Obtaining a full tuition scholarship for higher education is basically the dream of any prospective college student. With tuition costs soaring at unprecedented rates – right alongside student debt – the idea of not having to worry about the cost of your college tuition is glorious.
However, the reality is that full tuition scholarships can be difficult to come by, and even more difficult to secure. These types of scholarships tend to be highly competitive.
Most full tuition scholarships are awarded based on merit, focusing on strong academic achievement. But there may be other factors that play into a student's candidacy for a full-ride scholarship, as well, such as extracurriculars, demonstrated involvement in the community, and athletic performance.
Even with such high competition for these scholarships, they are absolutely worth applying for. You'll never know what you might win if you don't try!
With that, let's cover some of the details on what full tuition scholarships are, what they require, and how you can find them.
We hear the terms "full-ride scholarship" and "full-tuition scholarship" often – but what do they really mean? Are they actually different from each other? What exactly do these types of scholarships entail?
It's common to mix up the two terms, but they actually do mean slightly different things. A full-tuition scholarship covers your tuition costs, and sometimes books and supplies, as well! A full-tuition award will typically not cover meals, room and board, or other living or personal expenses. Keep in mind that, in some cases, the award will only cover one year of your college experience.
A full-ride scholarship, on the other hand, covers all your tuition, books and supplies, room and board, meals, fees, and sometimes even includes stipends for personal expenses or travel. Typically, this coverage will last the entirety of your college experience, too (all four years, or however long it may take to complete your program).
Since these two phrases are often used interchangeably, it's important to carefully read the details of any scholarship opportunity you apply for, so you can be sure you know what it requires and what it will cover.
Requirements for full-ride scholarships or full-tuition scholarships can vary widely. Be sure to pay special attention to each application and the eligibility criteria therein. As mentioned before, full-ride scholarships are known for having a special focus on students with superior academic merit. However, many also seek to honor students for other factors. Let's talk about the various requirements you may find for full tuition scholarships.
The minimum required GPA for a full-tuition scholarship depends on each unique scholarship opportunity and their specifications. Some may not have any GPA requirement at all, and instead only consider candidates with a specific ranking within their graduating class (the top 5% of your class, for example).
Many full-ride or full-tuition scholarships pay special attention to high school seniors' course loads, as well. They want to see that you are bright, but that you are also well-rounded, willing to challenge yourself, and have fantastic potential, looking forward. Because of this, they may favor a student with mostly A's and a rigorous class schedule over a student with mostly A's in easier classes.
When reviewing your application, grades from your high school classes aren't all that are accounted for, though. They really just get your foot in the door. Remember that other factors can play an important role in potentially qualifying you for a full-tuition scholarship, as well.
In addition to academic achievement, full-tuition opportunities may be designed to honor students for various reasons, depending on the scholarship.
For example, some full-tuition scholarships focus on supporting students with financial need. Others seek to aid students with special talents, interests, or unique achievements. There are also awards designed to recognize students of a particular demographic, heritage, or underrepresented group. And, of course, there are full-ride or full-tuition scholarships for exceptional athletic ability, as well.
In your application, be sure to let your extracurricular talents, achievements, and interests shine as well as your grades, so the judges can get a full picture of who you are as a well-rounded student with incredible potential. Essays and interviews associated with the scholarship are particularly great places to highlight your strengths.
The scholarships committees that sort through applicants have several different means of getting to know candidates so they can select a winner. Some of the information they may ask for as part of your application include:
These submissions will help the judges to review your merit and determine your eligibility for the award. Some opportunities may even have several stages of evaluation, sometimes including interviews with the finalists to help them make a final decision.
With all of this material and all the steps that go into applying for a full-ride or full-tuition scholarship, it can start to feel overwhelming. It's important that you take your time to polish each application and make it the best that you can – so you can show the committee that you are a deserving candidate for the award.
