February 24, 2024
university of michigan regents merit scholarship

The Regents Merit Scholarship is the University of Michigan’s most prestigious merit-based scholarship program. Established in 1988, it recognizes and rewards exceptional academic achievement for first-year undergraduate students enrolling at U-M. Each year, approximately 200 incoming freshmen are awarded the scholarship, which provides a substantial amount of financial assistance over four years of undergraduate study.

The purpose of the Regents Merit Scholarship is to attract and support top academic talent from across the country and around the world. As U-M’s highest academic accolade for new students, the scholarship aims to recognize those who have demonstrated outstanding intellectual and creative ability in high school. The scholarship serves as an important tool in U-M’s efforts to enroll academically gifted students who will contribute to the university’s vibrant scholarly community.

Since its inception over 30 years ago, the Regents Merit Scholarship has supported thousands of high-achieving students. The scholarship has played a key role in making a U-M education accessible for talented low- and middle-income students. Many recipients have gone on to make significant contributions in their fields after graduating. Overall, the program has helped uphold U-M’s reputation for academic excellence by enabling the university to matriculate exceptionally gifted undergraduate classes year after year.

Eligibility Requirements

The University of Michigan offers the prestigious Regents Merit Scholarship to recognize and reward outstanding students. To be eligible for this highly selective scholarship, applicants must demonstrate exceptional academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, leadership, and financial need.

Academic Achievement

Applicants for the Regents Merit Scholarship must have an outstanding academic record. Eligible students typically rank in the top 5% of their high school class and have a minimum 3.7 unweighted GPA. Competitive applicants will have taken numerous honors, AP, or IB courses and earned excellent grades in challenging coursework. Standardized test scores are also evaluated, with most recipients scoring 1500 or higher on the SAT or 33 or above on the ACT.

Extracurricular Activities

In addition to superb grades, the scholarship committee looks for students who have been actively involved in extracurricular activities, clubs, sports, community service, and leadership roles. Competitive applicants will have demonstrated a passion through sustained participation in areas like student government, performing arts, varsity athletics, volunteer work, or other endeavors outside the classroom. Depth of commitment and achievement is valued over checking off activities.

Financial Need

Since the Regents Merit Scholarship aims to make an elite education accessible, applicants must also demonstrate financial need. Those eligible will come from families with annual incomes below $65,000. The scholarship is intended to make it possible for deserving low-income students to attend the University of Michigan.

Application Process

The application process for the Regents Merit Scholarship is competitive but straightforward. Here are the key details prospective applicants need to know:


  • The application opens September 1 and closes December 1 for students planning to enroll the following fall semester. This is a firm deadline – no late applications are accepted.
  • Students must apply and be admitted to the University of Michigan by the early action deadline of November 1 to be eligible for the scholarship.

Required Materials

  • The online application which includes essays, activities, test scores, and more.
  • A recommendation letter from a teacher or counselor.
  • High school transcripts and SAT/ACT test scores sent directly from the testing agency.

Selection Process

  • Applications are reviewed by a scholarship committee made up of faculty and admissions officers.
  • Finalists are selected in January and invited to an in-person interview weekend on campus in late January/early February.
  • Scholarship recipients are notified by April 1.
  • Selection is based holistically on academic excellence, extracurricular involvement, leadership potential, intellectual curiosity, and other qualities that embody the spirit of the scholarship.

The application process takes time but is very straightforward. Meeting all deadlines and making sure application materials are submitted properly is key. With strong grades, test scores, essays, and recommendations, prospective students will make a compelling case.

Scholarship Details

The Regents Merit Scholarship is a four-year renewable scholarship that covers the full cost of in-state tuition at the University of Michigan. The scholarship amount varies based on the cost of tuition each year, but currently covers over $17,000 annually.

The scholarship can be used to cover tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies. It is renewable for up to four years as long as the student maintains a 3.4 GPA and completes 30 credits per year.

To renew the scholarship each year, students must submit a renewal form and meet the GPA and credit requirements. The scholarship is available for four consecutive years of undergraduate education, whether a student graduates in four years or takes longer. It cannot be deferred or renewed after four years.

The Regents Merit Scholarship removes the financial barrier of attending the University of Michigan for high-achieving students. With tuition, room and board fully covered, recipients can focus on their academics and experiences during college.

Notable Recipients

The University of Michigan’s Regents Merit Scholarship has supported many talented students over the years who went on to achieve great success in their chosen fields. Here are a few of their stories:

Michelle Robinson

Michelle Robinson arrived at the University of Michigan in 1981 as an undergraduate, having been awarded the Regents Merit Scholarship. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Sociology in 1985. She went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. She met Barack Obama while working at a Chicago law firm, and they married in 1992. As First Lady Michelle Obama from 2009-2017, she focused her efforts on issues like nutrition, physical activity, and educational success for youth.

Jeff Bezos

In 1982, Jeff Bezos came to the University of Michigan on a Regents Merit Scholarship to study computer science and electrical engineering. He graduated summa cum laude in 1986 and went on to work in the finance industry. In 1994, Bezos founded Amazon.com, which became one of the most successful dot-com companies. He is currently the CEO of Amazon and one of the wealthiest people in the world.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

After being awarded a Regents Merit Scholarship in the late 1980s, Sanjay Gupta attended the University of Michigan Medical School. He earned his M.D. in 1993 and went on to become a neurosurgeon. He is also known for his medical reporting on CNN and CBS, as well as authoring several books. His work as a global health advocate has significantly impacted public health policy.

