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One of the most common questions related to scholarships is: what GPA is required to win? 

Naturally, this question inspires other questions, too. Do you need a perfect GPA to win a scholarship? What are your chances of winning a scholarship without a strong GPA? For example, can you win a college or university scholarship with a 2.0 GPA? Should you avoid certain scholarships because of your GPA? Do GPAs even matter at all?

Below, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide on the relationship between grades and scholarships. This guide is designed to help students and parents understand what GPA is needed for different types of scholarships

Scholarships help students in big ways so let’s help you navigate this part of your college or university career. 

What GPA Do You Need to Get a Scholarship?

The real answer to this question is: it depends. 

Every scholarship has its own eligibility requirements, which means you or your child may need a minimum 3.0 GPA, 3.5, or something even higher. To know the minimum cut-off, you should always read scholarship eligibility criteria

However, many scholarships do not have a grade requirement. 

Merit Scholarships: What’s a Competitive GPA? Do you need a 4.0?

Merit-based scholarships largely focus on grades and academic achievement. 

It’s safe to say that for these awards, you should assume that the better your marks, the more competitive your application. For top scholarships you’ll likely need a 3.7 to 4.0 GPA. For high school students, an average higher than 90 percent is usually necessary for merit scholarships. 

College and University scholarships for high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate students.

Non-Merit-Based Scholarships: Is There a Minimum GPA Requirement?

The number of scholarships that are given away for reasons not related to grades is huge! 

With that said, there is no universal GPA requirement for scholarship applications that are not merit-based. 

At the lowest end of the spectrum where scholarships are not academically competitive, you’ll likely need at least a 2.0 GPA or higher to win. But, as you’ll see in the section below, not all scholarships have a stated minimum grade point average. 

Generally speaking, a lot of scholarship programs will require students to have a 3.0 average (cumulative) GPA. But since this is not always the case, be sure to examine eligibility criteria carefully. 

So, Do You Need a Good GPA to Get a Scholarship? Consider the Type of Scholarship You’re Applying For

The reality is that not all scholarships exist for the purpose of rewarding students with a high GPA. There are scholarships based on financial need, career choice, student-specific criteria like race or gender, and many other factors. 

So, the reality is that a strong GPA is not always necessary to win a scholarship. 

If your or your child’s grades just aren’t very competitive, you shouldn’t be discouraged from finding and applying for scholarships. To find competitions that look beyond your GPA, think about what makes you or your child unique and start the scholarship search there. 

Here are just a few kinds of scholarships that you can look for that are not based only on merit: community service, household income, being a high school senior, studying a specific major, living in a certain city, town, or region, experiencing adversity, ancestry, travels, weird talents or quirks, issues related to your health, languages you speak, scholarships for women, graduate students, athletic scholarships, and many more. As you can see, scholarship providers give away money to students for a number of reasons!

Scholarships for College or University for high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students.

Don’t Have a Strong Grade Point Average? Apply Anyway

Considering all of the above points, you or your child should apply for scholarships!

There are thousands of scholarships due every single month based on various criteria, so the perfect prize is likely out there for you. But, be prepared to do a little digging to find it. 

The time you’ll invest is worth it. And the benefit of winning just one scholarship is that you or your child become an even better candidate for other prizes. 

Final Word: Do You Need a Minimum GPA to Win a Scholarship? 

What we’ve learned here is that good grades will likely always help an application. 

If you or your child would like to pursue merit-based scholarships with big financial prizes, you’ll likely need a 3.5 to 3.8 GPA (or higher) to be competitive.

On the other hand, there are plenty of scholarships with much lower GPA standards (sometimes around 2.0). That’s because these prizes are not based on academic standards alone. Rather, scholarships like need-based awards offer financial aid to students for reasons beyond GPAs. 

The bottom line? Your or your child’s GPA may be very important or not important at all. Examine your academic profile and extracurricular activities in relation to scholarship opportunities and pursue those that match well. College and university aren’t cheap. You owe it to yourself to reap the benefits of scholarships, no matter where your GPA lies. 

Christopher Grafos, Ph.D., is the founder and chief scholarship mentor at BridgesEDU Scholarships.

He’s a first-generation university graduate whose life was transformed by education and winning scholarships. 

Scholarships help students financially, but they also help advance a student’s career. It’s his life’s work to champion this message and share the secrets to finding and winning scholarships. 

Read more about Christopher’s journey here