Which Are Better: Merit Or Need Based Financial Aid Scholarships?

Money with text: Need based financial aidWithout a doubt, scholarships are the best way to pay for college. They’re gifts of free money that don’t have to be paid back! What’s better than that? All students should go after as many scholarship awards as they possibly can. It will reduce your potential for student loan debt and the overall cost of college. When it comes to scholarships, there are two main types: merit and need-based financial aid.

So which is better?

What Are Merit-Based Scholarships?

Merit-based scholarships are awarded to applicants based on their accomplishments, demographics, hobbies, and more. The exact accomplishments vary depending on the requirements of that particular scholarship. When choosing the winner of a merit-based award, financial needs are not taken into consideration.

You can win merit-based scholarships for impressive SAT scores, your high school soccer involvement, volunteer work, excellent essay writing, being part of a certain religion, wanting to study a specific major, and plenty more.

What Are Need-Based Financial Aid Scholarships?

Need-based scholarships are awarded to applicants who have financial need. Academic or extracurricular accomplishments are not taken into consideration when awarding need-based scholarships.

To be considered for need-based scholarships, you will be required to submit documentation stating your family’s financial status.

Sallie Mae logo.

3 Repayment Options

Variable rates from 6.37% - 16.70% APR with auto-debit

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Which Type of Scholarship is Better?

Neither one is better than the other. Both scholarships offer the same benefits. You can apply for any number of scholarships and keep all the scholarship money you are awarded. You don’t have to return any of the scholarship money at any time, neither do you have to pay interest on it. The only requirement to win either a merit-based or need-based scholarship is that you must meet the eligibility criteria. And yes, you can earn both types of scholarships to pay for your education.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Citizens logo.
6.98%-15.04%* Variable
5.99%-14.00%* Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Sallie Mae logo.
6.37% - 16.70% Variable
4.50% - 15.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
4.98% - 16.85% Variable
4.07% - 16.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
6.07% - 11.31% Variable
4.39% - 10.39% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
6.24% - 15.85% Variable
4.29% - 15.76% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.54% - 11.08% Variable
3.95% - 8.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
5.62% - 18.26% Variable
4.11% - 15.90% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
4.98% - 12.79% Variable
8.42% - 13.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Raptor is not a loan lender and does not assume responsibility for suggesting a loan to a user who may not be eligible for it. Rates, terms, conditions, eligibility, approval, and other considerations are the decisions of the lenders and may vary depending on which lender or marketplace the user selects. We urge users to carefully consider and review all loan options and terms before committing to taking out a loan.

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