Academic scholarships, or merit based awards, are most commonly awarded to students who have demonstrated outstanding academic performance. Sometimes, this can be in a particular area (i.e., science, math) while other times it refers to a students overall academic performance. Typically, these awards require students to submit a copy of their transcripts and require a minimum grade point average in order to apply for the award. Even though academic excellent is the main criteria for these awards, many funders will also look at the overall person and include other personal characteristics in decision making (i.e., community service, extra-curricular activities, etc.). This is to ensure that the award goes to the most well-rounded students and also because there is such a high level of competition for these awards.
Academic scholarships are especially attractive because they typically offer students more funding than other types of awards. Sometimes they also come with additional perks, such as additional career mentorship, internship matching, a living stipend, or other benefits. At the graduate level, perhaps one of the most coveted awards are ones that come without an assistantship requirement, as these allow students to focus their time on their studies without working to pay for tuition. The academic awards are also often considered more prestigious than non-academic awards.
How can you find the best academic scholarships to match your needs? Most students should complete a FAFSA application as a first step. This will help match you with programs, including those that require a high grade point average, that are funded through your state or the federal government. You should also meet with your guidance counselor or financial aid officer to inquire about academic scholarships. If you already know which school you will be attending, it is worthwhile to explore the college’s website to determine whether there are academic awards available to you. Most institutions offer something called a Presidential Scholarship, which often waivers tuition and in some cases, waives fees. These awards are often renewable provided that the student maintains a minimum grade point average. Given that these awards are internal; they are often less difficult to secure than external awards.
As a next step, students should create a free account with one of the online scholarship search engines. This service will match you for free with scholarships for which you meet the criteria (i.e., grade requirements, major requirements, etc.). For those of you who prefer to search for specific awards, the ones listed below are some of the most prestigious academic awards available:
Siemens Math, Science, and Technology Awards: This scholarship awards $100,000 to the grand prize winner.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development: This award is for youth who show significant promise based on a project or work they have engaged in. The scholarships range from $10,000 to $50,000 scholarships.
Buick Achiever’s Scholarships: These renewable awards are worth $25,000. Some awards worth $1,000-$2,000 are also available.
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation: Fifty awards worth $20,000 are given out each year while an additional 200 students receive $10,000 scholarships.