Note: This post has now been updated as of December 19, 2017–but merit scholarships are fewer than ever, and the awards are generally smaller, though many are still generous.
Many of the scholarships offered by the public and private institutions listed below are NOT restricted to National Merit Scholars. We include them to show “full ride” and other high-value options. If you find an error below, please notify email@example.com.
The world of merit awards has been changing rapidly in the last decade. Many colleges that continue to provide generous merit scholarships and that used to require or prefer National Merit Finalist status for the most valuable scholarships no longer affiliate with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The reasons vary. Often these awards now go to students who are National Merit Finalists but who can be selected for other reasons.
The colleges below in bold are those that still specify National Merit status for at least some of their major awards. These offer National Merit aid of $2,000 a year or more. Many of the universities not in bold do sponsor National Merit Scholarships of $2,000 a year or less. Although automatic scholarships specifically tied to National Merit status are in decline, National Merit Finalists will almost always be among the top candidates for merit awards.
Many colleges offer few or no merit awards of any kind now, because they believe that they need to allocate their funds only on the basis of financial need.
In a separate post, Best Major Universities for National Merit Scholarship Funding, we use the official annual reports of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to list the universities that sponsor some form of NMS scholarships, even though the individual award amounts are frequently small.
Another post on this site lists the colleges that offer the prestigious Stamps Scholarships.
These range from tuition to full ride, and in some cases (e.g., Chicago), these are the only merit scholarships offered by the college.
And here is a list published by U.S. News that shows colleges with highest percentage of merit aid, based on enrollment. This map does not assess actual net remaining costs after merit aid, however.
In this post, we will provide a table that shows more than 115 universities, public and private, which provide full or partial tuition, tuition “plus”, or full ride, and full ride merit scholarships. In most cases, the tuition is at least at the in-state level. Tuition “plus” means that the extra award can include stipends or one or more years of housing. Full ride is tuition, room, board, and often additional funds for study abroad, conferences, and other activities.
The more prestigious the university, the more likely it is that the test score and GPA requirements will at least match stats for National Merit Finalists, even if the scholarship is not tied directly to National Merit awards. It is noteworthy that universities previously known for “full rides” have lowered the merit offerings, often to a level below that of a true full ride, especially for National Merit Scholars. Among these schools are Oklahoma, Alabama, and Texas A&M, although some form of scholarship “stacking” might yield a few more full rides than indicated by the list.
Note: Merit scholarships are constantly changing; the list below is at best a snapshot for 2017-2018.
It is important to know that some of the universities listed offer VERY FEW scholarships of the type listed. For example, the Jefferson Scholarships at the University of Virginia are valued at $150,000 (in-state) and $280,000 (OOS), but only 36 extremely fortunate students are selected from more than 2,000 candidates. These students must be nominated by participating high schools in different regions of the nation.
Again, colleges that continue to offer National Merit-specific scholarships that are greater than $2,000 per year are in bold.
|University||Award Type||In State/OOS|
|Alabama||8 academic elite ~full ride||Both|
|Appalachian St||full ride Wilson Schols||Both|
|Arizona State||tuition plus||Both|
|Arkansas||full ride close||Both|
|Boston College||tuition Gabelli Schols||Both|
|Boston University||tuition 20 Trustee Schols||Both|
|Centre||full ride Brown schol||Both|
|Chicago||Stamps full ride very few||Both|
|Cincinnati||full ride||In State|
|Clark||full ride, few LEEP||Both|
|Clemson||full ride 8 National Schols||Both|
|Colorado College||10k year||Both|
|Connecticut||Stamps full ride||In State|
|Cooper Union||half tuition||Both|
|Delaware||dupont schols ~full ride||Both|
|Duke||full ride, tuition, limited||Both|
|Emory||woodruff schols full ride||Both|
|Georgia||foundation fellows, full||Both|
|Georgia State||22k/yr in st; 31k/yr OOS||Both|
|Georgia Tech||presidential full ride||Both|
|Harvey Mudd||tuitioin presidential schols||Both|
|Holy Cross||tuition, few||Bptj|
|Houston||Tier One, tuition + 2yrs rm/bd||Both|
|Illinois||Full ride/tuition||In State|
|Indiana||wells scholars ~full ride||Both|
|Iowa||74k to 80k total||Both|
|Iowa State||full tuition||In State|
|Kansas||10k year||In State|
|Kentucky||full ride Singletary||Both|
|Louisville||full ride Brown schol||Both?|
|LSU||32k/yr in st; 49k/yr OOS full||Both|
|Maine||up to full ride||Both|
|Maryland||full ride Banneker Key||Both|
|Massachusetts||partial tuition||Mostly OOS|
|Michigan St||tuition and full ride||Both|
|Mississippi St||full ride presidential||Both|
|Nevada Las Vegas||full ride||Both|
|New Mexico||19 k||Both|
|New Mexico St||tuition plus||Both|
|North Carolina||full ride few||Both|
|NC Charlotte||Levine full ride||Both|
|North Carolina St||full ride few||In Region|
|Northeastern||tuition Univ Scholars||Both|
|Notre Dame||tuition few||Both|
|Ohio St||50k to full ride Eminence||Both|
|Ohio Univ||20k in st; 30 k OOS||Both|
|Oklahoma St||tuition plus||Both|
|Oklahoma||117 k OOS||Both|
|Oregon||Stamps, few; In st 9k/yr||Both|
|Oregon St||32k total||Both|
|Purdue||12-16k OOS; 10k/yr in st||Both|
|Rhodes||22k to full tuition||Both|
|Rice||25-27k per year||Both|
|Richmond||5k to full ride||Both|
|Rochester||2k to full tuition||Both|
|Rutgers||3.5k to 27.4k/year||Both|
|Santa Clara||up to full ride Johnson schols||Both|
|South Carolina||full ride, McNair; 10k/yr NMS||Both|
|Southern Illinois||full ride||Both|
|Southern Miss||full ride||Both|
|Stevens Inst Tech||tuition Neupauer||Both|
|St. Louis Univ||3k to 20k/ year||Both|
|Swarthmore||tuition+ McCabe Schols||Both|
|Syracuse||Coronat tuition Plus||Both|
|Texas A&M||$46k total value||Both|
|Texas St||10 k/year NMS||Both|
|Texas Tech||full ride||Both|
|Trinity San Antonio||tuition, Murchison||Both|
|Truman St||up to 10k/year||Both|
|Univ at Buffalo||tuition, with some stacking||Both|
|Univ of Miami||5k to full ride||Both|
|Univ of North Texas||118k in state; 170k OOS||Both|
|UT Arlington||20 k per year||Both|
|UT Austin||14-15 full, 40 Acres Schols||Mostly TX|
|UT Dallas||full ride McDermott||Both|
|UT Tyler||full ride||Both|
|Utah||35k total value||Mostly UT|
|Va Commonwealth||98k total||In State|
|Vanderbilt||tuition plus, multiple||Both|
|Vermont||62k in st; 15-18k/yr OOS||Both|
|Villanova||full ride presidential||Both|
|Virginia||full ride-33 Jefferson Schols||Both|
|Wake Forest||full ride||Both|
|Washington St||tuition plus||Both|
|West Virginia||21k/yr OOS; full ride in||Both|
|William and Mary||in-state full ride equiv||Both|
|WUSTL||tuition danforth, others||Both|
|Wyoming||up to 150% res tuition||Both|