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Academic Scholarships: Basic Information You Need To Know

  • College is expensive. An essential component of the college search, selection and recruiting process for aspiring student-athletes revolves around the financial decision associated with attending a four year institution.  Evaluating and deciding whether certain colleges fit within your budget is an essential step toward making a final decision. During this stage it is important to evaluate your eligibility for certain forms of financial assistance to offset the significant cost of college. There are a number of ways for aspiring student-athletes to offset the cost of attending a four year institution. The first method, depending on your family’s financial situation, is need-based financial aid such as Federal Student Aid. The second method consists of Athletic Scholarship Awards for talented student-athletes. Finally, academically inclined student-athletes can pursue Academic Scholarships to assist them in decreasing the cost of attending a particular college.

    Basic Information About Academic Scholarships

    Academic scholarships, also known as merit-based scholarships, are used by a variety of colleges to recruit students who are strong academically. Specific grade requirements are difficult to generalize and differ for each school and each scholarship award. Academic scholarships are not only limited to a student’s grades, but also consider factors such as leadership roles, ACT and/or SAT scores, extracurricular activities and community involvement. Academic scholarships can be awarded in varying amounts and can cover all or a portion of tuition and/or educational expenses such as room, board and books. Academic scholarships are awarded by colleges and universities themselves as well as by a variety of outside organizations and groups.

    Where To Find Academic Scholarships

    A wide range of academic scholarships are offered directly by colleges and universities. There are also a number of scholarships offered by private companies and organizations such as the National Merit Scholarship Program.

    Academic Scholarships Provided By Colleges and Universities

    There are a number of methods of finding information on the available academic scholarships at the schools you are interested in. The easiest place to locate this information is on the website of the specific college in question. College websites usually have detailed information on their various academic scholarships and the requirements that you need to fulfill in order to receive them. The example below is from the University of Minnesota’s website and provides a good illustration of what their academic scholarships look like. Most colleges detail their academic scholarship information in a similar manner, showing the scholarship name, amount and requirements.


    As a student-athlete, the academic scholarship process is one which a college coach may be able to assist you with, especially if he/she is unable to offer you a significant athletic scholarship but would still value you being on his/her roster.

    Alternative online platforms will also allow you to better navigate this financial decision and find information on academic scholarship awards. The Athlete Match Platform allows you to compare colleges on financial grounds enabling you to make the best financial decision possible for your family. Another resource for finding these merit-based scholarships is by using the website This website allows you to search for academic scholarships that match your academic criteria and could prove useful as you begin evaluating your options and forming an initial list of colleges. Below are some additional and general facts about academic scholarships.

    Academic Scholarships Facts

    • Ivy League schools do not offer academic scholarships.
    • Students may need to maintain a certain GPA if they are to maintain their academic scholarship, depending on the requirements of the particular scholarship.
    • Some communities offer academic scholarships to assist local students to afford the cost of college. It is often useful to check your high school’s college advising page to see if they are advertising any local scholarships.
    • You don’t need to be a straight-A student to qualify for an academic scholarship. Many awards emphasize areas other than grades, such as community involvement and leadership.

    The National Merit Scholarship Program

    The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships, run by a private organization. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.6 million entrants each year and by meeting program entry and participation requirements. The requirements are listed below.

    1. Take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12.
    2. Enrollment as a high school student progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to accept admission to college no later than the fall following completion of high school.
    3. Attending high school in the United States, the District of Columbia, or U.S. commonwealth and territory; or meet the citizenship requirements for students attending high school outside the United States.

    In addition to college-sponsored merit scholarships, the scholarships awarded in this program consist of the following two types.

    • National Merit $2500 Scholarships – single payment scholarships awarded on a state-representational basis. Winners are selected without consideration of family financial circumstances, college choice, or major and career plans.
    • Corporate Sponsored Merit Scholarships – designate their awards for children of their employees or members, for residents of a community where a company has operations. These scholarships may either be renewable for four years of undergraduate study or one-time only awards.

    For more comprehensive information on the National Merit Scholarship Program visit their website.

    For more comprehensive information about every aspect of athletic and academic scholarships, sign up for one of AM’s Individual Plan. Create a Free Profile today to begin your journey to your best fit college, or try our search & filter tool for free.