An “automatic” merit scholarship is one that is given to all students meeting specified criteria. These are scholarships offered directly by a college to attract prospective students. These scholarships are basically “tuition discounts” given to students meeting specified GPA and/or ACT/SAT score levels.
In the meritscholarshiplist.com database, there are 2,785 “automatic” merit scholarships listed out of a total of 11,918 merit scholarships.
Most of the colleges that offer automatic merit scholarships list these scholarships on their websites. Some colleges display a grid showing the amount a student will receive based on the combination of ACT/SAT score and GPA. Below is a example from Truman State University in Missouri:
As you can see in the grid, a student does not need to be a “top student” to qualify for a scholarship on this grid.
Other schools, like the example from Baylor below, have different levels of merit scholarships, but do not spell out the GPA and ACT/SAT score needed for each level.
Often times, with schools that do this, a student is in the dark about what merit scholarship level he or she qualifies for until a scholarship offer is received from the school along with or after the admissions offer. However, some schools, like Baylor, offer scholarship calculators on their websites so you can plug in a GPA and ACT or SAT value and get an estimate of what your scholarship offer would be.
Across the colleges that offer automatic merit scholarships, the amounts of these scholarships vary greatly. Of all of the automatic scholarships listed on meritscholarshiplist.com, 181 are offered in amounts of Full Tuition, Full Ride or amounts ranging “up to” or exceeding full tuition. 568 automatic scholarships listed are lower than full tuition, but offered in amounts of half tuition or better.
Overall, I view automatic scholarships as the best kind because a student will know exactly what he or she qualifies for before applying to the school. There are no surprises or waiting to find out what, if any, scholarship amount he or she will be offered.