Updated on February 26th, 2024
It’s no secret that college tuition is rising. That’s why full-ride scholarships are usually considered the holy grail of financial aid.
Full-ride scholarships cover all of your student’s primary educational expenses. These awards sometimes go even further, providing stipends for handling costs beyond tuition, fees, room, board, and required supplies.
If you want to learn how to find opportunities, including and beyond free ride scholarships, join our free webinar! You’ll learn more about the search process, applications, and more, increasing the odds your student can graduate debt-free. Head to https://thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar to see when the next training session is available.
While most students have heard of full-ride scholarships, they are actually incredibly rare. Many treat them as magical, mythical creatures: the unicorn of college financial aid.
But, even if they aren’t commonplace, that doesn’t mean landing one is impossible.
- 1 What Is a Full-Ride Scholarship?
- 2 The Difference Between Full-Ride and Full-Tuition Scholarships
- 3 What Types of Colleges Offer Full-Ride Scholarships?
- 4 How to Get a Full-Ride Scholarship
- 5 Colleges with Full Ride Scholarships
- 6 Non-Institutional Full-Ride Scholarships
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions About Full-Ride Scholarships
- 7.1 Are There GPA or SAT/ACT Score Requirements for Full-Ride Scholarships?
- 7.2 How Competitive Are Full-Ride Scholarships?
- 7.3 Do Full-Ride Scholarships Require a Scholarship Interview?
- 7.4 Do You Need Letters of Recommendation for a Full-Ride Scholarship?
- 7.5 Can Out-of-State Students Get Full-Ride Scholarships?
- 7.6 Are International Students Eligible for Full-Ride Scholarships?
- 8 Alternatives to Full-Ride Scholarships
What Is a Full-Ride Scholarship?
Full-ride scholarships are awards that can cover tuition and a wide array of costs associated with earning a college degree. Tuition, room and board, fees, and supplies and equipment are classically all part of a full-ride scholarship.
At times, full-ride scholarships even go further, providing students with additional money they can use any way they want. This can offset various living and personal expenses, like transportation or smartphone bills.
Generally, full-ride scholarships are provided based on academic merit alone. For example, this can apply to students with a clear history of outstanding academic achievement and excellence or stellar athletic capabilities. Some may also factor in community service records, leadership skills, and more. However, financial need typically isn’t part of the equation, so students from households with any income level are potentially eligible.
When it comes to the awarding institution, most full-ride scholarships are provided directly by the college or university. Essentially, they’re institutional awards, so students have to be enrolled at that specific school to qualify.
However, there are full-ride scholarships offered by other organizations. Private companies and nonprofits may also provide this type of award to students all across the nation, those in a limited area, or students attending a particular school.
Additionally, some states have programs that provide awards that functionally cover the entire cost of an education. Those are usually only available to in-state students attending a college in that state, so out-of-state students typically won’t qualify.
The Difference Between Full-Ride and Full-Tuition Scholarships
Some people use “full-ride” and “full tuition” interchangeably, even though they are very different. With a full-ride scholarship, your student’s scholarship covers tuition along with the other major expenses outlined above, all in a single award.
Full tuition scholarships are different. While they cover 100 percent of the tuition costs and usually include some fees, they don’t typically handle the other expenses, such as room and board.
While paying tuition and fees removes a significant financial burden on your student, it doesn’t eliminate all of their expenses. As a result, they may need other types of financial aid or a job to handle the rest of the costs they’ll encounter.
If you’d like to learn more, check out: Why a Full-ride Scholarship Requires Much More Than Free College Tuition
What Types of Colleges Offer Full-Ride Scholarships?
Many different types of colleges offer full-ride scholarships. However, they’re less common at schools, usually considered elite universities. Primarily, that’s because full-ride scholarships are designed to attract top-performing students. Elite universities typically have no shortage of highly capable applicants, so they don’t need to provide full-ride scholarships as an incentive to ensure the best and brightest apply.
But that doesn’t mean colleges with excellent programs and reputations don’t have full-ride scholarships. Instead, any school that needs to compete to ensure they can secure top-performing students may offer them, including many recognizable names.
How to Get a Full-Ride Scholarship
The majority of full-ride scholarships are institutional awards. Colleges with full-ride scholarships usually focus on academic achievement and merit when choosing students who will receive the money. They use the funds to entice exceptional teens and young adults to select their school over the competition.
If your student is looking for full-ride scholarships, they may need to look at schools that wouldn’t typically be on their radar. Highly competitive colleges with strong name recognition (like Harvard and Yale) don’t need to convince top performers to apply, so they usually won’t offer full rides. By branching out, students can find more colleges that provide these awards.
