Navigating the path to a full-ride scholarship can seem like an intimidating task, but with careful planning, dedication, and a strategic approach, you can significantly increase your chances of achieving this financial goal.
Whether you’re a high school student aspiring to make college dreams a reality or a current undergraduate seeking to alleviate financial burdens, this guide on how to get a full ride scholarship will equip you with the knowledge and strategies necessary to embark on a successful scholarship journey.
It’s every student’s dream: getting all the money you need to cover school expenses for a year—in one scholarship! It’s rare, but this could be you if you’re lucky enough to get a full-ride scholarship.
What’s a full ride scholarship?
A full-ride scholarship is a financial award that covers all of the expenses associated with attending college. This includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, and other miscellaneous costs. Full-ride scholarships are highly competitive and are typically awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, and leadership potential.
What types of full-ride scholarships are available?
These scholarships are most often awarded by a school or a private organization. Universities award these scholarships to sweeten the deal when they’re trying to attract a certain type of student to their campus.
Organizations or companies may offer them for a specific field of study, like STEM, or even for a certain affiliation.
- Colleges with free-ride scholarships: A number of colleges have these programs—The Jefferson Scholarship covers students who go to the University of Virginia; the Torch Scholars Program helps first-generation students at Northeastern University. Some schools, like Alabama State University and the University of Notre Dame also offer scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores.
- Government: The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program has awards for students pursuing degrees in agriculture and related disciplines at historically Black land-grant colleges and universities. Plus, some states offer scholarships to residents.
- Foundations/companies: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has scholarships for students with financial need in any field of study. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers The Gates Scholarship for use at any U.S. accredited college. The Strive Foundation awards Stamps Scholarships that are good at 36 colleges around the country. And Coca-Cola has a Scholars Program.
What GPA do you need to get a full scholarship?
The specific GPA requirements for a full scholarship will vary depending on the scholarship provider. However, a strong GPA is generally required to be competitive for most full-ride scholarships. A good GPA is typically considered to be between 3.5 and 3.8, but some scholarships may require a GPA of 4.0 or higher.
In addition to a strong GPA, other factors that are often considered when awarding full scholarships include:
- Standardized test scores: Some scholarships may require a minimum SAT or ACT score.
- Extracurricular activities: A well-rounded applicant with a diverse range of extracurricular activities is more likely to be considered for a full scholarship.
- Leadership experience: Leadership skills are highly valued by scholarship committees.
- Community service: A commitment to community service demonstrates that an applicant is a well-rounded individual who is concerned about making a difference in the world.
- Essays and letters of recommendation: The essays and letters of recommendation that an applicant submits can provide valuable insights into their character, motivations, and goals.
Even if you don’t have a perfect GPA, there are still many full scholarships that you may be eligible for. The best way to increase your chances of getting a full scholarship is to cast a wide net and apply to as many scholarships as possible. You should also make sure to tailor your applications to each scholarship by highlighting the specific accomplishments and experiences that make you a good fit for the scholarship.
7 Tips for Getting a Full-ride Scholarship
Whether you aim for a full-ride or full-tuition scholarship, you could save yourself from taking out tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Here are some steps on how to get a full ride scholarship you can take to improve your chances of getting one.
1. Start preparing early
All of the tips below can help you get a scholarship that covers most or all of your college expenses, but for the most part, they’re not things you can do at the last minute.
Working to obtain a full-tuition or full-ride scholarship can take years of dedication, so it’s important to start during your freshman year of high school instead of waiting until the last year or two. If you’re a parent, work with your child and help them understand the steps they’ll need to take to set themselves up for college success.
To achieve the best possible scores on college entrance exams such as the SAT or ACT, for instance, consider taking test prep courses throughout high school as well as practice exams over the years to hone your test-taking skills.
Yet another step that can help set you apart from other scholarship applicants is participating in internships throughout high school in your chosen field of study. This can help demonstrate your ability to succeed in real-world situations.
You can also help your scholarship application stand out by participating in community service throughout your entire four years of high school. Pick a cause or issue that you’re truly passionate about or that supports your career goals to make this effort meaningful and to help set you apart from other applicants. Scholarship committees like to see applicants who are good citizens and individuals that give back to their communities.
2. Perform well academically
Another point on how to get a full ride scholarship is by getting good grades. Getting good grades and test scores in high school is key to qualifying for the best scholarships colleges and universities offer.
