Schools That Award Lots of Merit Scholarships


I recently wrote a post that shared the colleges and universities that say that they meet 100% of financial need for the majority of their families. If you missed it, here it is:

List of Colleges That Meet 100% of Financial Need

The story prompted a mom to email me over the weekend with this question:

Have you ever published a similar list to the “Most Generous Colleges” one – but focused on the colleges that are most generous with their MERIT aid? 

A Tool to Find Merit Scholarships

I tend to get this question when I am giving presentations for affluent parents. Their children won’t qualify for need-based aid, but they loathe the idea of paying full price. (And many of them can’t pay the sticker price.) These parents want to know what schools award merit scholarships, which are given without regard to need.

It’s easy to find schools that dispense merit scholarships. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised  if all public colleges and universities offered these awards. Thanks to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, I do know that 87% of private institutions dispense merit scholarships. The average tuition discount is 57%, which is an historic high.

Clearly, finding schools that award scholarships doesn’t pose much of a challenge . That said, there is an online tool from COLLEGEdata that can help you pinpoint schools that provide a large percentage of their students with merit aid.

I recorded the YouTube video below on how you can use the COLLEGEdata search tool to find schools that award a high percentage of students merit awards. This video will also be relevant to anyone looking for schools that are generous with need-based aid since I explain how you can sort schools by the percentage of financial need an institution provides.

Learn More About My Cutting-the-Cost-of-College Course

I recorded the video above for the online class that Michelle Kretzschmar of DIY College Rankings and I will be launching in February. If you’d like to learn more about our six-week class – Cutting the Cost of College — please email me and I’ll put you on the list for updates.



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  1. This year we are finding the merit awards are coming in at smaller amounts than for siblings in past years. It is perplexing since the last child has better grades and stats than sibling. Plus this last child is winning private scholarships which is the hardest money to get. Would love to know why merit is smaller this year?? Any clue??

    1. It’s hard to compare schools unless both siblings applied to the same institutions. I really don’t have an explanation.

      Lynn o.

  2. Sorry, but trying to understand what you mean by “affluent” when talking about merit scholarships. Myself, and most everyone I know are pretty much as middle as middle class can get. Yet by FAFSA are we “affluent?” It must certainly think so because FAFSA says we aren’t eligible for financial “need.”

    For those of us in the middle, who make too much for “need” and not enough to afford it ourselves, merit is the only hope we have.

    1. Jim – Merit scholarships can be used to fulfill a family’s financial need or be used by families who have no official need at all. Whether you are too “affluent” to qualify for need-based aid will depend on a lot of factors including:

      1. The price of the school.
      2. The generosity of the school.
      3. The academic profile of the student.

      Families that make $70,000 or more will usually not qualify for need-based aid from public universities, but they can definitely qualify for need-based aid at private schools.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy