Academic Merit Scholarships are awarded based on a student’s academic record such as test scores, exam scores, grade points, etc., and not on your family’s need for financial aid.
This means that the major requirement to get this scholarship is to do well in Academics.
The truth remains that many scholarships are academic-related. While some might not be solely based on academic records, doing well academically will come in one way or the other.
What’s the Difference between a Scholarship and a Grant?
Scholarships and grants are both gift aids and do not need to be earned through employment or repaid.
Although the two terms are used as synonyms, there is a difference.
Eligibility for a grant is based on financial need while most scholarships are solely based on Academic merits or other abilities such as artistic skills, athletic skills, disabilities, etc.
How to apply for Academic Merit Scholarships
1. Start by being organized
Create a list of scholarships you’re interested in and organize them by the application deadline.
Make a checklist of the application requirements, such as essays and letters of recommendation. Some scholarships may require work on a project, such as a research project, report, etc.
The goal is to get everything ready.
2. Create a scholarship resume
This is where you list all of your accomplishments, including honors, awards, hobbies, sports, volunteering, and other activities. Be specific with dates and other important details.
You can share the scholarship resume with your mentors and teachers or anybody that can write a letter of recommendation for you.
A letter of recommendation(s) validates your resume, get as much as you can.
3. Dust your social media accounts
The aim here is to remove anything that would not speak well of you.
Beyond your Academic merits, most scholarship boards would go through your social media profiles to find out the kind of person you are. Don’t falter in this area, clean up your social media accounts.
You can do this by Googling your name and reviewing your social media accounts to look for negative information.
Delete any negative information such as pictures of underage drinking or drug use, and posts demonstrating a negative attitude.
Scholarship providers are investing their money in your future, and they don’t want to risk awarding a scholarship to someone who will reflect badly on them.
Most scholarship providers require scholarship applicants to include their social media handles in their applications to know them better.
4. Print or save a copy of your scholarship application before you mail or submit it
This will make it easier to resend your application if it gets lost.
A little Pro tip:
If a scholarship requires nomination, ask the nominator to nominate you. Give them a copy of your scholarship resume. You might get nominated because you’re the only student to ask to be nominated. If you don’t ask to be nominated, you probably won’t be considered.
5. Write better scholarship essays
Most scholarship boards will ask for your statement of purpose. This is an essay you write, talking about your motivation, career interests, and why you should be considered for a scholarship.
This essay does not only prove your Academic merits but also highlights what drives you and why you should be considered for a scholarship.
One important tip is to write your essay according to the guidelines provided by the scholarship.
6. Ace the scholarship interview
The only thing that would help you succeed in your interview is to prepare well.
Study past interview questions, practice, and practice to the point that you become confident to do the main interview.
Where to see Academic Merit scholarship opportunities
1. Online scholarship databases
These scholarship databases compile thousands, sometimes millions of scholarships.
You can create a profile and allow the platform to match scholarships to you based on your year in school, GPA, state and city of residence, extracurricular interests, and so on.
Most colleges also offer scholarship opportunities.
Some of these scholarship opportunities are extended to all applicants, while some are only extended to students who meet certain eligibility criteria such as Academics.
Check college websites while in your search for scholarship opportunities.
3. School counselors
While a large number of scholarships can easily be found through online scholarship databases and college applications, many others aren’t listed in either of these sources. High school and college counselors may know about several scholarships not listed on larger databases that you can apply for.
Don’t underestimate your school counselors, find out about scholarships from them as much as you can.
4. Manual searches for private scholarships
Sometimes you have to do the searching yourself. Most niche scholarships are found throughout manual searches.
You can conduct online searches via Google or other search engines, query platforms like Quora, Reddit, etc.
Requirements to get Academic Merit Scholarships
The criteria for getting a scholarship depends on the scholarship program, the location, school, and course.
Also having the necessary academic achievements for that scholarship is a major requirement.
Each scholarship program has its requirements but the majority of them require you get your transcript ready.
So before you apply for any academic merit scholarship, download transcripts of your grades throughout your time in high school or college. Most scholarship boards will ask for PDFs rather than paper copies.
Also find copies of your standardized test scores, i.e. the SAT or the ACT, and present them in the best format possible.
What’s the best time of year to search for college scholarships?
Most scholarship applications tend to be due in the fall (October–November) or spring (March-May).
Meanwhile, some scholarships are due before or after these months. It is worthwhile to conduct a quarterly scholarship search and plan.
During what grade levels in college should you search for Academic Merit scholarships?
Whether you’re in 10th grade, 12th grade, or in your sophomore year of college, there will always be various scholarships to apply for.
Although most scholarships require students to be in 12th grade or college at the time of application, keep being on the lookout, you will find something that suits you.
How do I improve my chances of getting Academic Award Scholarships
Getting Academic award scholarships solely depends on how well you do in your academics.
Once you’re good to go academically, create an outstanding resume, get recommendation letters, submit an excellent application, write a killer essay, prepare for your interviews and ace them.
What to Do After You Win an Academic Merit Scholarship
After you win the scholarship, keeping it is the next thing.
These few steps would help you maintain your scholarships and keep you on track:
1. Maintain good grades
Maintaining a consistent academic record will prove you’re deserving of the scholarship and will open more doors for you.
Your scholarship can be renewed on that basis or it can open the doors for more scholarships.
2. Participate in community activities
Being involved in community services would speak well of you. Beyond your academic records, scholarship boards need to see that you’re passionate about making your life better and the lives of others in the community.
3. Keep updating the Scholarship board on what is going on.
Many scholarships require sending in grade reports and updating the scholarship program about your academic and non-academic activities
Failure to do this might attract some penalty or withdrawal. You don’t want to keep them in the dark about how their scholarship is impacting your life.
4. Consistent gratitude letters can make a difference
Writing thank you letters occasionally to your scholarship board will keep you in their good books and make them consider you for future opportunities.
Wrapping it up on Academic Merit Scholarships
While most scholarships are based on academic merits, it doesn’t eliminate other criteria such as volunteering, community building, social skills, artistic skills, athletic skills, etc.
This is to say that you shouldn’t just work on your academics, other aspects of your life are important.
When you have all it takes for a scholarship, winning the scholarship becomes easier.