The Full Ride Scholarship: The most mythical of scholarships that all students secretly (or not-so-secretly) dream of.
Unfortunately, these scholarships are hard to come by, and they are even more difficult to win.
Though many schools offer full ride or full tuition scholarships, there are also a handful of scholarships out there by independent organizations and the government that you can use at almost any school.
Read on to learn about some of the most highly-sought-after scholarships in the country.
What Is a Full Ride Scholarship?
A full ride scholarship is the unicorn of scholarships. It’s estimated that fewer than 20,000 students per year will manage to get one of these scholarships – that’s less than 1% of the students attending college.
By far, the vast majority of these scholarships come from universities and colleges that are trying to attract top students to their campuses. Full ride scholarships from private organizations that you can use at any school are even more rare.
These scholarships cover not just tuition, but also additional expenses, like room and board, the cost of travel, and textbooks.
Who Should Apply for These Scholarships?
High school students who think they are the cream of the crop should apply for the scholarships listed below. You’ll see that some of them have specific requirements, such as race or location, but others are open to anyone.
You should be at the top of your class (most of these are looking for students in the top ten percent) and have high test scores.
You should also have specific, strong examples of your leaderships skills, your community involvement, and excellent character.
Unsurprisingly, most of these will require that you do some writing for your applications, so you should also be a strong writer. And you should expect to need top-notch letters of recommendation from multiple sources, as well.
Top Advice for Winning a Full Ride Scholarship
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Even if you have the attributes I mentioned above, there are going to be a lot of other students out there who have done just as well. There are a lot more great students than there are full ride scholarships, and so you're not going to get one unless you're really lucky.
You'll have a much better chance of winning scholarship money if you don’t try to get it all in one go. Think about your strengths, what you want to pursue in college, and your favorite activities, and go out and find several smaller scholarships to apply to. Though the payoff won’t be in one lump sum, you’ll have much less competition and a far higher chance of success.
13 Fantastic Full Ride Scholarships
This list includes several full ride scholarships that are offered by private companies and the government that you can take to several different schools.
Since these are so rare, I have also included scholarships that are not full rides, but have such a high enough award amount that they could easily cover tuition and fees at many universities.
This may be one of the weirdest scholarships you’ll come across!
This scholarship covers full tuition and housing for four years for students who have successfully and regularly been golf caddies for at least the past two years.
High school juniors and seniors can be nominated for this award if they have at least a B average. Students will also be required to take the ACT. Students should also be able to demonstrate financial need, and should be able to show outstanding character, leadership, and integrity.
Evans Scholars usually choose to attend one of the 14 schools that has a scholarship house, where all of the scholars reside together over their four years in college. These colleges include: University of Colorado, University of Illinois, Indiana University, Marquette, Miami University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Michigan State University, University of Missouri, Northern Illinois University, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, and the University of Wisconsin.
The application includes an academic evaluation by your school, a caddie evaluation from your golf club’s manager, information about your extracurricular activities, family and financial information, a photo, and a 2-page essay about your background, future goals, and why you would be a good pick for the scholarship.
Once a student receives the award, they must keep a strong academic record, be actively involved in campus activities and in the scholarship house, and show respect for their fellow scholars.
Applications are due on October 30th, though priority is given to applications that are submitted before September 30th.
The Smart Start Scholarship provides full tuition, a paid internship at JP Morgan Chase, and a stipend of $750 for books and other expenses for ten college students every year. The awards are renewable for all four years of undergrad education.
This scholarship will be awarded to high school seniors across New York City who are planning to attend Barnard College, Baruch College, Brooklyn College, City College, York University, Pace University, Polytechnic Institute of New York, St John’s University, or St. Francis College. You must be planning on majoring in any subject EXCEPT life sciences or art.
For the scholarship, you will have to include information about your financial circumstances, give a resume of your community service involvement and extracurricular activities, honors, and internship history. You will also have to write several essays, including one about your greatest personal achievement, one about a team project you have done, and one about why you have chosen your major. The application also includes two recommendations.
Winners will be at the top of their high school class and will have shown leadership, maturity, and initiative.
The application deadline is different every year but typically falls in January or early February.
This scholarship awards up to $40,000 per year over four years to cover the cost of tuition, living expenses, books, and fees.
This program is aimed at high-achieving high school students who have financial need who are looking to attend top universities. Students who win the award can pursue any major or field of study.
The application includes a review of the student’s high school grades, standardized test scores, participation in advanced courses, several short and long essays, letters of recommendation, and demonstrated financial need. Successful applicants will have a GPA of 3.5 or above, with no Cs or below in core classes, and will need to score in the top 15% nationally on the SAT or ACT.
The application deadline varies, but will be in November.
College tuition scholarships each year for currently enrolled students pursuring undergraduate studies in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and related STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines witha GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Note that current high school students who have not yet started college are not eligible.
Diverse applicants are encouraged to apply. The scholarship will cover a part or all of the selected students’ tuition for one year.
Winners will be selected based on the quality of the application, demonstrated interested in the software business, leadership ability, and financial need. The application is normally open from late fall through January.
This scholarship provides full tuition, fees, books, a laptop, printer and software, and room and board. Winners will also receive employment with the USDA during the summer and after graduation and employee benefits.
