How To Get A Full-Ride Scholarship – Forbes Advisor

How To Get A Full-Ride Scholarship – Forbes Advisor

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Full-ride scholarships cover your entire cost of attendance, including tuition, fees and housing. With a full scholarship, you could earn your degree without taking on any student loan debt.

Before pursuing a full scholarship, determine what type of scholarship you’re eligible for and review some tips to help you acquire one.

What Is a Full-Ride Scholarship?

A full-ride scholarship is a financial award that covers your full cost of attendance at college or university, including tuition, housing, meals, textbooks and other expenses. It goes beyond a full-tuition scholarship, which solely pays for tuition costs. Some full-ride scholarships also offer stipends for living costs, mentorship programs or internship opportunities.

How Much Can I Receive?

Your scholarship award will vary depending on where you enroll in school. The cost of attendance per year at a public four-year college is $26,027 for in-state students, according to the most recent data from the Education Data Initiative. At a private four-year college, the average cost is $54,840.

If you receive a full-ride scholarship, your award could fit within this $20,000 to $55,000 range, eliminating the need for any student loans.

Types of Full-Ride Scholarships

Full-ride scholarships are offered by various organizations, including schools, foundations, private companies and government agencies. Some states also offer full-ride scholarships to residents who attend public schools.

Eligibility requirements vary, but here are some common types of full-ride scholarships you might encounter:

  • Merit-based. You can earn a merit-based full-ride scholarship if you’ve demonstrated exceptional academic achievement by earning a high GPA, taking rigorous coursework or getting near-perfect scores on the SAT or ACT.
  • Leadership and prestige. Many organizations look for demonstrated leadership when awarding scholarships, such as leading your school council or another organization or committing significant time to community service.
  • Athletic. Division I and Division II sports offer some full-ride scholarships to student-athletes who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom and in their respective sports. Full-ride scholarships are primarily awarded for football, basketball, gymnastics, tennis or volleyball.
  • Other characteristics. You might also find a full-ride scholarship if you meet other qualifying criteria, such as having a specific heritage or being a first-generation college student.

7 Tips for Getting a Full-Ride Scholarship

Full-ride scholarships are competitive and rare, but pursuing one could be well worth the effort. If you’re looking to pursue a full-ride, consider the following tips to improve your candidacy.

1. Earn Excellent Grades

For most programs, there’s no minimum GPA to earn a full-ride scholarship. However, having a good or above-average GPA can make you a better candidate than most colleges or programs. Some colleges offer full-ride scholarships to students at the top of their class to entice them to enroll.

Before you search for a full-ride scholarship, focus on acquiring or maintaining good grades and an above-average GPA.

2. Take Challenging Classes

Colleges and scholarship committees review your transcript to see if you’re challenging yourself. Opting for advanced placement (AP) and honors classes could make you a stronger candidate for a full-ride scholarship.

3. Study for the SAT or ACT

Studying for the SAT or ACT with prep books, courses or a tutor and taking the test multiple times can boost your scores and increase your chances of winning a scholarship.

The average SAT score in 2023 was 1028, according to College Board, and the average ACT score was 19.5. An ACT score of 28 and an SAT score of at least 1300 are recommended if you’re seeking a full-ride, so studying and preparing for the test is crucial.

4. Take On Leadership Positions

Scholarship organizations often prefer students who demonstrate leadership in their schools or communities. Things like running for student council, starting a club, founding a nonprofit or creating an app can help you stand out as a leader and make you a better candidate.

5. Apply to Multiple Schools

Applying to several schools can help your chances of winning a scholarship, as some institutions offer more generous awards than others. Even if a school isn’t your top choice, you might choose to enroll if it means a full-ride scholarship and no student debt.

6. Start Your Scholarship Search Early

Applying for scholarships takes time, so start your search early. If you’re still in high school, searching for scholarships during your junior year may be ideal, though you could start earlier. You can search for full-ride scholarships on search engines such as:

You can also speak with your high school counselor about scholarship opportunities or contact the financial aid office of each school on your list. Also, check with local foundations, businesses, community organizations, your parents’ employers and your state’s education department to locate opportunities.

7. Submit Thoughtful Application Materials

Once you’ve found full-ride scholarship opportunities, spend time putting together an outstanding application. Most applications ask for essays, recommendation letters, a high school transcript and your resume. Submitting strong application materials can separate you from other applicants.

Are Full-Ride Scholarships Rare?

Winning a full-ride scholarship is rare for most students, so it’s best not to focus exclusively on acquiring one. Instead, apply to multiple, smaller scholarship awards while you search for a full-ride scholarship. At the same time, fill out the FAFSA in case you need student loans, work-study opportunities or grants.

Working a part-time job before or during college could also help you earn income to cover your school expenses. If you need more money, consider federal or private student loans.

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