Updated on July 6th, 2020
It’s no secret college tuition is rising. That’s why full ride scholarships are usually considered the holy grail of financial aid.
Full ride scholarships ensure all of your student’s primary educational expenses are covered. In some cases, these awards go even further, providing stipends for handling costs beyond tuition, fees, room, board, and required supplies.
While most students have heard of full ride scholarships, they are actually incredibly rare. Many treat them as if they are magical, mythical creatures; the unicorn of college financial aid.
But, even if they aren’t commonplace, that doesn’t mean landing one is impossible.
The Difference Between Full Ride and Full Tuition Scholarships
Some people use the terms “full ride” and “full tuition” interchangeably, even though they are very different things. With a full ride scholarship, all of your student’s major expenses are covered with a single award. This includes:
- Room and Board
- Supplies and Equipment
At times, full ride scholarships even go further, providing students with additional money they can use any way they would like. This can offset various costs of living, like transportation or their smartphone bill.
Full tuition scholarships are different. While they cover 100 percent of the tuition costs and usually include some fees, but they don’t typically handle the other expenses.
While having tuition and fees paid for removes a significant financial burden on your student, it doesn’t eliminate all of their college expenses.
If you’d like to learn more, check out: Why a Full Ride Scholarship Requires Much More Than Free College Tuition
How to Get a Full Ride Scholarship
The majority of full ride scholarships are institutional awards. Colleges with full ride scholarships usually focus on merit when choosing students who will receive the money, using the funds to entice exceptional teens and young adults to choose 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.
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 have a shot at landing a full ride scholarship.
Since the awards are 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 when compared to the average, the higher their chance of being selected. Along with good grades and test scores, having volunteer experience, extracurricular accomplishments, proven leadership capabilities, or similar credentials is often a necessity.
Each opportunity is different, including their requirements, so your student needs to study what the colleges with full ride scholarships are looking for to determine where to apply.
It is important to note there are full ride scholarships that aren’t institutional awards. However, they are even rarer than those offered by schools.
Colleges with Full Ride Scholarships
Since most full ride scholarships are institutional awards, your student does have to attend a school that has a suitable program to qualify.
Here are some of the top performing colleges with full ride scholarships:
- Boston College – Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
- Boston University – Boston, Massachusetts
- California Institute of Technology – Pasadena, California
- College of William and Mary – Williamsburg, Virginia
- Duke University – Durham, North Carolina
- Emory University – Atlanta, Georgia
- Georgia Institute of Technology – Atlanta, Georgia
- Tulane University – New Orleans, Louisiana
- University of California – Los Angeles, California
- University of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- University of Notre Dame – Notre Dame, Indiana
- University of Rochester – Rochester, New York
- University of Southern California – Los Angeles, California
- University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Virginia
- University of Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin
- Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee
- Wake Forest University – Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- Washington University in St. Louis – St. Louis, Missouri
Other schools offer full ride or full tuition scholarships too, so, your student doesn’t have to stop at this list.
If your student has their heart set on a college that isn’t included, they should check the school’s website to see what forms of financial aid are available. They can also look into alternative funding options that can help them graduate debt-free.
Non-Institutional Full Ride Scholarships
Some full ride scholarships aren’t offered by an educational institution. Instead, other organizations provide the awards, giving students some flexibility regarding where they go to school if they are selected.
If your student has their eyes set on a college that doesn’t offer full ride scholarships, then these opportunities could make attending that school affordable.
Here is a list of full ride 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
- 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.
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. This article 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 because they offer robust financial aid packages to students. If you want to learn more, check out: The Most Affordable Colleges with the Best Financial Aid
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 from a single award doesn’t mean it doesn’t accomplish the same goal. If your student finds scholarships that can apply to more than the necessary costs, like tuition and fees, graduating completely debt-free is possible.
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.