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    What GPA do You Need to Get a Full Scholarship?

    By Will Geiger

    Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

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    Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

    Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: May 2nd, 2024
    What GPA do You Need to Get a Full Scholarship?

    One of the best ways that students can pay for college is by earning a full scholarship. A full scholarship (otherwise known as a “full-ride”) means that your total cost-of-attendance or cost of tuition will be covered. 

    This is a great situation for students who will be able to graduate with zero or very little student loan debt. One of the most common questions about full scholarship is: “What GPA do you need to get a full scholarship?”

    Keep on reading to learn more about what GPA you will need for full scholarships, athletics scholarships, as well as the other factors that matter for earning a full scholarship!

    What GPA do you need to get a full scholarship?

    The short answer is that it depends. Every scholarship is different, so while some scholarships provide a minimum GPA to apply, most won’t share the average GPA for scholarship earners. There are a few reasons for this, so let’s take a closer look. 

    Related: High school & college GPA guide

    Scholarships have pools

    First, students who earn scholarships are not chosen in a vacuum. Rather, they are chosen from a pool of candidates. This pool can change from year to year depending on who else is applying.

    Popular scholarships will have bigger applicant pools, so GPA might not be the main factor in choosing a winner. It’s important to diversify your application while keeping your GPA up.

    GPA grading scales vary

    Second, a GPA can be very subjective and depend on your school’s GPA scale and the classes you have taken. For instance, maybe you have a 4.0 GPA, but have not taken very rigorous classes at your school. This GPA will not be viewed the same as the 4.0 GPA student who has loaded up on honors, AP, and advanced classes. 

    Generally, the rigor of the classes that you have taken are also important. This is why many scholarship providers will look at your weighted GPA, which takes into account the rigor of the classes that you’ve taken.

    Take a look at this example from Questbridge, which is a super competitive full scholarship for high achieving students with demonstrated financial need:

    While there is no specific cutoff for grades and classes, there is a general requirement that is stated. Ditto for class rank as 5-10% is a pretty broad range (and obviously some schools don’t rank at all).

    Generally though, the higher your GPA, the better the chance for a full scholarship. However, a 4.0 GPA in the most rigorous classes is not going to guarantee you a full ride scholarship. 

    If you’re unsure what your current weighted or unweighted GPA is or want to know your class rank, pull up your current transcript or ask your high school counselor for help. There are other factors that will come into play that we will talk about next!

    Also see:Top GPA-based scholarships 

    Other factors that matter for full scholarships

    Think about GPA as “getting your foot in the door” for a full scholarship. These full scholarship programs focus on supporting the best and the brightest students. 

    With this in mind, it makes sense that GPA matters. However, to get the other foot in the door, you will need to pay attention to the other factors.

    Target demographics

    These other non-GPA factors will vary from scholarship to scholarship. Some, like Questbridge, will be supporting a specific group of students (in the example of Questbridge, this would be students with significant demonstrated financial need).

    Student involvement

    Other scholarships support students with specific interests, talents, or accomplishments. This means that you want your interests, experiences, and strengths to come through in all parts of your scholarship application (especially in your essays and interviews).

    Related: Why do extracurriculars matter?

    Specific guidelines

    Students should note that full ride scholarships may come with specific requirements and stipulations as far as GPA and living on-campus. When in doubt, you should double-check with the organization awarding the scholarship for more details.

    Don’t miss: Do colleges use weighted or unweighted GPA?

    What GPA do you need for a full athletic scholarship?

    One of the most well-known types of full scholarship is the athletic scholarship. Many Division 1 and Division 2 colleges provide full scholarships that are primarily based on your talents in a particular sport.

    However, the NCAA requires Division 1 athletic scholarship recipients to achieve a specific GPA and test scores. Some colleges and universities also have additional requirements to be admitted. 

    This means that a GPA is also going to help you even if you are also a star athlete who hopes to get recruited. If you want additional information about athletic scholarships, talk to your high school’s counselor or athletic director.

    Also see: Top full ride scholarships

    Bottom line for students

    The bottom line for students is that for the most competitive full ride scholarships, you will want to have a transcript that is mainly A’s with the most competitive classes possible. However, every college and scholarship is different. 

    With this in mind, you should cast a wide net if you are aiming for a full scholarship. To maximize your chances, make sure to apply to a range of safety, reach, and match schools.

    It’s also important to remember that your college finances are typically not full-ride-or-bust. You can combine lots of small scholarships for a few more substantial ones to make college much more financially tenable. 

    Make sure to take advantage of our scholarship lists by state and by background, as well as looking into local scholarships. Local scholarships are often a great opportunity as they will have far fewer applicants, and thus, a higher chance of success. Good luck on your search!

    Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • The GPA you need for a full ride scholarship depends on the scholarship’s requirements! 
    • Even with a high GPA, it’s still a good idea to make your scholarship application as unique as possible to stand out from other submissions
    • The rigor of classes you take is important and can help give you an advantage over other scholarships applicants
    • Always double-check the requirements for a full scholarship as they may include factors other than solely GPA 
    • GPA will still be an important factor for athletic scholarships! 
    • If you don’t win a full-ride scholarship, you can always group several smaller awards together to cover your cost of attendance
    Key Takeaways

    Frequently asked questions about what GPA is needed for a full scholarship

    What does it mean to have a full-ride scholarship?

    A full ride scholarship means that your entire college cost is covered. This includes tuition, room and board, class materials, and transportation. Sometimes, students also receive a monetary award for living expenses as well.

    Is getting a full ride scholarship hard?

    It is very challenging to get a full ride scholarship. However, knowing your strengths can help you focus on the right full-ride scholarships for you! For example, if you are not a great athlete but you are a straight A student, it may be better to look for and focus on academic full ride scholarships rather than athletics.

    What GPA do colleges look at?

    Colleges tend to view your average GPA during your junior year of high school. However, letting your GPA drop during your senior year of high school may render you ineligible for some scholarships you may have otherwise received. Therefore, try your best all four years of high school! 

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