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 you’re 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

Presidential Scholarship: $1,000-12,000, renewable
This scholarship requires a general scholarship application. The minimum GPA requirement for the full scholarship is 3.0.
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Montana State University, Billings

The Chancellor’s Excellence Award: $4,000, renewable
Scholarship applicants must have a composite score of 26+ on the ACT or a score of 1240+ on the SAT. Applicants must also rank in the top 10% of their high school graduation class OR have a cumulative high school grade point average of at least 3.5.
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Idaho State University 

Presidential Scholarship: $1,000-7,872, 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.
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University of Nevada, Reno 

Presidential Scholarship: $8,000, renewable
This scholarship is awarded based on outstanding academic performance. The minimum grade point average for consideration is a 3.5,
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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.
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Southern Utah University

President’s Scholarship: $6,006
Southern Utah University offers multiple merit-based scholarships based on GPA and/or test scores.
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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.
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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 $2,400 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.
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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.
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University of North Texas

Excellence Scholarships: $1,000-12,000 per year
The UNT Excellence Scholarships are awarded based on high school achievement shown through transcript and class rank.
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Texas A&M-Texarkana

Presidential Scholarship: full tuition ($8,500) per year, renewable
Texarkana offers multiple merit scholarships for incoming freshmen. The Presidential Scholarship requires a minimum 26 ACT or 1710 SAT score and a 3.65 GPA, plus enrollment in at least 15 hours.
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University of Texas, Arlington

Presidential Honors Scholars & Presidential Scholars: $10,000-12,000 per year, renewable
Presidential Scholars require a class rank of top 25%, 3.8 unweighted GPA, and a 1350 SAT or 30 ACT score. Additional scholarships are awarded based on a combination of GPA, class rank, and/or test scores.
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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 3.25 GPA is required.
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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.
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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.
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Northwest Missouri State

Admission-Based Freshmen Scholarships: $1,500-4,000 per year, renewable
Generous scholarships are available for both residents and non-residents. A minimum 2.75 GPA and 19 ACT or 980 SAT score, or higher GPA without test score, are required.
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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 18 ACT or 960 SAT score (minimum 3.25 GPA without test score). Additional merit scholarships also available. .
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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.
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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 2.75 GPA.
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Eastern Schools

University of Central Arkansas 

Freshmen Academic Scholarships
Multiple scholarships are based on a minimum 3.5 GPA and provide stipends for both tuition and housing.
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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.
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Eastern Kentucky University

Merit Scholarships: $3,000 to full tuition per year, renewable
Merit Tiers are based on GPA and test scores, with a minimum 3.0 unweighted GPA required.
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University of Memphis

Academic Merit Scholarships: up to $6,000 per year, renewable
Scholarships for both residents and non-residents are based on GPA and test scores.
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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.
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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 21 ACT or 1060 SAT or a 3.0 GPA.
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University of Rhode Island

Presidential and University Scholarships: $1,500-15,000 per year, renewable
Eligibility is based on high school performance including GPA and course selection. A minimum 3.2 GPA, recommendation letters, and school and community involvement are also considered.
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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.