Even after you've landed a full-ride or full-tuition scholarship, keep in mind that you've also got to keep it. Many of these award opportunities also stipulate that you maintain a high GPA during your college career in order to keep your funding. They may also have other requirements, such as living on-campus or maintaining full-time enrollment (rather than taking a break or dropping to a part-time course load for a semester).
If you're unsure of all the conditions and requirements associated with a particular scholarship award, be sure to check with the organization for more details.
Full-ride and full-tuition scholarships are so competitive – so, you may be asking the question: How do I actually land one? The answer is not quite so simple, as there are no guarantees. But here are some tips to increase your chances.
If you want to increase your chances of landing a full tuition scholarship, you'll need to start preparing early on – as a high school student. High school seniors, especially, should pay close attention to keeping grades and test scores up, and choosing courses carefully. The judges on these scholarship committees want to see high school seniors who challenge themselves, take a balanced approach to education, capitalize on their strengths, and are involved in school and the community.
If you want to make your high GPA stand out, build a rigorous class schedule. And don't forget about extracurriculars! You don't have to be involved in everything, but just show that you have passions outside of school. It can also help you stand out in your application if you demonstrate some participation in community leadership or service.
As you're searching and applying for scholarships, keep in mind that, because full-tuition scholarships are so competitive, they'll often interview their top candidates during some stage in the process to help them select the winner. So it's a good idea to be prepared for an interview, should that time come.
While it is important to prepare for a full-tuition scholarship early on, if you're already in college, it may not be too late for you just yet. You just have to find the right opportunity. Transfer students can be eligible for scholarships at the school you're transferring to. Of course, this depends on each school, scholarship, and their unique guidelines and criteria.
In some ways, when it comes to scholarship applications, it really is just a numbers game. The more applications you put out there, the better chance you'll have of winning something. Not only will this increase your chances by sheer numbers, it will also give you more time to practice. And the more you practice, the stronger your applications will become. As long as you're eligible and have even a small chance of winning, just keep applying – it's always worth a shot!
Don't limit yourself in the scholarships you apply for. They don't all have to be full-ride or full-tuition scholarships! It's best to apply for all different kinds of opportunities. Make sure you still consider and apply to opportunities with smaller awards. And try for scholarships with unique eligibility requirements, too. It's always a good idea to vary your application portfolio, as this can also help up your chances of being selected as a winner of something.
There are all kinds of unique and helpful scholarship opportunities out there. For example, full-ride athletic scholarships are generally reserved to some Division I or II schools, and are only offered for 6 types of sports: football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, tennis, and gymnastics. However, private organizations offer full-rides for other types of sports (even bowling!).
Students pursuing higher education can find difficulty and attaining financial aid. It helps to look in a variety of places to find opportunities. Start by checking with colleges and universities you're interested in attending. You can also search for programs in your state that cover college tuition for students. There are many private full-tuition opportunities, as well, from corporations, foundations, and other private lenders. Since these are not tied to any specific school or field of study, they might offer more flexibility for you.
Our list of private full-ride scholarships can give you a great place to start your search:
The scholarships found below are those awarding the highest amounts and will cover the average costs of tuition at a 4-year institution (with the average yearly cost of tuition ranging from $4,443 - $16,604). Understanding those costs, the scholarships below will, on average, cover tuition costs for the average 4-year degree:
Full-tuition scholarships cover your tuition costs, and possibly textbooks, too (depending on the scholarship). They also sometimes fund only one year of your college education.
It depends on the award opportunity, the scholarship provider, the school you're attending, and your unique tuition costs. Each full tuition scholarship opportunity will have specific details about all the expenses they'll cover, and for what portion of a student's college experience.
Some full-tuition or full-ride scholarships may have limits on the types of expenses they will fund, as well the maximum dollar amount they will provide. Others will cover virtually everything you need until you graduate.
Be sure to read the description of each scholarship carefully to ensure you understand all that it entails.
Start applying as soon as possible! High school seniors should consider scholarships early in their last year of high school.