There are plenty of colleges that do have full-ride opportunities, but competition for the awards can be fierce. Your student has to stand out from the crowd to get a shot at landing a full-ride scholarship.
Since the awards are more often merit-based, your student may need to find a school:
- That has full-ride scholarship options
- Where your student performs well above the average enrollee
The higher your student scores compared to the average, the higher their chance of being selected. Along with good grades and standardized test scores, volunteer experience, extracurricular accomplishments, proven leadership capabilities or similar credentials are often necessary. Primarily, that’s because colleges favor well-rounded students with strong showings in several areas.
Similarly, choosing challenging courses in high school makes a difference. For example, a high GPA is more impressive when the classes the student took are known for being academically challenging, allowing students to separate themselves from students who selected courses that aren’t as rigorous.
Each opportunity is different, including when it comes to requirements and expectations. Since that’s the case, your student needs to explore what the colleges with full-ride scholarships are looking for to determine where to apply and what it may take to stand out.
It is important to note that there are full-ride scholarships that aren’t institutional awards, though they are rarer than those offered by schools. While most will have similar expectations regarding student caliber, they may also have their own unique way of choosing applicants for awards. As a result, students need to consider what that organization wants to see, allowing them to figure out how to separate themselves from the pack effectively.
Colleges with Full Ride Scholarships
The vast majority of full-ride scholarships are institutional awards. With institutional awards, students need to secure acceptance and be eligible to enroll at the specific school to qualify for the scholarship.
As a result, high school students focusing on options that let them get a full-ride need to factor that into the equation when making a college decision. By applying to schools known for offering full-ride scholarships, their odds of securing one increase.
Here are some of the top-performing colleges with full-ride scholarships:
- Agnes Scott College – Decatur, Georgia
- American University – Washington, DC
- Barry University – Miami Shores, Florida
- Boston College – Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
- Boston University – Boston, Massachusetts
- California Institute of Technology – Pasadena, California
- College of William and Mary – Williamsburg, Virginia
- Davidson College – Davidson, North Carolina
- Duke University – Durham, North Carolina
- Emory University – Atlanta, Georgia
- Fordham University – New York, New York
- Furman University – Greenville, South Carolina
- Georgia Institute of Technology – Atlanta, Georgia
- George Washington University – Washington, DC
- Hendrix College – Conway, Arkansas
- Illinois Institute of Technology – Chicago, Illinois
- Indiana University – Bloomington, Indiana
- Loyola Marymount University – Los Angeles, California
- Miami University – Oxford, Ohio
- Michigan State University – East Lansing, Michigan
- North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University – Greensboro, North Carolina
- North Carolina State University – Raleigh, North Carolina
- Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio
- Providence College – Providence, Rhode Island
- Rollins College – Winter Park, Florida
- Salem College – Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- Texas Christian University – Fort Worth, Texas
- Tulane University – New Orleans, Louisiana
- University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
- University of California – Los Angeles, California
- University of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
- University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia
- University of Houston – Houston, Texas
- University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland
- University of Miami – Coral Gables, Florida
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan
- University of Mississippi – Oxford, Mississippi
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- University of North Carolina, Charlotte – Charlotte, North Carolina
- University of Notre Dame – Notre Dame, Indiana
- University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- University of Rochester – Rochester, New York
- University of Southern California – Los Angeles, California
- University of Texas, Dallas – Dallas, Texas
- University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Virginia
- University of Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin
- Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee
- Villanova University – Villanova, Pennsylvania
- Wake Forest University – Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- Washington University in St. Louis – St. Louis, Missouri
Non-Institutional Full-Ride Scholarships
Some full-ride scholarships aren’t offered by an educational institution. Instead, other organizations provide the awards, giving students flexibility regarding where they go to school if selected.
If your student has their eyes set on a college that doesn’t offer full-ride scholarships, these opportunities could make attending that school affordable.
Here is a list of full scholarships for college that aren’t necessarily tied to a specific school:
- Army ROTC Scholarships
- Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship
- Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program
- Navy ROTC Scholarships
- SMART Scholarship Program
- Stamps Scholarship
- USDA 1890 National Scholars Program
Now, the full-ride scholarships listed above do have their own requirements. Some limit students to schools from a specific list, some only provide awards for certain majors, and a few require a military commitment. However, they are all worth exploring if your student is looking for full scholarships for college.
Frequently Asked Questions About Full-Ride Scholarships
Are There GPA or SAT/ACT Score Requirements for Full-Ride Scholarships?
Full-ride scholarships are generally merit-based awards for academic excellence. As a result, most full-ride scholarships are based on having a stellar academic performance. As a result, many schools do have GPA or SAT/ACT score requirements for students who qualify.
