Merit Scholarship

Undergraduate Merit Scholarships

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) awards merit scholarships to students who demonstrate exceptional levels of thoughtfulness, skill, conceptual capabilities, and academic groundedness. Scholarships are financial awards that do not need to be repaid.

SAIC annually awards a substantial number of undergraduate, merit-based scholarships to new students. All students are automatically considered for a Merit Scholarship, which range from $2,000 to $25,000 annually, upon admission to SAIC and submitting their portfolios to us electronically. Recipients are selected through a holistic review of each student's academic history—including test scores and transcripts, portfolio, artist's statement, and letter of recommendation.

Advice for Developing a Merit Scholarship Portfolio

  • Be bold, experiment, take risks, and be inventive.
  • Show us what makes you different, present your work in a clear and cohesive manner, and go beyond technique.
  • Build a portfolio of thematic work—multiple pieces that share similar ideas, techniques, or media.
  • Mesh great ideas—political, environmental, and even social within your work.
  • Think about your portfolio as a gallery show you are curating.
  • Highlight work that is consistently expressive, curious, and thought-provoking.

View our portfolio preparation guide for more information.

Types of Merit Scholarships

  • Presidential
  • Distinguished
  • Honors
  • Recognition
  • Incentive
  • Enrichment

Competitive Excellence Award

This $2,000 renewable scholarship is awarded to incoming first-year students for their participation in one of the following art exhibitions or competitions:

  • Chicago Public Schools All-City Senior Portfolio Exhibition
  • Art Institute Re:Imagine24 Youth Competition
  • Illinois High Schools Regional Arts Exhibition
  • Ohio Governor’s Youth Arts Exhibition
  • California State Summer School for the Arts
  • National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
  • National YoungArts Foundation

No additional application is required; admissions is notified of winners through these organizations.

Scholarships and Deferred Admissions

If you are awarded a scholarship, and you defer admission to a later term, you forfeit the scholarship and will need to resubmit an updated portfolio, statement of intent, and recent transcripts to be considered for future merit-based scholarships.

Please contact the Office of Admissions at 800.232.7242 or by email at for more information about merit-based scholarships and the scholarship review process for new students.

Learn about other merit-based scholarship opportunities for undergraduate students.