10 Colleges That Give the Most Merit Aid

Colleges That Give the Most Merit Aid - featured image

Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson, MS.Ed. / Reading level: Grade 10 / First covered: December 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Albion, Clarkson, and Washington & Jefferson are top schools offering significant merit aid based on academic excellence and leadership.
  • Merit-based scholarships at these colleges range from partial to full tuition, rewarding high GPAs, standardized test scores, and extracurricular achievements.
  • Automatically considered during admission, these scholarships at institutions like Simpson College and Beloit College enhance affordability and attract talented students.

The rising cost of tuition in the United States can hinder many individuals from pursuing a college degree. Fortunately, many schools offer financial aid to eligible students to help them afford higher education.

Featured Programs

Colleges That Give the Most Merit Aid - fact

Higher learning institutions offer grants and scholarships to students who demonstrate financial need. Aside from that, private and public colleges and universities offer merit aid to attract exemplary students who may or may not need financial help. With merit aid, students must only demonstrate academic excellence, athletic abilities, or artistic talent to qualify for such financial assistance.

What Is Merit Aid?

Merit aid is awarded to qualified students and is not based on financial need.

Students with outstanding academic performance are usually the ones who qualify for merit aid. Some schools also offer financial assistance to those with special talents in:

  • arts
  • sports
  • athletics

Some schools may decide that your family does not have a financial need (even if you disagree). This is why it helps if the college or university awards merit aid to qualified students.

Not all colleges and universities award merit aid. This is why you need to do your research to know which schools do so that you can reduce the total cost of your tuition.

10 Colleges That Offer the Most Merit Aid

#1. Albion College

Albion, Michigan

Tuition and Fees: $54,930

Albion College believes that scholarships help change lives, so they help individuals afford higher education. At Albion College, all applicants are automatically considered for merit scholarships. Successful recipients will be awarded merit aid based on their overall academic achievement, leadership, personal merit, and extracurricular involvement. This type of financial assistance is only applicable to tuition charges and is renewable every year at the same amount.

#2. Clarkson University

Potsdam, New York

Tuition and Fees: $56,258

Clarkson University’s mission is to make the college experience as affordable as possible through various financial aid options.

This higher education institution awards merit-based scholarships to those who demonstrate exceptional effort. These include:

  • Clarkson Scholarships – automatically awarded to those with the potential to contribute to the Clarkson community based on their application.
  • Clarkson Leadership Awards and Clarkson Achievement Awards – $25,000 (Leadership) or $20,000 (Achievement) is awarded annually for up to four years for students who show outstanding academic achievement and leadership.
  • Clarkson Ignite Presidential Fellows Program – a merit-based scholarship that covers all tuition costs for ten first-time undergraduate students at the university for eight semesters.

#3. Washington & Jefferson College

Washington, Pennsylvania

Tuition and Fees: $50,192

Washington & Jefferson College recognizes and awards students who demonstrate academic excellence with merit-based aid. This type of scholarship rewards students with:

  • exceptional academic performance
  • class rank
  • standardized scores
  • curriculum
  • co-curricular involvement.

These are annual scholarships that are divided equally over fall and spring semesters and apply to the overall college costs. These are available for eight semesters, if the student:

  • maintains full-time enrollment status
  • meets GPA requirements
  • makes Satisfactory Academic Progress

These include:

  • W&J Thrive Scholarship
  • Howard J. Burnett Presidential Scholarship
  • W&J Scholars Award
  • Dean’s Award

#4. Washington College

Chestertown, Maryland

Tuition and Fees: $52,481

Washington College awards merit-based scholarships to students based on:

  • class rank
  • test scores
  • GPA
  • other criteria as determined by the Office of Admissions

At the time of admission, students will be automatically considered for such scholarships and will be notified if they are eligible. Merit-based awards can range up to $36,000, renewable every year. Those who are admitted to the Cum Laude Society and National Honor Society and have an unweighted GPA of 3.0 will receive at least $30,000.

#5. Simpson College

Indianola, Iowa

Tuition and Fees: $45,108

Once a student is accepted into Simpson College, they will automatically be considered for all merit-based scholarships. Those with a cumulative GPA of 3.80 or better will be awarded the Founder’s Scholarship of $35,000. Those with a 3.50-3.79 GPA will qualify for the Presidential Scholarship of $33,000. The minimum amount that can be awarded to a student at Simpson College is $27,000 for those with a GPA of below 2.80.

