20 Best Merit Based Scholarships for High School Seniors

Merit-based scholarships are financial aid gifts wrapped in profitable packages to high achievers who’ve worked hard for tremendous accomplishments. Many merit-based funds are designed for academically gifted students at the top of their class with plentiful As. However, merit-based aid could also reward scholars for artistic talent, athletics, research, or community service. It’s the direct opposite of need-based scholarships, which are awarded solely for financial means. Merit-based programs don’t factor in income, so students from affluent backgrounds are just as entitled.

According to the NCES, 14 percent of American undergraduates receive merit-based aid with an average award amount of $4,700. Below we’ve compiled 20 of the best scholarships offering large sums based on merit.

Ranking the Best Merit Scholarships for High School Seniors

1. ABA Academic Merit Scholarship

Deadline: April 6th

The American Bus Association (ABA) offers the Academic Merit Scholarship for $5,000 annually to two freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors who are studying majors related to transportation or travel, including hospitality management. Eligible members and non-members must attend accredited four-year U.S. universities with a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or better. Other merit-based funds are the Peter L. Picknelly Honorary Scholarship and Driving the Future Award.


ABA Academic Merit Scholarship

111 K Street NE 9th Floor

Washington, DC 20002

(202) 842-1645


Scholarship Link

2. Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

Deadline: January 27th

Established by Congress in 1986, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is a competitive, merit-based award providing up to $7,500 for sophomores and juniors majoring in mathematics, engineering, and the natural sciences. Eligibility criteria mandates being nominated by an accredited undergraduate school, being U.S. citizens or resident aliens, showing interest in research careers, displaying academic achievement with a minimum 3.7 GPA, and presenting an essay describing a scientific issue.


Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

6225 Brandon Avenue Suite 315

Springfield, VA 22150

(703) 756-6012


Scholarship Link

3. Bryan Cameron Impact Scholarship

Deadline: September 15th

The Bryan Cameron Education Foundation initiated the Impact Scholarship to cover full tuition up to $50,000 per year for meritorious high school seniors who have maintained a minimum unweighted GPA of 3.7. One-fourth of funds are reserved for students pursuing public service careers, including education, government, healthcare, and military. Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens, matriculate full-time for a bachelor’s degree, demonstrate strong work ethic, and participate in civic-minded activities.


Bryan Cameron Impact Scholarship

8939 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Suite 110

Los Angeles, CA 90045

(917) 756-7798


Scholarship Link

4. Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program

Deadline: February 8th

Since 1999, the Davidson Institute has granted over $6.7 million to profoundly gifted young people under age 18 who primarily score in the 99th percentile on achievement tests. The Davidson Fellows Program provides $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000 scholarships to reward exceptional projects close to the college graduate level. United States citizens can apply in eight categories: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, or Outside the Box.


Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program

9665 Gateway Drive

Reno, NV 89521

(775) 852-3483


Scholarship Link

5. Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship

Deadline: November 30th

Annually, the Elks National Foundation hosts its Most Valuable Student Competition to award two $50,000, two $40,000, two $30,000, and 14 $20,000 scholarships. The merit-based program considers high-achieving graduating high school seniors with U.S. citizenship who will enroll full-time with 12+ credits at accredited universities. Top Elks finalists are invited to an all-expenses paid Leadership Weekend in Chicago for networking and serving at a local veterans hospital.


Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship

2750 North Lakeview Avenue

Chicago, IL 60614

(773) 755-4732


Scholarship Link

6. GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship

Deadline: January 5th

Named after our country’s 40th President, the GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship presents $10,000 over four years for $40,000 total to outstanding undergraduates who exhibit ambition, integrity, and citizenship through service contributions. Qualified applicants must be United States citizens, enroll full-time in baccalaureate study this Fall, carry a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, and be nominated by eligible community leaders. The selection committee requires a Skype or telephone interview for semifinalists.


GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship

40 Presidential Drive

Simi Valley, CA 93065

(805) 522-2977


Scholarship Link

7. Gordon Hay Scholarship Fund

Deadline: March 9th

Sponsored by the Education Department of Blumenthal Performing Arts, the Gordon Hay Scholarship Fund selects one recipient for $5,000 yearly. It’s designed for high school seniors, college freshmen, and sophomores from Greater Charlotte, North Carolina, who are pursuing non-performing arts careers, such as music composition, choreography, stage management, costume design, or playwriting. Selection is based upon academic merit, artistic talent, community engagement, and theatrical accomplishment.


Gordon Hay Scholarship Fund

130 North Tryon Street

Charlotte, NC 28202

(704) 333-4686


Scholarship Link

8. Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship

Deadline: October 28th

Giving “Freedom to Innovate,” the Fannie & John Hertz Foundation offers a five-year, merit-based Graduate Fellowship with full-tuition coverage, $38,000 stipend, and cohort workshops. Chosen fellows must be earning Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in applied sciences, such as aeronautics, chemistry, computer science, geoscience, nuclear engineering, quantitative biology, and statistics, at participating U.S. schools. Recipients form a moral commitment to make their technical skills “available in times of national emergency.”


Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship

2300 First Street Suite 250

Livermore, CA 94550

(925) 373-1642


Scholarship Link

9. Irene and Daisy MacGregor Medical Scholarship

Deadline: February 10th

The Daughters of the American Revolution bestows the Irene and Daisy MacGregor Medical Scholarship for $5,000 to graduate students holding a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher. Applicants must be enrolling full-time at an accredited medical schools for MD and DO degrees or pursuing an advanced practice degree (MSN or DNP) for psychiatric nursing. The DAR’s other merit-based scholarships include the Alice W. Rooke Scholarship and Richard and Elizabeth Dean Scholarship.


Irene and Daisy MacGregor Medical Scholarship

1776 D Street NW

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 628-1776


Scholarship Link

10. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship

Deadline: November 30th

Valued at $40,000 per year, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship supports high-achieving high school seniors who’ve worked hard to attend the United States’ most prestigious four-year universities. At minimum, scholars must earn a cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.5, achieve a composite SAT score of 1200, attain a combined ACT score of 26, and have annual family income under $95,000. Applications must include an academic transcript, standardized tests, two recommendations, and a page-long personal essay.


Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship

44325 Woodridge Parkway

Lansdowne, VA 20176

(703) 723-8000


Scholarship Link

11. Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowship

Deadline: September 30th

During his 24-year tenure in the Senate, Jacob K. Javits created the merit-based National Graduate Fellowship to reward graduate students of superior academic ability with $15,000 stipends and up to $10,375 in tuition coverage. It’s intended to fund Master of Fine Arts or doctoral study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at accredited U.S. graduate schools. Acceptable fields would include archaeology, linguistics, rhetoric, creative writing, photography, sociology, psychology, economics, and more.


Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowship

1990 K Street NW, 6th Floor

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 502-7542


Scholarship Link

12. National Merit Scholarship Program

Deadline: None

Started in 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Program is a long-standing competition that selects the top three percent of high school juniors who score extraordinarily high on the Preliminary SAT exam. Index scores are calculated by doubling the sum of the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math tests. The $2,500 scholarships mandate normal progression toward high school graduation, U.S. citizenship or lawful residency, and intent to enroll full-time in accredited post-secondary education.


National Merit Scholarship Program

1560 Sherman Avenue Suite 200

Evanston, IL 60201

(847) 866-5100


Scholarship Link

13. Paul Tsongas Scholarship Award

Deadline: February 1st

Through the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), the Paul Tsongas Scholarship Award waives full tuition costs for high academic achievers at nine state-funded universities. Qualifying schools include Fitchburg State, Salem State, Westfield State, and Bridgewater State. High schoolers must reside in Massachusetts for 12+ months, achieve a minimum secondary GPA of 3.75, score 1200 or higher on the SAT, and comply with Selective Service Registration if applicable.


Paul Tsongas Scholarship Award

454 Broadway Suite 200

Revere, MA 02151

(617) 391-6070


Scholarship Link

14. Ron Brown Scholarship Program

Deadline: January 9th

To honor the first African American to serve as Secretary of Commerce, the Ron Brown Scholarship Program awards $10,000 per year to intellectually gifted Black graduating high school seniors. Eligible recipients must be U.S. citizens or hold a visa, excel academically, plan to attend an accredited four-year college, participate in community activities, and be public service-minded. There’s also a Guided Pathway Support (GPS) program to help rising juniors and seniors of color navigate college admissions.


Ron Brown Scholarship Program

1160 Pepsi Place Suite 206

Charlottesville, VA 22901

(434) 964-1588


Scholarship Link

15. Ruth K. Jacobs Memorial Scholarship

Deadline: February 1st

Funded by the founder of Choristers Guild, the Ruth K. Jacobs Memorial Scholarship delivers merit-based, renewable $1,500 awards to full-time college students pursuing vocations in Church music ministry. Qualified candidates must register for 12+ credits at accredited U.S. institutions, attain at least junior standing, major in music with a choral emphasis, and exhibit musical talent for Church service. Electronic applications must include references from an ordained minister and music professor.


Ruth K. Jacobs Memorial Scholarship

12404 Park Central Drive Suite 100

Dallas, TX 75251

(469) 398-3606


Scholarship Link

16. SAPA Excellence in Education Scholarship

Deadline: April 30th

Each year, the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association (SAPA) has awarded $2,000 through its Excellence in Education Scholarships to meritorious high school seniors who will pursue bachelor’s degrees in the life sciences full-time. Interested candidates must be accepted at accredited four-year colleges, be U.S. citizens or resident aliens, possess a minimum overall GPA of 3.3, achieve a SAT score of 2000 or ACT score of 30, and show potential for contribution to the pharmaceutical industry.


SAPA Excellence in Education Scholarship

P.O. Box 282

Nanuet, NY 10954

(845) 639-1075


Scholarship Link

17. The Hungry to Lead Scholarship

Deadline: June 1st

Sponsored by Professional Reps., the Hungry to Lead Scholarship bestows $2,500 based on academic merit to high school seniors or college undergraduates who are pursuing degrees in food service or hospitality. Judges seek applicants who have U.S. citizenship, attend accredited two or four-year colleges, display leadership ability, attain a minimum 2.5 GPA, and score at least 1300 on the SAT or 18 on the ACT. There’s also the $2,500 Amana Leadership Scholarship.


The Hungry to Lead Scholarship

750 E. Covey Lane Suite 110

Phoenix, AZ 85024

(877) 995-8922


Scholarship Link

18. Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

Deadline: March 15th

The Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation in Arizona offers its Undergraduate Scholarship to 60 high-achieving college sophomores and juniors for $7,000 each year. Certain funds are reserved for Native American and Alaskan Native students who are pursuing careers in healthcare or tribal policy to improve Indian country conditions. Others go to diverse scholars who demonstrate keen commitment to environmental conservation. Unlike most merit-based programs, grades matter less than community service and leadership.


Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

130 South Scott Avenue

Tucson, AZ 85701

(520) 901-8564


Scholarship Link

19. Winston Churchill Foundation Scholarship

Deadline: November 7th

Named after the Prime Minister who rallied British during World War II, the Winston Churchill Foundation offers a lucrative, merit-based scholarship for $50,000 to $60,000. American citizens interested in studying science, mathematics, or engineering at the University of Cambridge for nine to 12 months should apply. Eligible college seniors must be finishing bachelor’s degrees at participating U.S. institutions, pursue master’s study in STEM disciplines, attain a minimum GPA of 3.7, and contribute to scientific discovery.


Winston Churchill Foundation Scholarship

600 Madison Avenue Suite 1601

New York, NY 10022

(212) 752-3200


Scholarship Link

20. YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund

Deadline: November 1st

Annually, the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund tops the industry by awarding merit with four $30,000, four $10,000, and over 200 $5,000 scholarships. The committee seeks the brightest college undergraduates who have chosen fashion-related majors, including apparel design, fiber science, marketing, merchandising, retail sales, and consumer science. Eligible candidates must attend FSF-member colleges full-time, sustain an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher, and complete a case study on a fashion company seeking strategic growth.


YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund

1501 Broadway Suite 2302

New York, NY 10036

(212) 278-0008


Scholarship Link

College is a costly endeavor, even for students who come from families whose income doesn’t qualify for need-based financial aid like the Pell Grant. Luckily, merit-based aid is available for top-ranking students who maintain good grades, score high on the SAT/ACT, and excel outside the classroom. These 20 merit-based scholarships are quite competitive, but don’t forget to ask your school’s financial aid office about merit aid opportunities too.


This concludes our coverage of top merit based scholarships for high school seniors.