So I am a freshman, and i have a question on a lot of the schools I am going to apply to say on my chancing that I have a strong profile and it says, "You have a strong admissions profile for this school. Writing strong essays and improving your profile further can help you win merit scholarships". But what is a merit scholorship?
A merit scholarship is a scholarship you win based on your merit (usually your academic merit). Sometimes schools will review you automatically for merit scholarships when you apply, while other times you will have to apply to scholarships separately.
Basically, even if you are not worried about getting accepted to a school, if you have a stronger profile you may be able to will scholarships that make that school cheaper to attend.
Merit Scholarships are those that are given to students based on their academic achievement versus financial need. Merit Scholarships can come in many forms.
1.) If you get a 99% percentile score on the PSAT, you most likely will qualify for a Merit Scholarship (through CollegeBoard) which is a cash award up to $2,500 plus some top schools like USC will reward such winners with a 1/2 tuition grant is they successfully are admitted. These are hard to win since only 1% of test-takers qualify for this.
2.) Some colleges give out Merit Scholarships under different names like the 1693 Scholarship at William and Mary or the Jefferson Scholars Award at UVA. These are non-repayable grants that are given to again top students that successfully apply and get admitted to those schools. Each school/college/university has its own criteria for merit awards. Sometimes you are automatically considered for an award based on your SAT/ACT score and your UWGPA and other times you have to fill out separate applications which include essays, recommendations, fly-in interviews (COVID-19 permitting), and evidence of scholarships like videos of your achievements or a graded paper. These are very hard to win since only 1% to 5% typically qualify.
3.) Sometimes merit scholarships and financial aid awards are combined in the case of the Questbridge Scholars program. Typically you must be low income to qualify but you also must be high achieving and say have a 3.90 UWGPA and be in the top10% of your class and have an impressive resume of community service and ECs, great recommendations, awards, and honors, etc. You have to fill out an application that is very similar to the Common App or Coalition app. These are also hard to win since this year 18500 applied and only 1464 were Questbridge Match Finalists that got a full-ride scholarship through their Match program so like 8%.
What most colleges and universities offer is Financial Aid based on need. That accounts for about say 90% plus of all scholarships.
Unfortunately, that means if you are low income, high achieving you will fare the best. If you are middle income and high achieving you still qualify for financial or merit aid but not as much, and so forth. If you are from a wealthy family and have average grades and test scores, you will not get any financial or merit aid and will most likely attend a popular Private College that caters to that demographic.
Hope that is helpful.
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