Merit Based Scholarships: Meaning, Eligibility & How You Can Get It

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Merit-based scholarship is awarded to academically gifted students who have an excellent academic record. It is usually given in the form of financial aid (for covering tuition costs or more) that is handed out to an applicant for showcasing academic excellence by maintaining a high-grade point average (or GPA) either among other high school students, as a bachelor degree student, or as a postgraduate level student, etc.

Indian students applying for college education or postgraduate diploma/degree in countries like Canada can have difficulty gathering adequate finances to meet their tuition and other living costs when relocating. However, going for a scholarship application and getting selected for one can help them significantly in surviving well abroad, where the cost of living is much higher than it is in India.

How Can You Get a Merit-Based Scholarship to Study Abroad?

Although getting a merit-based scholarship sounds very inviting and a dream come true but it can be very competitive. When it comes to a merit scholarship, the primary evaluation criteria is the academic achievement of the applicant. The selection committee will dive deeper into your academic records and will compare them with those of the other scholarship applicants.

So, what can you do to distinguish yourself from the long list of applicants competing to finance your study abroad dream?

  • A complete application – When applying for merit scholarships or any scholarships for that matter, you should ensure that your application is complete with all the documents in place. This will leave a good impression on the selection committee.

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  • Great test scores from every academic year – Your file should be filled with excellent academic scores throughout your years of education. This does not mean that you have to finish at the top of the class every year, but having good grades will suffice to display a great academic performance.
  • Include any extra test scores – Some students may appear for a standardised test like GMAT, GRE, SAT, etc. These scores should also be a part of your scholarship application as it shows that the student is willing to go the extra mile for their personal and professional growth.
  • Highlight your leadership roles – Students who showcase their leadership potential whether inside or outside the classroom always leave a positive impression on the selection committee. This will include describing your leadership roles that accentuate your leadership skills and shows that you have a clear vision without sacrificing your academic goals.
  • Extracurricular achievements – These are not necessarily a part of your merit-based scholarship application; however, they can be the cherry on the top when the selection committee is comparing your application with other top academic performers.

List of Merit-Based Scholarships to Study in Canada

Below is a list of some merit-based scholarships offered to Indian students for studying in Canada that can help them meet their financial needs easily.

President’s International Student Scholarship Program at York University

This scholarship is exclusively for international high school applicants applying to an undergraduate course at York University who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership skills, an initiative towards extracurricular activities, community involvement, and dedication towards learning more.

This presidential scholarship is awarded to 20 students for a four-year duration and is valued at CA$180,000 for every student.

Lester B. Pearson International Scholarships

This scholarship is for high school students being admitted to the University of Toronto in the September intake and is intended to identify students who emerged in leadership roles in their high school years and also show excellent academic records.

This financial award covers tuition fees, cost of books, full residence support, and incidental fees for the entire bachelor’s program duration of four years. There is a separate application for the scholarship that has a deadline in January of every year.

University of British Columbia Scholarships for International Students

There are four scholarships given to about 50 high school students entering the University of British Columbia. The four kinds of awards are need-based scholarships for needy students from impoverished backgrounds, merit-based scholarships, and scholarships for students involved in social activities.

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

This scholarship awards CA$50,000 every year for three years to doctoral students in Canada who are dedicated to carrying out leading-edge research and immersing in higher education at Canadian universities. The areas of the research herein include life sciences, health research, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, etc.

Graduate Awards at the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary in Alberta offers a wide variety of scholarship awards to its international students. These funds vary from CA$1000 to CA$40,000 and cover a large number of subject areas. The nature of these scholarships can be partial as well as full (covering the entire tuition costs).

Graduate Fellowships at the University of Manitoba

The University of Manitoba awards scholarships to its full-time Master’s and PhD program students enrolled in all courses except for the ones enrolled in Health Sciences and MBA courses. It is awarded to students who display superior intellectual capabilities and academic achievements that set them apart from the other students of the class.


Financing your study abroad plans in Canada become easier and more stress-free when you have a scholarship in hand. With merit-based scholarships, students who are good in academics stand a chance to have either a part of the entire costs of tuition (and more in some scholarships) waived off through funds they receive from the scholarship awarding organisations.

However, it is essential to thoroughly research all the options available and apply to your suitable merit scholarship list within the deadline. Contact the counsellors at LeapScholar today and receive the best guidance for your study abroadplans. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you decide which scholarship program to apply?

First, you should see whether a financial need-based scholarship will be a good fit for you or a merit-based scholarship or both. Then you should research that kind of scholarship in the institutes you are applying to in line with the course of your choice and your level of education (graduate, postgraduate, doctoral, etc.) and see if you meet their eligibility criteria. 

Which top school offers a merit-based scholarship?

Many top schools in Canada offer merit-based scholarships to their undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral students. Examples of such Canadian universities include the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, Carleton University, University of Winnipeg, Humber College, University of Waterloo, etc.

Is a merit-based scholarship a full-ride scholarship?

Not necessarily. A full-ride scholarship is one that covers the entire range of living and studying abroad expenses, including full tuition fees for each semester, cost of books, residential costs, etc. However, merit-based scholarships could vary in terms of what would it cover. It could cover your partial tuition costs or even the entire tuition costs. In some cases, they can also cover miscellaneous costs of living abroad, but not always. So, a merit-based scholarship is not always a full-ride scholarship.

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Saket Kohli

An International Higher Ed professional with 7+ years of experience studying, working, and living across three geographies, currently on a mission to share his journey as an International Student.

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