How To Find Merit Scholarships You Can Qualify For

Academic and athletic scholarships are the two biggest merit scholarship categories, but they aren’t the only ones. Merit scholarships also encompass all scholarships that you are eligible for based on the sponsor’s criteria and they do not take financial need into consideration.

Doing a general search for merit scholarships can throw up thousands of opportunities. Going through each one of these to determine their requirements can get overwhelming very quickly. A far more efficient way to do this is to search for specific scholarships. Here are some searches you can run to find merit scholarships you may qualify for.

Scholarships for Ethnic Minorities

Many colleges, individuals, small businesses, and large organizations offer scholarships for ethnic minorities. Colleges offer these awards to promote diversity on their campus. Other entities offer these awards to help underserved minorities realize their dream of getting a college degree. As with all other scholarship opportunities, each one has its own unique eligibility requirements.

Some scholarships are open to all minority students while others may be offered to students from specific minority groups such as African-American, Hispanic or Asian students. You may be eligible for some awards purely based on your ethnic minority status. Others may have additional requirements you’ll need to meet in addition to minority status. Requirements may include specific academic interests such as mathematics, medicine, or engineering. Still others may consider financial need as a basis for the award.

If you belong to a minority group, don’t leave free money on the table. Start by looking for scholarships you qualify for based on your minority status. Then narrow your search down based on eligibility.

Scholarships Related to Extracurricular Activities

Participating in extracurricular activities does more than boost your admission chances. It can also open up more scholarship opportunities. You can find scholarships for almost any hobby or extracurricular activity you can think of including:

  • Knitting, quilting and sewing
  • Dance, drama and theater
  • Member of the orchestra, opera or choir
  • Accomplishment in any art or dance form
  • Member of a debate, chemistry, ecology or history club
  • Accomplishment in any martial arts form

The list above is just a smattering of the many activities you can find scholarships for. You can save tons of time by doing a search for scholarships being offered specifically for extracurricular activities you’ve participated in.

It’s important to know that spending one day or even one week on an activity will not qualify for any scholarship. For example, spending a day horse riding will not win you any horse riding awards. Sponsors want to see that you’ve achieved some level of skill in your activity.

First Generation Scholarships

If you’re the first person in your family to attend college, you may qualify for awards instituted for just this purpose. Lack of finances is one of the biggest hurdles that stops members of low-income families from going to college. Many colleges and private organizations offer generous awards to encourage more students from low-income families to break the mold.

Don’t let lack of finances stop you from seeking a higher education. If you’re the first person in your family applying to college, there is help available. Look for first-generation scholarships and apply to all those that you qualify for. Winning a first-generation scholarship can make all the difference in helping you achieve your academic goals.

Scholarships for Women

Women have historically been sidelined when it comes to academic pursuits. Several colleges, associations and large organizations have programs in place to advance opportunities for women. Many have created scholarships specifically designed to fund women’s college education. These awards do more than just offer funding towards college. They also encourage women to go into traditionally male-dominated areas such as economics, business, and science.

You may be eligible for some of these scholarships simply by being a female student. Most awards however have additional requirements besides gender. A large number of scholarships for women are tied to a certain course of study, with huge emphasis on STEM.

When looking for scholarships for women, you’ll find better opportunities if you’re specific about your field of interest. Google’s Women Techmakers Scholarship is one such example which is open to female students enrolled in or studying computer engineering, computer science, or a related field.

Community Service Scholarships

This is one of the most common scholarships available. Did you spend time during high school serving your community in any way? If you did, you will find several scholarships that you can apply to. All types of academic and non-academic organizations place great value on giving back to communities. To encourage more students to participate in community service, many organizations offer generous awards specifically designed for this purpose.

If you have a history of community involvement, look for scholarships that will recognize and reward your efforts.

3 Important Things to Understand About Merit Scholarships

  1. Scholarship awards can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the smaller awards and only applying for the big wins. Larger scholarships are more competitive and more difficult to win. Smaller scholarships are easier to win. These small wins can add up to a substantial amount.
  2. There’s no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply to or the total awards you can win. Moreover, you don’t need to return the money you win, nor do you pay interest on it. So go ahead and apply to as many scholarships that you qualify for.
  3. Some scholarships offer one-time awards. Others may be renewed annually for the four years that you’re in college. The recurring awards generally require recipients to maintain a certain grade to continue being eligible. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully so you don’t lose any free money simply because of an oversight. 
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