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Affording College with Merit Scholarships

For me, affording college was possible only by earning a merit scholarship. Is this, or could this be, an achievable option for others?

Photo of Melanie Wells
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I am a current student of Chapman University, a private school in Orange County, California. I chose to attend Chapman partly because of the academic merit scholarship that was offered to me when I first received admission. But after spending many years here, I realize that I would not have been able to afford my university in the first place if the scholarship hadn't been offered to me.

I often think of how this system works, and how I was able put myself in a situation where I could benefit from it. This article on explains that merit scholarships are "highly competitive scholarships [that] are awarded on the basis of achievement rather than need." Academic, artistic, and athletic merit scholarships are given to students who stand out, and whose "merits" are deserving and considered valuable enough for universities to attract these students with a deduction in tuition. Universities offer scholarships to students they want to attend their school, and they may do so for a variety of reasons. But what about the students who are deserving but are not able to show it? Or the students who want to be involved in activities of merit but are discouraged or cannot given their resources?

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How do we define "merit"? How should we define "merit"? How might we create opportunities for students of all backgrounds to contribute in ways that are deserving of merit? How might we encourage them to share their contributions? Are there ways to match merit supply (potential students) and merit demand (potential universities)?

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Photo of Mohsin Momin

Thank you for your post Melanie. It is interesting to see the different ways students were able to pay for their college education. You like many other student found a way to pay for your school, in your case the Scholarship. But there are far to many student who don't have any way other than picking up a loan that they are basically know will be very difficult to pay even before they graduate.