10 Best Merit Scholarships for Out-of-State Students

Best Merit Scholarships for Out-of-State Students - featured image

Key Takeaways:

  • A merit scholarship for out-of-state students is a financial award given to students based on their academic, artistic, athletic, or other abilities and achievements. The aim is to attract talented students from outside the state to attend a particular college or university.
  • Each college or university has its own set of merit scholarships with unique criteria and application processes. It’s essential to research and apply to each institution’s scholarships individually.
  • Many merit scholarships are renewable for multiple years, provided the student maintains a certain GPA or meets other specified criteria.

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

A college education is a worthy investment for college students who want to succeed in their dream careers. However, getting a college education nowadays can be quite costly. Many students are saddled with skyrocketing debts upon graduation. 

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Best Merit Scholarships for Out-of-State Students - fact

Fortunately, numerous colleges and universities in the country provide scholarship programs and financial aid for eligible students. Many of these scholarships are merit-based and are available to out-of-state students. Qualified students will be able to take advantage of this opportunity without having to face the heavy consequences of student debt. 

In a nutshell, merit-based scholarships are often designed to provide educational funding for out-of-state students. The qualifications may vary depending on the higher learning institution or organization, but they are often based on merits such as academic achievements. Another college expense student worry about is their computer. The good news is that there are many affordable online colleges that provide laptops for students.

Best Merit Scholarships for Out-of-State Students

#1. Out-of-State Achievement Scholarship

Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, Oklahoma

Tuition and Fees: $10,234

The Out-of-State Achievement Scholarship is among the set of scholarships and grants offered by Oklahoma State University. It is a partial out-of-state tuition waiver for incoming freshman students who pass the required GPA and test scores (ACT or SAT) and is university-assured. The scholarship is tiered, based on a student’s test scores and unweighted GPA. At the lowest end, a student can save up to $6,000 per year on tuition based only on a GPA of 3.25-3.49 and no test scores. At the top end, a student with a 3.75-4.0 GPA and an SAT score of 1420-1600 can save up to $15,000 per year. OSU likewise has its set of Transfer scholarships on offer.

#2. Non-Florida Resident Scholarship

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

Tuition and Fees: $6,410

The University of South Florida awards over 10,000 merit-based scholarships every year to deserving first-time college students. A certain portion of these are awarded to non-residents of the state. USF’s out-of-state award takes the form of waivers that apply to a student’s out-of-state tuition only. It cannot be combined with other tuition-waiver scholarships such as the Green and Gold Talent Award or the Grandparent Waiver. The latter is applicable for incoming out-of-state freshmen with Florida resident grandparents.

#3. MSU Non-Resident Scholarship

Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

Tuition and Fees: $15,372

The MSU non-resident Scholarship is among a number of out-of-state scholarships awarded yearly by Michigan State University to increase access for non-residents of the state. It has four tiers, with a student’s academic achievement and excellence being the key qualifying criteria. The lowest tier guarantees a minimum of $7,000 to students with a GPA of 3.4 or higher on a 4.0 scale. The highest award tier, the President’s Scholarship, awards around $15,000 to eligible students. Other MSU out-of-state scholarships include:

  • the Red Cedar scholarship, awarded to dependents or grandchildren of MSU alumni
  • the Presidential Study Abroad Scholarship for a study abroad program sponsored solely or co-sponsored by Michigan State University.

#4. Non-Resident Freshmen Scholarship

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, Colorado

Tuition and Fees: $12,874

Colorado State University has a number of scholarships for incoming non-resident freshmen for on-campus courses. They’re offered during the fall and spring semesters. Among these is the Green and Gold Scholarship for Non-Residents. This GPA-based merit scholarship lasts up to 4 years (8 semesters) and awards up to $12,500 per year for students with a GPA of 4.0+. The award tiers start at $4,000 per year for students with a GPA of 3.30-3.39. The Western Undergraduate Exchange, meanwhile, is open for residents of the Western United States or some US Pacific Islands. It takes the form of a tuition reduction of up to $10,000 per year. Students who qualify for the highest Green and Gold Awards, however, will be awarded the higher scholarship option. 

#5. Academic Common Market

Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)


The Academic Common Market isn’t necessarily a traditional scholarship. It is a program meant to fulfill the same purpose of providing tuition reductions and savings to students from SREB member states. The Southern Regional Education board administers the program. Around 9 out of 15 SREB member states participate in it. The program also serves to reduce the unnecessary duplication of academic programs offered by its participating states. Instead, it lets students enroll in specialized fields at universities in other states paying in-state tuition rates. There are currently over 2,200 undergraduate & graduate programs included. 

#6. Provost Scholars Award

University of South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina

Tuition and Fees: $12,688

The University of South Carolina offers generous merit-based scholarship opportunities for non-resident students. This includes:

  • Stamps Scholars Award
  • McNair Scholars Award
  • Provost Scholars Award

In particular, the Provost Scholars Award stands out among its counterparts. It has an annual value of up to $6,000. On top of that, qualified students may also enjoy tuition reductions to in-state rates. The four-year value amounts up to $104,400. To qualify, one must be one of the National Merit Finalists who listed the University of South Carolina as their first choice. Plus, this scholarship can be combined with another general university scholarship award. 

