Parents and students are frequently frustrated by scholarship books in which authors claim, “this is what I did to acquire my scholarship money, so this is all that you need to do.” Perhaps such books might benefit students from similar circumstances, achievement levels, support mechanisms, and with similar personalities; however, a student graduating valedictorian of his high school class, as was the case with the author of one popular scholarship book, has access to different scholarship opportunities than a ‘B’ student. A student with the time and resources to apply for hundreds of scholarships, has access to different scholarship opportunities than a student working long hours after school who does not have access to a high-speed Internet connection. A student with top ACT or SAT scores has access to different scholarship opportunities than an athlete with a 2.5 GPA. While all students can develop financial aid plans reflective of their unique situations, it is not as simple as, “this is what I did to acquire my scholarship money, so this is all that you need to do.”

For the majority of students, college choice must also also take into account college cost. A popular myth is that in-state public institutions are a lower cost option than out-of-state or private colleges and universities. The reality is that each student must engage in comprehensive college research to identify the institutions that will result in the lowest overall cost based on two primary factors: (1) the student’s family income; and (2) the student’s body of work. For example, a student with a low household income, and a body of work that includes high grades and test scores would receive a full financial aid package, without student loans, from many top colleges and universities. Whereas, a student with a high household income, and a similar body of work may receive very little financial aid from many top colleges. However, students from higher income families may qualify for full scholarships to institutions offering merit-based grants and scholarships, such as the Tuskegee University Presidential Scholarship or the University of Richmond Torch Scholars Program.

This activity is designed to guide you in identifying merit-based grants and scholarships. While scholarships based on athletic merit are widely publicized, scholarships based on academic merit (i.e., grades, test scores, and class rank) can represent the most direct pathway to a full scholarship. Colleges may offer full scholarships to valedictorians and salutatorians, or to students based on their ACT or SAT scores. Other areas which may result in generous scholarship offers, may include dance, music, art, theatre, leadership, and service. While athletic scholarships, the most widely publicized form of merit-based aid, are covered on page 122 of the pre-reading, expanding your college and scholarship opportunities requires focusing your college and scholarship research around the areas of your greatest meritorious achievement.

Estimated time to complete: Undetermined. 


  • Identify a scholarship research strategy.
  • Identify your potential areas of merit.
  • Identify the type of merit-based scholarships aligned with your areas of merit.

Estimated time to complete: Undetermined. File behind the Scholarship Research tab.

Guiding Questions

  • Based on my Student Profile, on what types of scholarships should I focus my research efforts?
  • How should I organize myself to streamline the scholarship application process?
  • What are the type of merit-based scholarships for which I am a competitive candidate?
  • What are the colleges colleges and universities, or programs, offering merit-based scholarships aligned with my areas of merit?