There’s a scholarship for that.

Majors

If you know what you want to major in, search for scholarships based on it. There are, no doubt, a plethora of opportunities available based on your field of study. Sometimes a scholarship will offer an award to someone studying under a broadly defined field—like Communication (majors could include Journalism, English, Broadcast, etc.) or Engineering (Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical, etc.)

And when merit-aid isn’t enough, use College Raptor’s new Student Loan Finder to compare lenders and interest rates side by side to discover the ideal loan for you!