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What is an academic scholarship?

Written by Adren Setian
Updated: August 15, 2022
7 min read
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Academic scholarships and merit-based scholarships are awarded to students who showcase academic excellence. Scholarships providing financial aid such as these can be one-time scholarships or full tuition scholarships.

Even for students with excellent academics, trying to find ways to pay for college can seem overwhelming and at times impossible. Turning towards loans may seem like the only available option, but there are other avenues that are possible.

Your college may have a prestigious merit scholarship program providing financial aid that you can apply for, check your college's website for information about college-specific scholarships for college students. Usually, qualified incoming freshmen enrolled in the school can apply for programs like these. Prospective students can reach out to schools' financial aid offices to learn more about these opportunities.

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There are also private scholarships for college students and high school students to apply for and receive financial aid while they pursue their undergraduate degrees. You can search for opportunities like these on where there are dozens of academic merit scholarships available. There are merit scholarships open to students with a range of GPAs. Depending on your GPA, consider the following pages:

  1. Scholarships for students with a 3.50 GPA
  2. Scholarships for students with a 3.00 GPA
  3. Scholarships for students with a 2.50 GPA
  4. Scholarships for students with a 2.00 GPA

On, some of the academic merit scholarships available to high school and college students are available to all students, but some are exclusive academic scholarships and merit-based scholarships that seek to recognize academic achievement. There are scholarships that are for high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate degree students.

To get started, create a profile on and apply filters to the scholarships to find and apply for the many merit scholarships you are eligible for. Choose any categories you fit into to find merit scholarships to apply for. Be sure to check all the eligibility requirements and the description of the scholarship to make sure you qualify.

Students can find a list of merit-based scholarships on to get started applying for academic scholarships. To make the scholarship search easier for students, this page is frequently updated to show relevant financial aid opportunities.

Full Tuition Academic Scholarships

Full tuition academic scholarships are full-tuition scholarships that are awarded based on academics. Deserving and qualified students receive merit aid from scholarships such as these.

Full tuition scholarships cover the entirety of tuition at a university, though they may not cover all fees. A full-ride scholarship, on the other hand, will cover all fees and expenses, so it is important to be cognizant of the difference.

Full tuition academic scholarships and full merit scholarships are among the most competitive scholarships, but students are still encouraged to apply.

what are academic scholarships? image: academic merit scholarships

Academic scholarship requirements

Academic scholarships and merit scholarships that provide financial aid usually assess academics along with other factors. Students seeking to receive merit scholarships or academic scholarships should have the following achievements:

  1. Good grades and a good GPA
  2. A class rank of 5-10% in their graduating high school senior class
  3. A history of excellent participation in extracurriculars

Merit scholarships also tend to consider a variety of other aspects of a student's history that demonstrate community service and leadership. If students are seeking academic scholarships or merit scholarships, but don't meet these qualifications, they should not worry. Many academic scholarships and merit scholarships consider other factors, and there are also other scholarships that provide financial aid that are not based on a student's academics or merit.

Applying for academic scholarships

The most important part of getting your academic scholarships or merit scholarships to get financial aid is often not just meeting the qualifications, but the quality of your application essay instead.

Each essay you write for an application must be specific to the scholarship. You should aim to be well-written and engaging. Many merit scholarships ask you to write about your accomplishments, but your essay should not be reduced to a boring list. Make sure to add a sense of your unique personality to help the donor make a connection with you.

Follow's writing tips and write about an engaging story related to one of your accomplishments, grabbing your reader from the first sentence. Stay focused on the specific essay prompt each scholarship gives you, as each application will ask you different questions. Make sure you break your essays up into readable paragraphs, as one wall of text will seem unreadable to those reviewing your essay. Finally, use correct grammar and proofread your essay!

what is an academic scholarship? image: applying for academic scholarships

To increase your chances of winning a scholarship and getting financial aid, you should attempt to apply for as many scholarships as possible, but make sure all your applications are individual and well written.

You can read here how to apply for academic scholarships.

What do academic scholarships look for?

Academic scholarships emphasize a student's grade point average or GPA to recognize academic achievement. Scholarships aimed toward graduating high school students are awarded to students based on high school grade point averages, while scholarships awarded to undergraduate students may consider their undergraduate grade point average.

