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A Complete Guide to Guaranteed SAT and ACT Score Scholarships

According to data gathered by the Education Data Initiative, there are more than 1.7 million scholarships handed out to college students every year. But, surprisingly, only 7% of college students receive some form of scholarship.

If you want to be among that 7%, you can greatly increase your chances of earning scholarships by raising your standardized test scores. Many colleges and national programs offer students guaranteed scholarships if their SAT or ACT scores reach a certain threshold.

In this guide, I will lay out everything you need to know about guaranteed scholarships including how high your scores should be and how you can find scholarships that match your scores.

What Are Guaranteed Scholarships?

Guaranteed or automatic scholarships award students a set amount of scholarship money based on their SAT or ACT scores alongside other qualifiers like GPA or class rank. As long as you meet the designated requirements for all the qualifiers, you will be guaranteed to receive that scholarship as long as you choose to attend the school that offers it.

National Guaranteed Scholarships

Some guaranteed scholarships are housed through national programs and may be used at different schools depending on the school’s criteria. Let’s go over a few examples of these types of guaranteed scholarships.

National Merit Scholarship

The National Merit Scholarship program is probably the most popular example of a guaranteed scholarship. If your junior year PSAT score ranks in the top 1% of test takers in your state, you may qualify to apply for a National Merit Scholarship. 

After submitting your application, you may be chosen to become a Semifinalist, then a Finalist. Some schools offer guaranteed scholarships to National Merit Finalists even if those students don’t end up becoming National Merit Scholars. National Merit Finalists can receive 3 different types of scholarships:

  • National Merit $2500 Scholarships
  • Corporate-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards
  • College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship Awards

The amount of money National Merit Finalists receive depends on both the type of scholarship they receive and the corporation or college that sponsors them. You can find the complete list of 2024 Merit Sponsors here.

Engebretson Foundation Scholarship

The Engebretson Foundation Scholarship awards $10,000 per semester to one qualifying student for one year of college. To apply for the scholarship, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a graduating senior from a U.S. high school.
  • Plan to attend a 4 year college.
  • Be in need of financial assistance in order to attend college.
  • Achieve a composite score of 28 or higher on the ACT or at least 1240 on the SAT.
  • Earn at least a 3.75 GPA or be in the top 5% of their graduating class.
  • Already applied for federal financial aid and received the Student Aid Report that contains their Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

As you can see, earning a high enough score on a standardized test (in this case a 28 on the ACT or a 1240 on the SAT) as well as a high GPA can automatically qualify certain students to apply for this scholarship. The only additional requirements to apply center around financial need rather than other academic or extracurricular requirements.

ROTC Scholarships

The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Space Force all offer ROTC scholarship programs that can help students pay for college in exchange for service. Each branch may have slightly different requirements for joining the program, but many offer guaranteed support as long as you meet certain criteria. The U.S. Air Force ROTC program, for example, has the following criteria for students:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or obtain U.S. citizenship by the last day of the first term of their freshman year.
  • Achieve a composite SAT score of 1240 or a composite ACT score of 26.
  • Earn a cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • Pass a Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB) medical exam.
  • Complete the Physical Fitness Assessment, consisting of 3 events: push-ups, crunches, and a 1.5 mile run.

It’s important to note that, if you choose to accept an ROTC scholarship, you will be expected to complete the required amount of service. In the case of the Air Force program, students must serve at least 4 years on active duty.

Guaranteed Scholarships by School

Most colleges also offer some form of guaranteed scholarship based on academic qualifiers. For many, the scholarships are based on a combination of qualifiers, including SAT or ACT scores, GPA, and class rank. However, some may center only 1 or 2 of these qualifiers.

To find out what types of guaranteed scholarships your favorite schools offer, you can simply check out their websites. Most guaranteed scholarships will be listed as merit-based scholarships. Look at the qualifiers for the different types of merit-based scholarships at each school to determine the scores you need to achieve on the SAT or ACT.

Let’s go over Alabama State University’s merit-based scholarship offerings as an example. ASU gives out 4 different academic scholarships based on both ACT scores and high school GPA.

The Presidential Academic Scholarship pays full tuition, books, required fees, and on-campus room and board for 8 semesters. To qualify, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a GPA of 3.76 or above on a 4.0 scale
  • Achieve an ACT score of 26 or above.

The Academic Excellence Scholarship pays full tuition, required fees, and books for 8 semesters. To qualify, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a minimum GPA within the range of 3.51 to 3.75 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Achieve an ACT score of 22 or above.

The Academic Incentive Scholarship pays full tuition and a $500 book award for 8 semesters. To qualify, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a minimum GPA within the range of 3.0 to 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Achieve an ACT score of 20.

The Black and Gold Scholarship pays $4,000 yearly toward tuition, required fees, and  on-campus room and board for 8 semesters. To qualify, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a minimum GPA of 2.75 or above on a 4.0 scale.
  • Achieve an ACT score of 18.

As you can see, schools often have a wide range of scholarships that cover everything from average to above average test scores and grades. So, the better your scores are, the more scholarship money you can earn at a given school. In fact, in the case of ASU, just 2 ACT points could make the difference between earning $4,000 towards tuition each year and earning full tuition coverage for all 8 semesters. See how much studying can truly pay off!

How to Find Scholarships to Match Your Scores

If you’ve already taken the SAT or ACT, you’re probably interested in finding out how much scholarship money you can receive for your scores. Obviously, you can go site by site at the schools on your list to see how you fare at each one. However, you can also broaden your search to find other schools that could give you better offers for your scores.

There are tons of scholarship search sites that can help you find scholarship opportunities that match your scores. For example, the ACT has compiled a list of more than 80 scholarships that require ACT scores that you can use to narrow down your search. You can also visit dedicated scholarship search engines that allow you to filter your results based on a specific score range. These sites can connect you to both merit scholarships offered by schools and local or national scholarships set up by independent organizations.

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Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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