Top US Universities That Offer Merit Scholarships

Two most common ways to get financial assistance from the US universities are through merit scholarships and need-based financial aid. Most of the top universities including the Ivy League schools offer need-based financial aid but not every school offers merit scholarships. For example, the Ivy League universities have a philosophy that every student they admit is worthy of getting merit scholarships. Therefore, they provide financial aid to every student who demonstrates their financial needs, but they don't offer merit scholarships to anyone. Therefore, if you are from a wealthy family, it is almost impossible to receive financial assistance from Ivy Leagues, because Ivy League universities' financial aid only depends on the financial situations of the student. But there are still several merit scholarships offered by top-tier universities for their students. They are listed here.

Duke University

About: Duke University is a private institution established in 1838, divided into 10 schools and colleges. The institution is based in North Carolina.

Ranking: It is ranked 10 among National Universities category and 8 in Best Value Schools category by US News. Its graduate programs include School of Law, School of Medicine, Fuqua School of Business, Pratt School of Engineering, Sanford School of Public Policy, and School of Nursing.

Scholarship and eligibility:

Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is the most esteemed scholarship offered to undergraduate students at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina. A four-year scholarship is provided to about 18 students from each class together with an opportunity for unique extracurricular activities.

The students applying for admission are automatically considered for the Duke Merit scholarship. Separate forms are available for the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program and those who are already enrolled must fill them out separately. The Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows (OUSF) carry out the selection of merit scholars. It is one of the most prestigious scholarships that you can look forward to while applying.

Johns Hopkins University

About: Established in the urban Balrimore area, Johns Hopkins University is a private institution founded in 1876. It follows the semester system.

Ranking: It is ranked 10 in National Universities in a tie with Duke University and 19 in Best Value Schools by US News.


Academic and professional achievements are the main criteria for merit-based scholarship. The primary scholarships offered are the Hodson Trust Scholarship, Charles R. Westgate Scholarship in Engineering, and ROTC scholarship.

Hodson Scholarship has general requirements, awarded to twenty freshmen every year, and renewed if the recipient maintains a 3.0 GPA.

Charles R Scholarship, named in honor of Professor Westgate, is limited to specific areas of study. It can be renewed annually if the recipient maintains his or her enrollment and a GPA of 3.0.

ROTC scholarship is for men and women in the army and air forces. It is renewable for two, three, or four years depending on the terms and includes tuition, book allowances, and monthly stipends.

Vanderbilt University

About: Vanderbilt University is another private institution established in the Tennessee since 1873. Around 40% of students take a study abroad programs offered by the university in 40 different countries.

Ranking: It ranks 15 in the National Universities and 7 in Best Value Schools by US News.


Vanderbilt University awards its students each year with three signature merit-based scholarships. The selection process is extremely competitive with the top 1% of the freshmen applicants considered for the scholarships.

The three scholarships are:

  • Ingram Scholars: awarded to students who plan a business program with social benefits and entrepreneur spirits. Students who take leadership in the development of new business and establishing self with the aim of benefits to the society are considered for the award.

  • Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholars: students who have strong academic achievement with leadership skills.

  • Chancellor’s Scholars: students who have been instrumental in bridging the gap due to societal, economic, and cultural beliefs and been able to stand against social injustice.

About 250 scholars are awarded these scholarships with full tuition aid and summer stipends to support their study.

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Rice University

About: Rice University is located in the middle of Houston Museum district, founded in 1912. It utilizes a semester-based system in its 11 residential colleges and among its schools are the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Weiss School of Natural Sciences.

Ranking: It is ranked 17 among the Best schools and National Universities and 13 in Best Value Schools by US News. It offers several merit-based scholarships to students from abroad such as Asia and Africa.

Scholarships and Eligibility:

The freshmen students upon admission are considered for merit-based scholarship. Students with achievements in creativity, artistic nature, math/science competition winners, political science intellectuals, scholars, athletes, entrepreneurs, writers have been selected for these scholarships. The Office of Admissions declares the receivers of these scholarships upon admission. There is no separate application process other than the normal admission procedures.

Washington University in St. Louis

About: Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1853 and follows a semester-based system.

Ranking: It is ranked 19 in National Universities and Best Value Schools by US News.


Students with a good academic record and extracurricular performance are considered for Wash U Scholarships. The scholarships awarded for academic excellence and merit are the Academic Division Scholarship and Signature Scholars Program. All undergraduate divisions provide four-year full scholarships to students covering full tuition fees.

There is no separate scholarship application process. The admission application and a supplemental essay as part of it are considered for the selection of finalists. All prospective students are called to for a weekend at the university after completion of tasks that are arranged and interaction with other scholars and students, the finalists are announced. The scholarship include four- year full tuition fee coverage and $1,000 stipend. The scholarship is renewed every year upon evaluation of academic performance.

Emory University

About: Emory University is located in downtown Atlanta and follows a semester-based system. It is divided into four schools that offer graduate and undergraduate courses.

Ranking: US News ranked Emory University as 21 in National Universities category and 21 in Best Value Schools.

Scholarship, eligibility, and application procedure:

Emory University Scholars Program offers partial or full-time scholarship to its applicants. To be selected for the scholar’s program, the students must select from one of the three options (Early Decision I, Early Decision II, Regular Decision) and submit all the required documents before the deadline usually in November. They should also mark yes for consideration for a merit scholarship. Each year around 8,000-10,000 students apply out of which only 175-200 scholars are selected and are called for Scholars Finalists Visit in spring. The scholars are given a full waiver for their visit and have to participate in activities and interviews and interact with the faculty and other scholars following which the final results are declared.

Carnegie Mellon University

About: It is located in Pittsburgh, founded in 1900. Undergraduate students are actively involved in research and also receive grants and scholarships to complete their studies.

Ranking: It stands at the rank of 25 in 2020 rankings of Best Colleges and National Universities and 29 in the Best undergraduate teaching by US News.


The Carnegie scholarship is awarded to qualified incoming first-year students who are academically and artistically talented and from middle-income families who require little to no financial aid. The scholarship is renewable for 8 semesters (10 for architecture students) provided the student maintains cumulative 2.0 GPA and undergoes Carnegie tuition assessment. All incoming first-year students who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for the scholarship. However, applicants must complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile to be considered.

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Wake Forest University

About: Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest University was founded in 1834.

Ranking: Wake Forest University is ranked 27 in National Universities and 25 in Best Value Schools.


Wake Forest merit-based scholarship is awarded to less than 3% of its first-year applicants. The scholarships are considered to be among the highest honors given to Wake Forest students and are renewable through four years, subject to satisfactory academic, extracurricular and civic performance. These scholarships include the Reynolds, Carswell, Stamps, and Gordon scholarships. Students only need to submit applications for the undergraduate programs by December 1st and no separate application is required for merit-based scholarships. An admission interview may or may not be required based on the scholarship applied for. Some merit-based scholarships may also require demonstrating financial need as a determining factor.

New York University

About: It is a private institution located in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, founded in 1831. It has a semester-based system and is divided into several schools and colleges.

Ranking: According to the 2020 US News rankings, it stands at the position of 29 among National Universities.


Merit-based scholarships are offered to exceptional students. All new applicants are automatically considered for the scholarship and they do not have to fill a form separately. The applications need to be completed properly if you want to be considered for scholarships where citizenship and campus of interest are taken into consideration. Undergraduate students continue to receive the fellowship as long as they are a full-time student (12 points) or at least part-time (6-11 points) and maintain their merit base.

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