Many corporations and non-profit organizations award merit scholarships to hundreds of students each year. These programs award scholarships based on test scores, demonstrated leadership ability, interviews, personal essays and academic records. As you search for college scholarships, look for these national programs as well as local or regional scholarships offered specifically for students from your state, county, town or high school.
National Merit Scholarship
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has awarded merit scholarships since 1955. Students enter the competition for scholarships by taking the Preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). Only United States citizens and current high-school students qualify for the competition. Each year, 50,000 entrants qualify for Commended Student or Semifinalist status, and 15,000 entrants eventually gain finalist standing. Finalists compete for the award by submitting essays, academic records and documentation of activities and leadership. Approximately 8,200 finalists eventually win $2,500 merit scholarships.
National Achievement Scholarship
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation established the National Achievement Scholarship Program in 1964. The program recognizes Black American students for exceptional achievement. Students enter the competition by taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Only U.S. citizens and current high-school students qualify for the competition. The program honors about 4,700 entrants each year and eventually selects 1,300 semifinalists. Each year, 700 Achievement Scholarship winners earn $2,500 merit scholarships.
Gates Millennium Scholars Program
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided grant money to fund the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Each year, the program honors about 1,000 students from all over the country with college scholarships. Students who are African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic American, Asian American or Pacific Islander American with United States citizenship qualify to enter the competition. Students must have an unweighted grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.3 and must be enrolled in high school full-time. The program recognizes students who have demonstrated leadership in community service or school activities.
Coca-Cola Scholars Program
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation offers a college scholarship program. The program awards 250 four-year, merit-based scholarships every year. High-school seniors can apply for the foundation’s scholarships in the fall of their final year of high school. 2,200 entrants gain semifinalist status, and 250 finalists must complete the personal interview phase of the competition. After that, 50 National Scholarship winners earn $20,000 scholarships for college, and 200 Regional Scholarship winners earn $10,000 scholarships for college. Applicants must be enrolled in high school to enter the scholarship competition.