Full Ride Scholarships

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What is a Full Ride Scholarship?

A full-ride scholarship is an award that covers the entire cost of attending college. Cost of attendance (COA) is tuition, room and board, text books, fees, meals and other things. For example, some full ride scholarships also pay for a laptop. Funds for personal expenses and stipend for enrichment are common too.

Where can you get a full ride scholarship? There are different sources that award full ride scholarships. The federal government, colleges, and private sources to list a few. As you might expect, they are very competitive, and many students’ dream.

What is the Difference between a Full Ride and Full Tuition Scholarship?

Many use full ride and full tuition to mean the same thing but this isn't always so.

In a full tuition scholarship that is what the award pays for. Your tuition. In other words, it may not cover your full COA. You'll still likely need to pay room and board, textbooks, travel, laptop etc.

One example of a full tuition scholarship is the Posse Scholars Program. It is open to high school students who show academic potential. They also leaders in their high schools and communities. Posse Scholars receive full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner colleges and universities. Among them Babson College, Cornell University, Villanova and many others.

In contrast, a full ride usually spans the entire cost of college. From the big-ticket items like tuition and housing. To the smaller but still costly items like books, meal plan and school-oriented travel.

One example of a full ride scholarship is the University of Virginia Jefferson Scholars Foundation. This award covers the entire COA for four years at the University. Tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, board, and personal expenses. It also pays for extra enrichment experiences.

Like this one, the University of Oregon offers the Stamps Leadership Scholarship. It pays UO tuition, room and board plus up to $12,000 in enrichment funds for their four years at the university. The extra money may cover study abroad and unpaid internships.

How do you get a full ride scholarship?

The specific details for getting a full-ride scholarship do vary. But many share criteria and look for high achievers. Like merit-based scholarships, they often go to very talented and motivated students.

Here are five things that many full ride scholarships use as metrics for eligibility:

  1. Test Scores - You may need specific scores on the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT tests
  2. Skills and Interests - Many schools want to see that a candidate does more than get great grades. Things like leadership, initiative and volunteer experience may matter
  3. Letters of recommendation - A boss, teacher, mentor may need to write a reference letter to shed light on your personality
  4. Personal essay - You may need to write a stand-out personal essay. One that goes into details about your goals and interests
  5. Grades - Most full ride scholarships look at your grades. What they are and whether you are consistent in maintaining them

What GPA do you need to get a full scholarship?

The GPA you need to get a full ride scholarship varies. Some schools may either want a certain GPA (E.g. 3.5 or higher) or a particular class rank (E.g. top 5% or 10% in your class). You usually need to maintain the specified GPA while in a scholarship program to keep it going.

How Much is a Full Scholarship Worth?

To know want a full scholarship is worth today, let's look at the average cost of attending college. Full scholarships are available at a wide range of colleges and universities. Some cost more than others to attend.

At last check, the average cost of pursuing an undergraduate degree at a public institution is $16,757 per year. It costs $43,065 at private nonprofit institutions. Private for-profit institutions cost $23,776. These prices reflect tuition, fees, room, and board.

A typical bachelor’s degree takes four years. So, a full-ride scholarship at these schools may be worth averages of $67,028 (public), $172,260 (private nonprofit) and $95,104 (private for profit). Of course, if it is a full ride, it may provide funds for other expenses too.

What percentage of students get a full ride scholarship?

Full ride scholarships are rare. About 19.9 million students enrolled in one of the nation’s colleges and universities last year. Recent figures also show that only 0.2 percent of students got $25,000 or more in scholarships per year. So, a full ride scholarship is something very few students may get.

That said, if you are trying to get the most money for college, you may want to start with federal aid. Filling out a FAFSA is the first step. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an official form. Its purpose is to ask for federal, state and school help in paying for college.

If you get a scholarship, the financial aid office can subtract that amount from your COA. Other financial aid you are eligible for may cover any amount left over. This isn't technically a full ride, but an option to think about. One that may make one of your dream schools within reach.

Top Full Ride Scholarships for 2019

Which colleges give full scholarships? Check out the top full ride scholarships for 2019.

Case Western Reserve University Undergraduate Theater Scholarship Program

This scholarship is open to entering freshmen at Case Western Reserve University who plan to major or minor in theater or pursue theater as an extracurricular activity. Recipients who major in theater will receive a full-tuition scholarship. All applicants must audition or interview to be considered.

Total: $44156 Awards:  6
Deadline:  January 15

Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars (FDDS) Program

Established in 2009, the FDDS program offers American University's most prestigious, merit-based scholarship. It includes tuition, housing, meal plan, books, mandatory fees, and public transportation. The award goes to exceptional incoming first-year student leaders committed to multidimensional excellence. Tuition and fees at American University are $48,459 per year.

Total: $48459 Awards:  10
Deadline:  January 15

Augsburg College President's Scholarship

This award is for U.S. high school seniors who are planning to attend Augsburg College in Minnesota and participate in its Honors Program. The student must have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and either an SAT score (reading/math) of 1210 or higher or an ACT score of 27 or higher.

Total: $37600 Awards:  10
Deadline:  January 15

Coolidge Scholarship

This full-ride scholarship is open to U.S. high school juniors who plan to enroll full time in an accredited U.S. college or university as an undergraduate for the first time in the fall term following high school graduation. Students are selected based on the following criteria: academic excellence; keen interest in public policy and an appreciation for the values President Calvin Coolidge championed; humility and leadership.

Total: $33000 Awards:  2
Deadline:  January 16

University of Chicago Stamps Scholarship

The University of Chicago Stamps Scholarship is available for sophomore students at the University of Chicago. Applicants must demonstrate a record of leadership, perseverance, scholarship, service, and innovation.

Total: $20000 Awards:  10
Deadline:  February 01

Grace College National Merit Finalist Scholarship

This award is available to U.S. students who plan to attend Grace College & Theological Seminary as freshmen. The student must be recognized as a National Merit Finalist.

Total: $22450 Awards:  25
Deadline:  March 01

Columbia College of Missouri Phi Theta Kappa Honor Scholarship

This award is for U.S. students who have an associate in arts degree, associate in science degree, or at least 60 transferable hours and are planning to transfer to Columbia College of Missouri. Students must be a member of Phi Theta Kappa and have a grade point average of 3.6 or higher.

Total: $21000 Awards:  1
Deadline:  March 31

Dream BIG Scholarship

This scholarship program is open to U.S. students who are currently employed in any role within the retail or restaurant industries and plan to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree to further their career within the retail or restaurant industries. This scholarship covers full tuition at the University of Phoenix (any campus location or online).

Total: $12669 Awards:  20
Deadline:  March 31