Unfortunately, schools typically don’t set minimums for GPAs and test scores to earn a full-ride or full-tuition scholarship, so it’s in your best interest to do as best as you can to be competitive against other incoming students.
If you’re struggling academically, seek extra help from teachers, hire a tutor or sign-up for extracurricular classes and programs focused on the subject matter you find challenging.
3. Take challenging classes
While your grades and test scores are important, colleges typically look beyond those indicators to see the types of classes you took. If your senior year was full of easy classes, you might get passed up for a full-tuition or full-ride scholarship in favor of a student who took Advanced Placement (AP), honors, college prep and international baccalaureate (IB) courses.
In addition to boosting your chances for a scholarship, these courses can also help prepare you for the rigors of college and possibly even give you college credit.
4. Excel in extracurricular activities
If you’re hoping to attend a prestigious university, chances are that good grades and test scores alone won’t make you stand out in the crowd of applications. One way to set yourself apart is to engage in leadership positions, such as student class officer or leader of a student club. . Leadership is one of the most important qualities to exhibit if you’re pursuing a full-ride scholarship.
Also, many colleges offer full-ride and full-tuition scholarships to students who excel in certain sports and other activities. While this option can be difficult to pursue unless you’re already on that track, it could help you determine whether or not to stay on the team or continue mastering a skill.
5. Apply for admission at multiple schools
The more colleges you apply to, the better your chances of getting admitted, and the same goes for scholarship opportunities. While you may set your sights on a specific school, expand your options by applying for admission at several schools.
Even if a certain school is second or third on your list, if it’s willing to give you a full-tuition or full-ride scholarship and your top choice isn’t, that could tip the scale in favor of the school that won’t require you to go into debt.
6. Develop relationships with teachers and counselors
Some scholarship applications require you to provide letters of recommendation from one or more of your teachers, mentors or guidance counselor. While most teachers are willing to write letters for students who have performed well academically, the recommendation quality can improve considerably if you’ve established a good rapport with the writer.
You can build these relationships by regularly participating in class discussions, showing respect, offering to be a teaching assistant and visiting your counselor to get advice.
7. Submit a stellar application
You may think that your credentials speak for themselves, but that’s not always the case. Take your time on the application, especially with the essays or personal statements. Consider asking a teacher, guidance counselor or parent to proofread your essay and provide feedback on how to improve it.
And don’t hold back, either. Some high school students may have difficulty talking about themselves, but it’s important to highlight why you should receive the full scholarship over someone else; holding back about your accomplishments or qualifications could cause you to lose your opportunity.
Frequently Asked Questions on How to Get a Full Ride Scholarship
Paying for college without student loans is challenging, to say the least. The good news is that many colleges and universities offer full-tuition and full-ride scholarships to eligible students. Full-tuition scholarships cover tuition and fees, while full-ride scholarships often include tuition and fees, textbooks, room and board and other expenses.
Here are some FAQS to help you get a scholarship that will cover most, if not all, of your educational expenses.
How hard is it to get a full-ride scholarship?
It is highly competitive to get a full-ride scholarship. According to a 2020 study by the College Board, only about 1% of high school graduates receive full-ride scholarships. This means that for every 100 students who apply for a full-ride scholarship, only one student will receive it.
Does a full-ride scholarship cover all 4 years?
Whether a full-ride scholarship covers all four years of college depends on the specific scholarship. Some scholarships are explicitly designed to cover all four years of tuition and other expenses, while others may only cover a portion of the first two or three years. There are also scholarships that are renewable, meaning that the student must reapply and meet certain requirements to keep the scholarship for all four years.
To determine whether a particular scholarship covers all four years of college, you should carefully read the scholarship’s terms and conditions. You should also contact the scholarship provider if you have any questions.
A full-tuition or full-ride college scholarship can save you from taking out thousands of dollars in student loans that you’ll spend years repaying. But the application process for these types of scholarships is extremely competitive, so you’ll need to develop a game plan as early as your freshman year of high school to have the time to develop a truly compelling applicant profile.
Your efforts should cover both academic excellence as well as leadership and community service.
Even if you don’t land a full-ride or full-tuition scholarship, there are other options to help foot the bill for college, including grants, private scholarships and taking on a part-time or summer job.