Merit Scholarship From Top Colleges

What are the real odds of getting a substantial merit scholarship from a top college like Ivies or other elites in similar tier? Is it possible to get at least 50% or more of tuition free from such colleges if you don’t qualify for aid or athletics?

The ivies do not give out merit aid. Other top colleges might, but its rare and most likely will not cover 50% of tuition.

No merit money from Ivies because they don’t have to. Ivies and most “elite” schools only offer need-based aid. The purpose of merit money at most schools is to attract top performing students who would otherwise choose to attend a “better” school.

But if you cast your net a little wider, the situation changes quite a bit. Grinnell and Oberlin immediately come to mind but the list is much longer. Not 50% of tuition but not peanuts either.

Many of them do not have merit scholarships.

Merit scholarships are more likely to be found at less selective colleges where you are likely to be in the upper range of the admission class.

Look at the net price not the scholarship money. An overpriced school with “merit” still may be a bad deal. Also, in this Covid world, pay attention to the school’s endowment, the number of students actually matriculating and the schools dependence on full pay international students. These are the school’s most vulnerable to future cuts in quality and aid of any kind.

UChicago does have some merit scholarships. The largest that I have seen would not be half tuition. I have no idea how many they offer.

Duke also has a handful of merit scholarships, including a few full ride scholarships.

Otherwise, define “top college”. For example, Swarthmore has a couple of full ride scholarships, based on merit alone, so does Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, and Washington and Lee.

A “top college” is one that doesn’t have to offer merit scholarships to attract “top students”.?

There are a few elite colleges that offer very good merit scholarships but these are handed out like gold dust. A college such as Swarthmore might literally have two or three of these scholarships and they will be used to entice the very best of the best students. Some colleges might offer a full ride scholarship to one or two truly outstanding applicants.

College do not typically state how many of these unicorn awards they give. USC in California for example offers a full tuition four year Mork Scholarship. WUSTL also offers a few full tuition scholarships. Full tuition is not the same as full ride, and room and board can cost as much as tuition.

Such scholarships are very competitive. You will likely have to complete many supplemental essays and go through interview rounds to be considered for them. If you are an exceptional applicant, they are worth pursuing.

A particular student may get a merit scholarship at say Boston University but not at Duke or UChicago. The competition for such awards is infinitely greater at those schools.

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The only top-10 school that offers significant merit is Duke, which as others have noted, offers a small number of full-ride scholarships.

The top-20 school that is most generous with merit scholarships is Vanderbilt, which offers roughly 200 full-tuition scholarships per year. Note that if a student turns it down, they do not offer that to another student, so fewer than 200 students per year are attending on a full-tuition merit scholarship. Interestingly, I know a student who turned down a Cornelius Vanderbilt full tuition scholarship to attend Duke (without a merit scholarship).

First you have to make a list with colleges that offer merit scholarships to begin with. Then you need to invastigate the chances depending on how strong your student is. They might have good chances for some colleges if they fit certain profile.

If we go by that definition than U Chicago, Duke, Rice, Vanderbilt, USC etc won’t qualify even though they have no shortage of applicants? FWIW a loose definition of “top” college is “college that consistently cracks top 25 on most ranking lists and admits less than 20% of its applicants.

@1Rubin The number of scholarships at the schools you have mentioned are so few and far between, you could say that there is no merit money

That debate aside, only looking for ways to crack merit scholarship code at high ranking colleges. What sort of students they want enough to offer this incentive? If it came to a choice between a peer college like Hopkins with half the cost vs any ivy at full cost, it will be an easy decision.

USC’s full-tuition Trustee scholarship is awarded to more kids than the Mork Scholarship. It is important to note that the scholarship is for tuition only and not housing.

As has been mentioned most “highly ranked” colleges offer few if any merit scholarships. They tend to be pretty generous with need based aid so most students, even those from families in the upper middle class will likely not be paying full tuition though depending on the situation it might still be substantial. For those that do offer merit scholarships the chances are slim. First, one must be accepted to a school with a very low acceptance rate and then among all of those superior students you must be selected to get one of the few scholarships available. The secret? I doubt anyone here can answer that. Just try and have affordable choices as well.

@1Rubin there isn’t one code to crack as each school is looking for a different type of student. My advice is to really study each school. Look at the buzz words that they consistently use in their mission and vision statements, on their website, in marketing materials and during admissions sessions. You will start to get a feel for what they are looking for - those that take initiative, know how to balance life, study seemingly disparate subjects, innovators, optimists, collaborators, etc. Most of the big scholarships require interviews so you can put all you want in an essay but if your life experiences and values don’t match, you likely won’t receive the scholarship.

You state that 1/2 scholarship vs full-pay Ivy would be an easy decision. What if you had the option for a full scholarship vs Ivy? Would that also be an easy decision? If you are looking for full-tuition scholarships, look beyond the top 10 or 20 colleges and apply to schools in the top 30 or 40.

Vanderbilt has some significant merit based scholarships: