One of the biggest misunderstandings about merit-based scholarships is that they’re only for top students, like those scoring a 31 or 32 on the ACT. False. Many colleges offer great merit scholarships for lower scores too. But which colleges offer some of the best merit scholarships? 

Here are 26 public colleges with generous scholarships based on GPA and/or test scores—and you’ll find even more merit scholarships through the links provided. Opportunities exist for every student if you work hard, challenge yourself, jump your scores and GPA, and apply to colleges that reward merit—not just need—with scholarships.

Whether you have a good ACT or SAT score or are on your way, many great colleges offer amazing merit scholarships to students who have shown hard work through solid GPA and ACT or SAT scores. 

Western Schools

Western Oregon University

Merit Award: $1,000-12,000, renewable. The Merit Award is automatically granted to graduating high school seniors with an unweighted GPA of 3.0 or higher. Learn more >> 

Montana State University, Billings

The Chancellor’s Excellence Award: varies, renewable. Scholarship applicants must have a composite score of 26+ on the ACT OR 1240+ on the SAT, or a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA. Students who have not graduated from an accredited high school must satisfy the ACT or SAT requirements. Learn more >> 

Idaho State University 

Presidential Scholarship: $1,000-7,500, renewable. Different values for this scholarship are available to incoming freshmen who are Idaho residents with GPAs of 3.0 or higher. No separate application is required. Learn more >> 

University of Nevada, Reno 

Presidential Scholarship: $8,000, renewable. New freshman students with a cumulative unweighted GPA and submitted test scores can qualify for the Presidential Level scholarship. To qualify, applicants must have a cumulative unweighted GPA between 3.7 and 4.0 and either an ACT score of 31-36 or an SAT score of 1390-1600. Learn more >> 

University of Wyoming

Cowboy Commitment: $500, $1,500, $3,500 or $6,500. The University of Wyoming has multiple merit-based scholarships; their Cowboy Commitment grid shows scholarship amounts based on GPA and test scores. Scholarships for test-optional applicants are lower than those for applicants with test scores of 21+ on the ACT or 1090+ on the SAT. Learn more >> 

Southern Utah University

President’s Scholarship: $6,006. Southern Utah University offers multiple merit-based scholarships based on GPA and/or test scores. Learn more >>

Colorado Mesa

President’s Scholarships: Full tuition ($9,911 for out-of-state students), renewable. Additional Merit Scholarships are available for all new freshmen that meet two of the three criteria listed for each award, including class rank, unweighted GPA, and test scores. Learn more >>

Southwest Schools

Northwest Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma Academic Scholars Award (residency required), renewable. This scholarship covers 16 credit hours per semester, semi-private room, and a $2,700 stipend each year. It requires a 3.8 GPA, 30 ACT Composite score, and a GPA in the top 4 percent, or rank of first or second in the graduating class. Learn more >> 

Northeastern State University (OK)

Freshmen Scholarships: up to $2200 per year (residency required), renewable. Northeastern State offers multiple merit-based scholarships with a minimum 3.25 GPA and 20 ACT or 1030 SAT score. Learn more >>

University of North Texas

President’s Leadership Class Scholarship (residency required), renewable. The PLC Scholarship has a tuition waiver that will cover up to 18 hours of tuition each semester, a $1200 housing waiver (for on-campus housing only) per semester, and a cash stipend in the amount of $800 that will apply each semester.. Learn more >>

Texas A&M-Texarkana

Presidential Scholarship: full tuition ($9,000) per year, competitive, renewable. Texarkana offers multiple merit scholarships for incoming freshmen. The Presidential Scholarship profile includes a combination of: a minimum 4.0 GPA, a 28 ACT or 1300 SAT score, top and full-time enrollment. Learn more >> 

University of Texas, Arlington

Presidential Honors Scholars & Presidential Scholars: $10,000 per year, renewable
Presidential Scholars require a class rank of top 25%, 3.9 unweighted GPA, and a 1400 SAT or 31 ACT score. Additional scholarships are awarded based on a combination of GPA, class rank, and/or test scores. Learn more >>

Midwest Schools

Chadron State College

Incoming Student Scholarships: $1,000-7,000 per year, renewable. With a variety of merit-based scholarships, students at Chadron State can earn up to a full-tuition waiver. A minimum unweighted 3.0 GPA is required. Learn more >> 

Wayne State College, NE

Presidential Scholarship: full tuition and half housing, renewable
This scholarship requires a 30 ACT or 1390 SAT score and has no residency requirement. Additional merit scholarships available by application. Learn more >> 

University of Iowa

Iowa Scholars Award: $500-$8,500 per year, renewable (residency required)
The University of Iowa offers multiple merit scholarships, for non-residents as well. Awards are based on test scores and GPA. Learn more >>

Northwest Missouri State

Admission-Based Freshmen Scholarships: $1,000-6,000 per year, renewable
Generous scholarships are available for both residents and non-residents. A minimum 2.75 GPA is required. Higher test cores equal higher merit awards. Learn more >> 

Southeast Missouri State

Copper Dome Scholarship: $1,000-5,000 per year, renewable with increased value
Copper Dome requirements include a 2.75 GPA, and 25 ACT or 1200 SAT score (minimum 3.25 GPA without test score), with higher GPA/test scores earning greater awards. Additional merit scholarships also available. Learn more >> 

Northeastern Illinois University

Presidential Scholarship
This is the most prestigious scholarship at Northeastern Illinois, covering full in-state tuition, fees, and a book allowance for four academic years. Requirements include a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.50, and a 25 ACT or 1200 SAT score OR top 10% class rank. A resume, writing sample, and letters of recommendation are also needed. Learn more >> 

Ferris State University

Freshman Academic Scholarships: $1,000-10,000 per year, renewable
These scholarships are based on academic performance in high school and begin with a minimum 2.35 GPA. Higher merit awards require higher GPAs and test scores. Learn more >> 

Eastern Schools

University of Central Arkansas 

Freshmen Academic Scholarships: $1,500-8,500 per year, renewable
Multiple scholarships are based on a minimum 3.5 GPA and provide stipends for both tuition and housing. Learn more >> 

University of Louisiana – Monroe

Freshman Scholarships: $1,000-16,588 per year, renewable
Scholarships levels depend on test score and GPA, with a minimum 20 ACT and 3.0 GPA. Learn more >> 

Eastern Kentucky University

Merit Scholarships: $1,000 to full tuition per year, renewable
Merit Tiers are based on GPA and test scores, with a minimum 2.5 unweighted GPA required.  Learn more >> 

University of Memphis

Academic Merit Scholarships: up to $6,000 per year, renewable
Scholarships for both residents and non-residents are based on a minimum 3.0 GPA and rise with higher test scores. Learn more >> 

University of Southern Mississippi

Academic Excellence Scholarships: $3,000 to full tuition per year, renewable
Scholarship awards are based on GPA and test scores beginning with a minimum 21 ACT or 1060 SAT and require a 3.0 GPA. Learn more >>

University of Alabama

Competitive and Automatic Merit Scholarships: $4,000 to full tuition per year, renewable
Merit-based scholarship are based on either GPA or GPA + test scores. Awards begin with a 24 ACT or 1160 SAT or a 3.0 GPA. Learn more >> 

University of Rhode Island

Presidential and University Scholarships: $2,000-15,000 per year, renewable
Eligibility is based on high school performance including GPA and course selection. A minimum 3.2 GPA (recalculated to a 4.0 scale with extra weight for honors, AP, IB, and dual enrollment courses), recommendation letters, and school and community involvement are also considered. Learn more >> 


As you can see, many schools award scholarships for hard work in high school. OTC Test Prep can be the best-paying job a high school student can have.