Those students who are hoping to attend college on academic scholarships need to begin preparations early in their schooling. While colleges do not generally check student records prior to high school, if you wait until high school to start doing the things necessary to achieve a high grade point average, you may find the process much more difficult. When you work hard in both elementary and middle school, it may be easier for you to meet the criteria necessary when you enter high school and begin the final preparations necessary to obtain an academic scholarship.
Academic (or merit) scholarships are based solely on a student's academic performance in high school. In order to qualify for an academic scholarship you may need to get high grades and probably need to graduate in the top five to ten percent of your class. While academic or merit scholarships are usually based on the academic performance of the student, they may also be given to a student who displays excellence in athletic or artistic ability—or a combination of these two factors. In short you can probably say that all academic scholarships are also merit scholarships, but it doesn't always work in reverse. The two main factors that increase your chances of obtaining an academic scholarship are achieving high grades either overall or at least in your field of study and your participation in a substantial number of extracurricular activities.
Colleges and universities are often sources of merit scholarships, but these awards usually require more than just high grades. For instance, some of these merit scholarships may require the student to possess some honorary title or have received a scholarship or recognized from a highly acclaimed organization or society. There are others that only require the recipient to achieve a specific score on the ACT or SAT and graduate near the top of his or her class. The one thing to remember is that very few students qualify for significant scholarship awards through their schools and are more likely to find scholarship money by searching for private providers.
As already mentioned, each academic scholarship comes with its own requirements for both academic performance and extracurricular activities. Merit scholarships may also require students to be involved in community service activities or prove they have leadership potential. Those who were involved in school sports or politics may look very attractive in terms of merit scholarships. In order to find the opportunities that are right for you, begin searching when you first enter high school. If you begin before you are ready to choose the college you want to attend you may have enough time to assess those programs that are best for you and be prepared early enough to do the things that are necessary to increase your chances of obtaining an academic scholarship.