Originally Posted: Aug 19, 2020
Last Updated: Aug 19, 2020
You already know that a solid SAT score can boost your college applications, but did you know it can also earn you free money for school? There are a lot of scholarships out there, including many that are based on your standardized test scores. You have a variety of scholarship options to look into as you receive your SAT scores; some of them don’t even require extra work or applications! Here are a few different categories of scholarships that are based on the results of your SAT.
Your SAT scores
Let’s start with the basics. You’re probably wondering how your scores stack up against others, and if you even qualify for these SAT-based scholarships. While it changes from year to year, the College Board provides a breakdown of the 2019 SAT scores. According to College Board, the average score in 2019 was 1059. This means you want to aim for a score higher than 1059 to have a chance at winning scholarship money based on your SAT score. As you may have guessed, a higher score increases your chance to receive more awards!
Where to start finding SAT-based scholarships
Now that you know where you fall on the spectrum of scores and what scholarships you could win, here are a few good places to start looking for test score–based scholarships.
National Merit Scholarship
The National Merit program often comes to mind when it comes to scholarships based off SAT scores. It’s accessible to most students, as the data is taken from students’ PSAT scores, and the test is administered to nearly every student in the 11th grade. If you’re in a certain bracket of top scorers, you become a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. Roughly 7,500 finalists are chosen to win the award each year. Depending on your situation, you could be eligible to win a one-time $2,500 scholarship or a renewable four-year scholarship. An extremely small group of students will qualify for a “special scholarship” that falls in neither category and is more discretionary based on the individual’s situation.
One of the best features of the National Merit Scholarship program is that it requires essentially nothing from you beyond your test score! To win an award, all you have to do is provide your transcript and take the SAT to back up your original PSAT score. And while the best-case scenario is to win, being a semifinalist is nothing to brush off. It’s a great accolade to include on your college applications, résumé, and other scholarship applications because it’s recognizable and reputable.
Depending on the college you apply to, you may be eligible to receive a scholarship for your SAT score from the school. Some colleges and universities will even give additional scholarships for being a National Merit Scholar. For example, the University of Oklahoma grants a full-ride scholarship to all National Merit Scholars. At many other schools, you don’t have to be involved in the National Merit program to get a scholarship based on your SAT score. For example, at Clemson University, in-state students with a minimum SAT score of 1280 who are also in the top 10% of their graduating class can earn the Resident Merit Scholarship. For out-of-state students, a student must have an SAT score of 1340 or higher to earn a similar scholarship.
Other schools have a less competitive system, meaning that even a fairly average SAT score could earn you scholarship money. Texas Tech University offers differing amounts depending on your class rank and SAT score; with a score of 1100 or higher, you could earn at least $1,000 a year in scholarship money. As someone currently benefiting from an institutional scholarship based partially on my SAT score, I can tell you the best thing about these kinds of scholarships is they’re typically automatically granted to you upon admission to the college. With no extra applications, interviews, or letters of recommendations, it really is just free money.
Many outside scholarships specific to your community also factor in SAT scores to determine the recipient of their awards, so a higher score could easily lead to more scholarships from those sources as well. Look for outside scholarships using scholarship search websites, but also try reaching out to your school counselor, who may have even more resources or suggestions. Keep your ears open within your community too. Places of employment, churches, and community organizations where you do volunteer work can all be great places to find additional scholarship opportunities.
College Board and Khan Academy’s SAT practice
Perhaps after reading all of this, you want to improve your score to make yourself more eligible for awards. A great way to do that is by practicing! There are tons of resources for this, but a free and reliable one is Khan Academy’s online SAT practice. If you do use this resource, you have even more benefits in store. The College Board is giving out 150 $1,000 scholarships each month for students who work to improve their SAT scores by practicing on Khan Academy. You can enter to win each month and improve your scores for other awards! Six hours of practice will earn you your first entry, with each additional hour within the month equaling another entry.
Related: 10 SAT Score Improvement Tips
While standardized test scores aren’t by any means an accurate measure of your full academic abilities, they do come in handy in the college and scholarship application processes. Carve out some of your free time to improve your SAT and test-taking skills, making yourself more eligible for awards to help pay for college. You won’t regret it!
Get even more free SAT practice by playing our SAT Word Game and competing against other students in the CollegeXpress community!