#6. Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Tuition and Fees: $47,475

Wabash College has long been offering some of the most generous scholarship programs in the nation. The merit-based scholarships offered here include:

  • President’s Scholarship – up to $30,000 for those with an unweighted high school GPA of 3.85 or better and up to $27,000 for those with a GPA of 3.65 to 3.84.
  • Dean’s Scholarship – up to $24,000 for those with a GPA of 3.45 to 3.64 and up to $21,000 for those with a GPA of 3.25 to 3.44.
  • Alumni Award – up to $18,000 for those with a GPA of 3.00 to 3.24.

#7. Agnes Scott College

Decatur, Georgia

Tuition and Fees: $45,786

Agnes Scott College has various need- and merit-based financial aid, as they are dedicated to making higher education more affordable and accessible for everyone. Students need to complete and submit their Common Application and other supporting documents by the Early Action II deadline or by January 16. They will be automatically considered for the school’s merit-based scholarships that can reach up to $28,000 per year. Students will be eligible for merit-based financial assistance if they show show:

  • academic achievement
  • leadership
  • extracurricular involvement
  • community service

The Agnes Scott $100K Promise and Marvin B. Perry Presidential Scholarships are also available.

#8. Beloit College

Beloit, Wisconsin

Tuition and Fees: $56,312

Beloit College offers applicants up to $47,000 annually in academic merit-based scholarships. These students must demonstrate their:

  • academic achievement
  • leadership
  • community engagement
  • talent
  • service

These scholarships are designed for students with the academic rigor of a Beloit education to create a dynamic community of:

  • leaders
  • innovators
  • scholars

Merit-based scholarships include:

  • The Presidential Scholarship – selection is based on a student’s exceptional academic prowess and the potential to succeed as a scholar and contributor to campus life continually.
  • The Eaton Scholarship – awards students with outstanding academic success and significant leadership traits.
  • The Dean’s Award – offered to students with exceptional promise for success, both in the classroom and campus life.

#9. Lawrence University

Appleton, Wisconsin

Tuition and Fees: $53,979

Lawrence University is passionate about making higher education affordable and accessible to all students admitted. It is a place where people of diverse interests and talents are recognized and rewarded through various awards and scholarships. Applicants will be considered for their:

  • academic performance
  • strength of curriculum
  • essay
  • class rank
  • standardized test results

For example, theater majors can get up to $50,000 a year through the Ted Cloak Century Scholarship.

#10. Ohio Wesleyan University

Delaware, Ohio

Tuition and Fees: $59,822

At Ohio Wesleyan University, more than 99% of students receive merit-based scholarships or need-based financial aid. Every admitted student will be automatically considered for a range of merit aid, starting at $22,000. Top applicants may compete for the Wesleyan and Schubert Scholarships to get an additional $8,000 in financial assistance. Students who demonstrate strong leadership skills and outstanding participation in community service may also qualify for the Meek Community Service and Leadership Scholarship, which is worth $10,000 per year.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for merit aid?

The process of applying for merit aid can vary based on the specific college or university you’re applying to. It’s best to visit the school’s website and/or speak to an admissions counselor for instructions and eligibility information. Still, the typical process of applying for merit aid includes submitting an application along with proof of your grade point average on an official academic transcript. You may also be asked to submit a personal essay as well as letters of recommendation. Some schools may require additional materials such as a portfolio of prior work.

Can out-of-state students receive merit aid?

In many public schools, more out-of-state students are awarded merit-based aid than in-state students. One in four students in public universities are awarded merit-based aid. In fact, non-need-based merit scholarships have surged in the last decade to help public colleges and universities boost their enrollment.

Can merit-based aid recipients get full-tuition scholarships?

Depending on the school, merit-based scholarships range can be as low as $1,000 at state colleges and universities and as high as $35,000 per year at private schools.

Aside from schools, where can you get merit-based scholarships?

Some outside scholarship organizations will provide merit-based aid to students with outstanding achievements. Your high school, civic organization, or other organizations may also offer merit aid to help lower the total cost of tuition further.


  • Inside HigherEd
  • National Merit Scholarship Corporation