However, there are some exceptions. For example, some students may qualify for a full-ride scholarship based on their athletic performances. In those cases, GPAs and test scores are potentially less relevant, suggesting the student is strong enough academically to maintain passing grades while attending college.
The same is true for full-ride scholarships based on community service or leadership. With those, any minimum GPA or SAT/ACT score requirements may be less stringent than awards focusing on academic performance.
There may also be other factors that impact how much a student’s GPA or SAT/ACT scores factor into the equation. For example, some full-ride scholarships may have another primary focus, such as promoting diversity. With those, demographics may play a role in assessing academic performance.
However, it’s critical to understand that academic capability is always a factor, at least to a degree. Colleges want to offer full-ride scholarships for an undergraduate degree to students who can handle the rigor of their programs. As a result, they usually expect reasonable academic performance from all full-ride scholarship recipients.
How Competitive Are Full-Ride Scholarships?
Full-ride scholarships are classically some of the most competitive in the overall landscape. They’re single awards that functionally handle every major expense associated with getting a degree. As a result, all potentially eligible college students would love to land one.
Plus, full-ride scholarships are usually given out on a highly limited basis. Most schools limit the number of awards significantly. Some schools may only select a single student or a handful to receive a full ride, even if many other students have similar qualifications.
Do Full-Ride Scholarships Require a Scholarship Interview?
In many cases, full-ride scholarships involve an interview with at least one scholarship committee member. These awards are highly competitive, and the awarding institution wants to ensure they go to the right students. As a result, most want to meet with the students briefly to get to know them better, which usually means conducting interviews.
Fortunately, preparing for scholarship interviews isn’t overly complicated. Students should spend time practicing their answers to common scholarship interview questions, too. By familiarizing themselves with what they’ll likely be asked and how they want to answer, they’ll deliver their responses more easily. In turn, they’re more likely to impress.
Knowing what to wear to a scholarship interview is also critical. In many ways, the experience isn’t unlike interviewing for a job, as making an excellent impression is essential for success. Selecting the right attire does make a difference, so it’s worth learning how to choose the best outfit for the occasion.
Do You Need Letters of Recommendation for a Full-Ride Scholarship?
Whether a full-ride scholarship application requires letters of recommendation varies. Some schools consider every student that applies for the award without a separate scholarship application. In those cases, they may not be necessary unless letters of recommendation are required as part of the admissions process.
However, other full-ride scholarships (and some college applications) do require letters of recommendation. As a result, students should know how to get the best letters of recommendation before applying, ensuring they can gather them quickly if needed when applying for the award.
Can Out-of-State Students Get Full-Ride Scholarships?
Whether an out-of-state student qualifies for any particular full-ride scholarship depends on the requirements outlined by the awarding institution. Many institutional full-ride scholarships are open to any enrolled student, but some may limit eligibility to in-state students only.
Full-ride scholarships offered by state government agencies typically focus on in-state students, so out-of-state students usually aren’t eligible for the awards. Those provided by other organizations or nonprofits may or may not limit applicants to local residents.
Since whether an out-of-state student is eligible for a full-ride varies, students must carefully review any outlined qualifications. That way, if they need to choose whether or not to apply, they can focus on awards they can potentially receive.
Are International Students Eligible for Full-Ride Scholarships?
As with out-of-state students, whether an international student can qualify for a full-ride scholarship depends on the requirements outlined by the issuing organization. Some may welcome international students, while others are only open to United States citizens or legal residents. As a result, reviewing the requirements in advance is essential.
Alternatives to Full-Ride Scholarships
It’s important to note that full-ride scholarships aren’t the only way to cover college expenses. Some colleges don’t charge tuition for certain students, and it has nothing to do with scholarships. Here is an article that discusses these opportunities: Free College Tuition Is Actually Possible at These Schools
There are also quite a few surprisingly affordable colleges, either because they keep costs low for everyone or offer students robust financial aid packages. If you want to learn more, check out: The Most Affordable Colleges with the Best Financial Aid
Completing their FAFSA is also a crucial part of the equation for students. Many need-based awards – including Pell Grants and a wide array of other grants, scholarships, and financial aid options outside of student loans – use information from the FAFSA to determine a student’s eligibility. This could give them access to free money for college or might allow them to explore work-study or other opportunities that can help them cover expenses.
Finally, your student can always land several scholarship awards to cover the costs of college, effectively creating their own free ride. Just because the money doesn’t come in a single award doesn’t mean it doesn’t accomplish the same goal. Graduating completely debt-free is possible if your student finds scholarships that can apply to more than the basic costs, like tuition and fees.
If you want to find out how to find opportunities, including and beyond full-ride scholarships, join our free webinar! You’ll learn more about the search process, applications, and more, increasing the odds that your student can graduate debt-free. Head to http://thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar to see when the next training session is available.