The Impact of the Regents Merit Scholarship

The Regents Merit Scholarship has had an immense impact on many recipients over the years. Here are some of the key ways this prestigious scholarship has benefited students:

  • Opens Doors to Top Opportunities: The scholarship provides access and connections that recipients may not otherwise have. Many recipients go on to attend top graduate/law/medical schools, receive academic honors, obtain competitive internships, and get recruited by top companies.
  • Reduces Financial Burdens: The scholarship covers the full cost of in-state tuition for four years, allowing recipients to graduate debt-free. This financial freedom enables focusing on studies and experiences versus worrying about costs.
  • Boosts Academic Performance: Recipients tend to excel academically, encouraged by the scholarship’s GPA requirements. Many aim for top grades to maintain eligibility. The financial support also allows more time on studies versus working.
  • Encourages Community Service: Giving back is a cornerstone of the scholarship. Many recipients pursue meaningful service projects and leadership roles to uphold the scholarship’s ideals.
  • Creates a Network of Peers: Recipients become part of an impressive peer network, leading to collaborations, mentoring, and lifelong connections. They inspire each other to maximize their potential.
  • Opens Doors for Graduate Study: The scholarship facilitates attending top graduate/professional programs. Many recipients pursue advanced degrees, with some even returning as faculty.

Overall, the Regents Merit Scholarship enables outstanding students to make the most of their potential. For many recipients, it is life-changing, creating possibilities that extend beyond college.


The Regents Merit Scholarship is financially supported by the University of Michigan through donations from alumni and other benefactors. While the exact amount of funding varies from year to year, the scholarship program distributes millions of dollars annually to help exceptional students attend UMich tuition-free.

In 2021, the Regents Merit Scholarship program awarded over $17 million in scholarships to incoming freshman. This funding amount has steadily increased over the past decade as more alumni and donors contribute to the scholarship program. Currently, the scholarship’s endowment sits at over $250 million, ensuring the program can continue offering generous financial support to talented students for years to come.

The high level of funding for the Regents Merit Scholarship exemplifies the University of Michigan’s commitment to attracting top students regardless of financial need. Thanks to ongoing donations and support, UMich can continue removing the financial barriers that might otherwise prevent academically gifted students from attending the university.


The Regents Merit Scholarship program is administered by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Michigan. The selection committee consists of members of the admissions staff, as well as faculty representatives from various academic departments at U-M.

The selection committee reviews all applications and selects scholarship recipients based on criteria such as academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, leadership experience, and personal qualities like intellectual curiosity and creativity. While academic metrics like GPA and test scores are important, the committee also looks for students who will make significant contributions to the U-M community.

Day-to-day administration of the scholarship program involves monitoring recipients to ensure they meet renewal criteria, disbursing scholarship funds, organizing scholar programming and events, and updating policies as needed. The admissions office works closely with the U-M Office of Financial Aid to coordinate Regents Merit Scholarships with other aid students receive.

Ultimately, oversight and responsibility for the program lies with the Regents of the University of Michigan. As the governing board of the university, the Board of Regents approves the budget for the scholarship program and relies on the admissions office to execute the program fairly and effectively.

Future Outlook

The University of Michigan Regents Merit Scholarship has an exciting future ahead. The scholarship administrators have plans to expand and improve the program in several key ways:

  • Increase Scholarship Funding: Efforts are underway to grow the scholarship’s endowment in order to offer more substantial awards and reach more qualified students. Fundraising campaigns aim to engage alumni and donors to build the endowment over time.
  • Add Recipient Support Services: Plans are in place to provide extra advising, mentoring, networking opportunities, and other support services specifically for scholarship recipients. This will further enhance the program and recipient experience.
  • Streamline Application Process: Work is being done to simplify and improve the application and selection process, making it easier for qualified students to apply and be evaluated. This includes moving portions of the application online.
  • Broaden Eligibility Criteria: Discussions are happening around modestly expanding the eligibility criteria in order to extend the opportunity to more outstanding students. Any changes would maintain the scholarship’s prestige and high standards.
  • Enhance Recipient Community: Efforts are in progress to build a stronger scholarship recipient community for networking, collaborating, mentoring, and supporting one another during school and beyond graduation.
  • Increase Awareness: Outreach aims to spread awareness about the scholarship opportunity to more prospective student leaders in Michigan and beyond.

By enacting these plans, the Regents Merit Scholarship program will continue advancing its mission of recognizing and supporting top students at the University of Michigan for years to come. The scholarship has a bright future as administrators work to extend its reach and positive impact.

How to Apply

Applying for the University of Michigan Regents Merit Scholarship is a straightforward process that takes just a few steps:

  1. Be admitted to the University of Michigan as a first-year student. The scholarship is only open to incoming freshmen.
  2. Fill out the General Application for Undergraduate Admissions Scholarships, available through Wolverine Access. This single application is used for many UMich scholarships.
  3. Make sure to complete the application by the November 1 early deadline. This increases your chances of being selected.
  4. Provide information on extracurricular activities, leadership experience, volunteer work, and honors/awards, as requested in the application. The scholarship committee reviews applicants holistically.
  5. Submit any supplemental materials required, such as recommendations or essays. Follow the instructions carefully.
  6. Be patient and await notification. Winners are typically notified in February or March. Only around 300 students receive the prestigious Regents Merit Scholarship each year.
  7. Accept the scholarship offer by the given deadline after being selected. Verify you meet enrollment and all other requirements.
  8. Look forward to the award being automatically renewed for up to four years as long as academic performance criteria are met.

Following these steps ensures your application for the competitive Regents Merit Scholarship is complete. Reach out to the UMich financial aid office with any questions.

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