Tips for Securing a Full-Ride Scholarship

Written by: The College Finance Team
Updated: 11/18/21

Going to college is something a lot of people aspire toward after high school graduation. It’s a big investment, but one that can give you more opportunities to land the profession you want. 

Whether you choose an in or out-of-state university or community college, the cost is likely a factor. Fortunately, several options can help students offset the cost of attendance. Based on your financial need, you can qualify for federal grants or student loans. While all high school seniors and undergraduate students should make a point to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application and find out their eligibility for financial aid, there are many full-ride scholarship opportunities that can cover the cost of going to college. 

A full-ride scholarship covers the full cost of attendance and can help college students and their families avoid accruing college debt. It can also help make college a reality for many families who otherwise may not be able to afford it. These types of awards can prove challenging but are well worth looking into.

This article will cover ways you can improve your odds of getting a full-ride scholarship award.  

What Is a Full-Ride Scholarship?

If you’re on your way to college, you’ve likely heard about full-ride scholarships and wonder how you can lock into this deal. Public and private organizations and institutions award full-ride scholarships. These typically cover four years of college tuition and may also include expenses like books, room and board, and living expenses. 

Full-ride scholarship recipients can include incoming freshman and two-year junior college transfer students pursuing an undergraduate degree. Some are need-based, while others rely on a high GPA and excellent SAT or ACT test scores, athletic ability, leadership, or organizational involvement in programs, such as ROTC. 

By no means is this list exhaustive. There are several full-ride scholarship opportunities for students. Universities, organizations, foundations, and corporations award students scholarships based on their fields of study, such as agriculture, computer science, social sciences, or liberal arts. Although highly competitive, there are many full-ride scholarships that students can apply for to help offset the cost of enrollment. 

What Is a Full-Tuition Scholarship?

Full-tuition scholarships are highly coveted and sought out by just about everyone entering college. Unlike a full ride, full-tuition scholarship awards can cover tuition and sometimes offer a stipend for college-related expenses, such as living expenses and books. 

Full-tuition scholarships are generally awarded based on certain criteria, such as class rank, ACT or SAT scores, community service, extracurricular activities, and financial need. These types of scholarship programs may cover the first year or all four years of attendance and require full-time attendance. 

When applying, include all information requested to ensure your application is complete. Applications can include an essay, letters of recommendation, and academic records or transcripts. Additionally, be sure to stay on top of deadlines, so you don’t miss out on an opportunity. 

Although not a full ride, full-tuition scholarships can still be advantageous and help make college more affordable for students and their families. 

Tips to Get a Full-Ride Scholarship

Free college is a dream for any high school senior or college student. It can provide tremendous relief for those who may rely on student loans to pay for their post-secondary education. 

Although highly competitive, there are some ways you can help improve your odds of a full-ride scholarship award. With planning and persistence, you just might join the few and earn a full-ride scholarship. 

Research Based on Your Background

When researching, look outside traditional merit scholarships based on academic achievement or athletic ability and consider your heritage. Heritage scholarships can apply to international students and minority groups. 

Heritage scholarships may require proof of financial need and have strict academic guidelines. However, their purpose is to provide a more inclusive and diverse college education community that can better serve the needs of everyone in society. 

Be Persistent

Applying for scholarships takes a lot of time. There are checklists to follow, essays to write and proof (and proof again), and deadlines to meet. There is nothing easy about the application process, and rejection letters can quickly take the wind from your sails. 

Behind every application and response, persistence is key. Gaining a full-ride scholarship is a rare event and can prove difficult even in the best of academic circumstances. Be persistent and keep sending out your applications. Search your college scholarship board and stay on top of the various types of scholarship openings that may apply to your situation or field of study.

Look to Private Organizations for Athletics

NCAA Division I and II schools provide many scholarships for student-athletes. Full-ride scholarships through the NCAA cover all costs of attendance, including tuition and fees, room and board, and books. 

Student-athletes who want to play NCAA sports must meet the requirements listed for Division I and Division II schools. There are high school academic requirements, and students need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center during their sophomore year in high school. 

Athletes can also look into other types of athletic scholarships from organizations like Foot Locker. Each academic year, Foot Locker awards 20 student-athletes $20,000 each! Not a full ride by any means, but it can provide a significant contribution to the cost of tuition. 

Get Creative

First impressions are important, and you want your application to stand out from the crowd. With fierce competition, let them know what makes you different and how you can apply your talents and skills in a way that creates change. 

It’s highly likely that your competitors aced the SAT, achieved a high GPA, and excelled in enrichment activities. Of course, you should include all this information, but there’s much more about you than academics, and universities want to know about this. 

Whether it’s a video or essay submission, be reflective and thoughtful in your response. Think about how you can grab the donors’ attention right from the start. A personal, authentic approach can help you stand out from the crowd. 

Do Your Best and Hone Your Skills

Academic excellence and leadership are great qualifiers for a full-ride scholarship. In addition to this, they grant many full rides to students who have shown great strength against adversity, demonstrate resilience and grit, and consistently show up during both good and challenging times. 

While hard skills, such as computer coding or video production, show what you can do, soft skills can enhance your overall application. Soft skills show how you operate as a person and include personal traits, such as accountability, integrity, and teamwork. Do your best and sharpen your soft skills. 

Keep your skills in mind and sharpen any weak areas. This ability to show up and bring solutions shows you have the background to help you stay competitive for a full-ride scholarship.  

Learn More About Scholarships and Tuition Costs at

A full-ride scholarship is a hope for every college-bound student, and while the odds may seem stacked against you, there are multiple ways you can go about applying for scholarships. Remember, practice persistence and offer your true self when applying for a full-ride or full-tuition scholarship. 

When planning for college admission, check out federal, state, and university grant money available for students. Depending on qualifying factors, it may surprise you how much free money is available through federal grant programs, such as Pell Grants

Financing your college is an important decision. can help students, parents, and graduates make the right decision about college costs to get the most out of their investment.