#7. Manoa Academic Merit Scholarship

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu, Hawaii

Tuition and Fees: $12,186

Incoming students recognized for their academic strengths can take advantage of the Manoa Academic Merit Scholarship offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The scholarship is designed to support qualified students throughout their four years at the university. The scholarship is awarded to students based on their admission application and a holistic academic review conducted by the Office of Admissions. The scholarship value ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 every academic year. The value may vary depending on the student’s high school academic performance and cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA). 

#8. KU Excellence

University of Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas

Tuition and Fees: $11,167

The University of Kansas offers scholarships for incoming freshmen students. Most of these scholarships are based on GPA alone. One such scholarship is KU Excellence, which offers qualified students $16,000 per year. This can amount to $64,000 throughout their college stay. Out-of-state students can qualify for this scholarship if they have a GPA of 3.95+. This scholarship is also renewable, provided students maintain a 3.0 KU GPA. They must also be enrolled full-time. International students pursuing their academic degree at the University of Kansas may also benefit from this scholarship.

#9. Ball State Scholars Award 

Ball State University

Muncie, Indiana

Tuition and Fees: $10,440

Ball State University offers the Ball State Scholars Award, which is open to both in-state and out-of-state students. This merit-based scholarship offers out-of-state students up to $14,000 in financial aid per year. The four-year total amounts to $56,000. Qualified scholars must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 to renew the scholarship. They must also be enrolled in on-campus classes as full-time bachelor’s degree students.

#10. Presidential Scholars Program and Scholarship

Florida State University

Tallahassee, Florida

Tuition and Fees: $5,656

At Florida State University, students may take advantage of the Presidential Scholars Program and Scholarship. This merit-based scholarship is open to high school seniors who are admitted into the university’s Honors Program. The scholarship’s total value amounts to $42,000. It also includes an out-of-state tuition waiver valued at $57,776, distributed across four years. Qualified scholarship recipients must take at least 15 credit hours every semester. They are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher. This scholarship is for students with extraordinary potential to become transformational leaders.

Helpful Tips for Students Who Want to Obtain a Merit Scholarship

There are numerous opportunities for scholarships from colleges and universities, provided students know when and where to look. Students who want to qualify for a merit-based scholarship may want to keep the following important points in mind. 

Universities invest in the best students 

Out-of-state students need not fear that they aren’t eligible for scholarships at the university of their choice. As a matter of fact, many public and research universities compete to get the best students so they keep increasing the amounts of their merit scholarships for both resident and non-resident students. Students who wish to qualify must ensure they have excellent academic performance to be competitive. 

Understand what it takes to get a scholarship

Merit scholarship awards are often based on academic figures such as:

  • SAT and ACT scores
  • class ranks
  • grade point averages

Interested students must have an impressive academic profile if they want a higher scholarship award. For example, a small difference in a test score can spell the difference between a $7,000 and $13,000 award per year. 

Compare state universities’ merit scholarships

Students may want to check the scholarship opportunities and university sticker prices. The scholarship value often varies among universities.Comparing the benefits of each will help students acquire the best scholarship option. 

Check the scholarship requirements

Students must know what it takes to win a scholarship award. Information on merit scholarships and their requirements can often be found in the admission section of the school’s website. This can help interested students set their expectations and prepare them for the application process. For example, they will see what kind of SAT or ACT scores and GPAs they will need to meet to qualify. There might also be other rules that can limit or expand their chances to qualify.

Frequently-Asked Questions

What happens if I have an out-of-state scholarship and I gain residency status?

In keeping with their intent, out-of-state scholarships and awards depend on students maintaining their out-of-state/non-resident status throughout their stay in college. If they lose this by becoming in-state residents, their eligibility for the scholarship automatically ends. The consequence typically takes the form of termination of receiving any future awards/waivers from these scholarships.

Why don’t I just go for an in-state degree program?

It’s a fact that enrolling in universities and degree programs in a student’s home state will always be more straightforward and practical than out-of-state options. This isn’t necessarily the best case for all students, however. Smaller states tend to have fewer choices of universities and degree programs. Students with high potential in specialized fields not offered in their home states stand to miss out. Besides, there are many ways for students to save on their overall tuition costs that can be used in combination, so it’s always worth applying to particular dream universities. 

Is it worth applying for out-of-state merit scholarships?

Generally, yes. Merit-based scholarships will always be competitive and limited. However, exceptional and academically excellent out-of-state students stand to benefit from it in terms of significant reductions to their tuition rates. This leaves one less thing for them to worry about, especially given the fact that enrolling in university (especially in an out-of-state degree program) will have a lot of associated costs that standard scholarships don’t always cover.