However, academic scholarships and merit-based scholarships do not all exclusively offer financial aid to students with considerable academic achievement. Some merit scholarships consider students' extracurricular activities, looking for a high level of involvement and leadership in sports, volunteer work, community service, and other areas. Sometimes athletic scholarships are awarded based on high school athletic performance with little to no regard for academic performance.

Each scholarship providing financial aid will have its own unique requirements, so check the application guidelines for each scholarship program you apply for.

How to maintain an academic scholarship

Some academic scholarships offered to students, especially those that are full-tuition academic scholarships, may have requirements that you must continue to complete throughout your time as an undergraduate student in order to remain eligible. The requirements vary between scholarships, but prospective students receiving financial assistance should check each scholarship's requirements carefully. The same can be said about merit scholarships as well.

Be enrolled in college full time

Since academic scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit, in most cases, academic scholarships require recipients to be full-time students so that they can continue do demonstrate their academic merit. Undergraduates are typically considered full-time students if they're taking at least twelve credits, but the exact requirements of being considered a full-time attendee may vary depending on your school.

Keep your GPA above a certain minimum

Additionally, since academic scholarships are awarded based on academic merit, recipients are expected to maintain a certain level of academic success to remain eligible. Depending on your school and specific scholarship, the GPA threshold you must meet will vary. Make sure to keep your grades up so you don't lose your funding!

Some schools offer a grace period to scholarship recipients, allowing students one semester to bring their grades back up if their GPA falls below the minimum. However, other schools may immediately revoke your funding once you fall below the minimum GPA. Make sure you're aware of your school's policies so you can be prepared in case you have a rough semester.

Do not receive any academic misconduct warnings on your record

While academic scholarships are typically awarded based on academic performance, recipients are still expected to be honorable students. This means you must follow your school's rules and guidelines and avoid getting in serious trouble.

Participate in a club, community service, or sport

Finally, depending on the scholarship, you may be required to participate in extracurricular activities at your school or in the community. Scholarships may require recipients to complete a certain amount of community service and athletic scholarships require students to excel at their sport.

Keep in mind that each scholarship has its own rules that students must follow to remain eligible. Failure to follow whatever guidelines are given to you may result in the loss of the funds provided by your scholarship program, so always be sure to read the requirements carefully!

what are academic scholarships? image:merit based scholarships

Frequently asked questions about academic scholarships

Do you have to pay if you get a scholarship?

Scholarships do not have any additional fees when won. However, not all academic scholarships will cover the entire cost of tuition and fees for undergraduate students, and some scholarship money can only be used for certain things, such as textbooks. Additionally, some scholarships cover a portion of college costs for four years, often up to eight semesters, while some, especially private scholarships, are only awarded one time. This means that you will likely have remaining costs that you'll have to pay, even if you've won a scholarship.

What are the easiest scholarships to get?

The easiest academic scholarships and merit-based scholarships to win are those that have additional requirements that narrow down the pool of eligible applicants. Look for scholarships that are only for college students from the same state as you, students going for the same major as you, and students who play the same sport or participate in the same hobby as you.

To further increase your chances of winning, you should apply sooner rather than later and apply for as many scholarships as possible.

Sign up today with to make the scholarship application process easier for yourself.

Adren Setian

About Adren

Adren has always loved writing both fiction and nonfiction, always with the intention to help other people. At, she loves being a specialist who works to help students reduce their student debt and make financially wise decisions about the future of their education. 

Past experience that informs Adren’s expertise includes working with the Education and Employment Team of Catholic Social Services Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services. Being a research assistant analyzing data for research projects at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Several years as the Assistant Manager of an Equine Education program where responsibilities included creating and developing curriculums. Time spent volunteering as the Vice President and Senior Graphic Designer for the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Psychology Club and Psi Chi Honor Society chapter with the goal of furthering students’ professional skills and knowledge of the field of Psychology and building a sense of community.

Adren would like to end her introduction with a land acknowledgement relevant to Anchorage, Alaska, her hometown and place of residence: “Dena'inaq ełnen'aq' gheshtnu ch'q'u yeshdu. (Dena'ina)” [I live and work on the land of the Dena’ina. (English)] — Translated by Joel Isaak and Sondra Stuart

Adren is no longer with the Writing Team, but we continue to value and appreciate her contributions.

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