Applicants must be high school graduates who are about to start their freshman year of college. Students should have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, have scored at least a 1000 on the SAT or 21 on the ACT, plan to attend one of the eighteen 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Institutions, and plan to study food, agriculture, or natural resource sciences.
Successful applicants will have a track record of leadership and community service.
The application deadline is January 15th.
This national contest allows the country’s most promising young scientists and mathematicians to conduct long-term original research projects and compete to win money.
Projects can be in a variety of fields, including biochemistry, bioengineering, genomics, chemistry, computer science, planetary science, engineering, environmental science, engineering, and mathematics.
Forty students who are shortlisted as finalists present their work in Washington D.C. during a week-long event.
All finalists recieve prizes, with a first place prize of $250,000, a second-place prize of $175,000, and a third place prize of $150,000, and so on. Even finalists in eleventh place onward recieve $25,000! Regional semifinalists recieve $2,000.
Applications open in June; Deadlines are in late fall.
Dr. Pepper is giving away $100,000 of tuition money (as well as smaller prizes ranging between $1,000 and $20,000). The money can be used towards educational expenses or to pay off student loans.
Students between the ages of 18 and 24 should go to their web site and create a posting about their “One of a Kind” goal – meaning something they would like to do to change the world. If a student’s goal gets more than 50 likes, the student will be invited to create a short video to further explain their goal.
At the end of the football season, students’ videos will be judged, and four students will win the grand prize of $100,000.
Note: To enter this competition, you need to have a Facebook account with a non-suspended profile.
The Siemens Competition honors the best and brightest high school students for their accomplishments in math and science. Students complete long-term research projects and can win prizes ranging between $1,000 and $100,000 in scholarship money. The money can be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, room and board, and participation in science or mathematic research.
The competition aims to expand students’ inquiry-based research skills, challenge them to solve some of the world’s toughest problems, open doors for students’ education futures, and allow networking with other students with similar interests and with university professors and scientists.
Projects can cover a wide range of topics, from astrophysics, to biology, chemical engineering, computer science, genetics, geology, mathematics, nutritional science, physics, and more.
Students may submit projects individually or in groups up to three people. If a group wins a prize, the money will be shared between the members of the group.
Projects need to be submitted in September.
Flinn Scholarships are for 20 of Arizona’s highest achieving high school students who plan to go on to study at an Arizona public university, including Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, or the University of Arizona. Students will get the chance to work with top researchers and faculty members, meet with business and community leaders, and connect with alumni.
To apply, students have to give information about their families, current studies, extracurricular activities, employment, answer two short essay questions and write three long essays, get two teacher recommendations, and send grades and SAT or ACT scores.
The scholarship covers the full cost of tuition, fees, room and board, a summer seminar in China, travel abroad, an internship program, mentorship, and social activities just for scholarship winners. The scholarship covers all four years of college.
The application deadline is in late October every year.
The Army ROTC offers many scholarships to students who are graduating high school and those already in college. They have a variety of scholarships available, including some that cover the full cost of tuition, room and board, books and fees, and a monthly stipend of up to 5,000 a year. These scholarships are available for all four years of college.
To be eligible, you must be a US citizen between the ages of 17 and 26, have a high school GPA of at least 2.5, have a high school diploma or equivalent, have a minimum of 920 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT, meet physical standards, and agree to an eight-year service commitment with the Army (this may be active duty, or the Reserve or National Guard).
The Air Force ROTC offers many scholarships to students who are graduating high school and those already in college. They have a variety of scholarships available, including some that cover the full cost of tuition, fees, a textbook allowance, and up to $500 a month for a monthly stipend . These scholarships are available for all four years of college.
To be eligible, you must plan to study an approved major, have a high school GPA of at least 3.0, have a high school diploma or equivalent, have a minimum of 1180 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT, meet physical standards, and agree to a four-year service commitment with the Air Force.
The Navy ROTC offers many scholarships to students who are graduating high school and those already in college. They have a variety of scholarships available, including some that cover the full cost of tuition and fees, $750 per year for books, uniforms, three summer cruises, and between $250 and $400 per month for living expenses. These scholarships are available for all four years of college.
To be eligible, you must be a US citizen between 17 and 23 who meets the Navy's physical standards and who will study an approved major. You must also have a minimum of 520 on the SAT Math and 530 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing or a 21 on the ACT math and 22 on ACT English. In exchange for the scholarship, you'll agree to a five-year service commitment with the Navy.
This scholarship encourages STEM students to work in national defense. In order to be eligible, you must be a US, Australian, New Zealand, or UK citizen; be 18 years or older by the coming August, have at least a 3.0 GPA, be majoring in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) field, and be able to get security clearance. Undergraduate students must be already enrolled—high school students are not eligible to apply.
Students who win this scholarship will receive full tuition and education related fees, summer research internships, health insurance, a stipend of $26,000-39,000 per year, mentoring, and an employment placement after graduation.
Did you know that sometimes getting a scholarship is as easy as applying to your school of choice? Check out this list of schools that automatically offer scholarships based on grades and test scores.
Want to know about some of the odder scholarships that are out there? Here are some weird scholarships you can win!
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Mary Ann holds a BA in Classics and Russian from the University of Notre Dame, and an MA from University College London. She has years of tutoring experience and is also passionate about travel and learning languages.