Academic scholarships, which are also known as merit scholarships, presidential scholarships, trustee scholarships and chancellor scholarships, are used by less-selective colleges to recruit academically talented students. Award amounts vary from a few thousand dollars to full-tuition scholarships. Some academic scholarships also cover room and board and, occasionally, books and supplies.
Typically, academic scholarships are awarded by the admissions office, not the financial aid office, and do not require a separate application form. Academic scholarships are awarded to a small percentage of prospective students based on high school grade point average (GPA) and SAT/ACT admissions test scores. Some are restricted to students who are valedictorians or salutatorians or to students with high class rank.
Most academic scholarships are renewable, but recipients are required to maintain at least a minimum academic performance to retain the scholarship in subsequent years.
The most well-known source of academic scholarships are the National Merit Scholarships awarded through the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Students enter this scholarship competition by taking the PSAT/NMSQT in October of the junior year in high school. More than 4,000 college-sponsored merit scholarships and more than 1,000 corporate-sponsored merit scholarships are awarded each year through this program.
The Stamps Family Charitable Foundation also funds full-tuition academic scholarships at several dozen U.S. colleges and universities.
Academic scholarships are restricted to students who enroll at the college or university that sponsors the award. The easiest way to find these awards is to look on the web sites of the colleges of interest to the student. Googling the name of the college and “academic scholarships” or “merit scholarships” can also help locate information about academic scholarships offered by the college.
Some scholarship matching services list academic scholarships in addition to private scholarships, but only for the colleges that the student lists in his or her background profile.
The web site MeritAid.com allows students to search for colleges that offer academic scholarships that match the student’s academic credentials. U.S. News publishes a list of colleges with the Most Students Receiving Merit Aid. But both of these sources include non-need-based aid, not just academic scholarships. They include many colleges that indiscriminately award small grants to almost every admitted student as part of a strategy that involves front-loading of grants.
This list includes only the colleges and universities that offer full-tuition academic scholarships. A full-tuition academic scholarship provides a big incentive for academically talented students to consider enrolling at a less-selective institution.
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