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    What is a Full-Ride Scholarship?

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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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 is a Full-Ride Scholarship?

    When it comes to college admissions and financial aid, there’s not much more you can ask for than a full-ride scholarship. You’ve probably seen this term many times, but you may not be entirely sure what it means. In this article, we’ll give you a firm definition of full-ride scholarships and go on to guide you through some ways to find and apply for them. We’ll also clear up the differences between full-ride and full-tuition. Let’s get into it!

    Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    What is a full-ride scholarship?

    A full-ride scholarship covers all of the expenses associated with your college education. That includes tuition, room and board, books, fees, and more. Oftentimes, they come with a college stipend to pay for the expenses that can’t be easily cataloged. These can include paying for internet, transportation to and from school, and similar expenses.

    So, essentially, with full-ride scholarships, you are completely taken care of financially. You will not have to worry about making ends meet. This is the best financial situation you can be in in college. You probably won’t need a job on campus, unless your family needs you to send money home to them, or if you need to pay for your own housing over the summers and breaks.

    Also see: How to pay for college if you don’t have money

    Ways to earn a full-ride scholarship

    You can earn a full-ride scholarship through a variety of avenues. Here are some of the most common ways students earn them:

    Oftentimes, students can earn a full-ride scholarship through a combination of these factors. If a school finds you to have shown impressive academic merit and athletics, and they see that you have financial need, they are more likely to offer you a full-ride to ensure that you attend their school.

    Full-ride vs full-tuition scholarships

    Full-ride and full-tuition scholarships may sound similar, but there is a big difference between them. While full-ride scholarships cover all the costs of college, full-tuition scholarships do not. They only cover tuition, leaving the student responsible for room and board, books, and other expenses. Over the course of your four years those things can seriously add up.

    This is not to say that full-tuition scholarships are not impressive. They will save you a huge amount of money, and you can use them in conjunction with other scholarships to help pay for other expenses. However, the difference is very significant; full-ride scholarships are highly preferable to full-tuition.

    Institutional vs private full-ride scholarships

    Full-ride scholarships may be offered by both education institutions and private organizations or companies. While the source of the scholarship may differ, the result will be the same; they will pay for all of your educational expenses. So, it’s a good idea to pursue both institutional and private full-ride scholarships. It’s true that the scholarships are rare and can be hard to earn. But the chances will always be better if you take advantage of every opportunity out there. You miss all the shots you don’t take!

    Other ways to go to college for free

    Full-ride scholarships are an amazing opportunity to improve college accessibility and remove any financial stressors for your education. However, they are extremely rare, but don’t fret – there are other ways to go to college for free. And, while it’s not completely free, there are tuition-free schools out there. We have a list of schools in the US that do not charge tuition, as well as schools abroad that charge little to no tuition. Good luck in your search, and we hope that you secure a full ride!

    Also see: Top full-ride scholarships for high school students

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Full-ride scholarships cover all the expenses associated with your college education, which includes things like tuition, room and board, books, and even stipends at times
    • You can earn a full-ride scholarship through financial need, academic merit, athletics, government programs, or a combination of the above
    • Full-tuition scholarships do not cover expenses beyond tuition, but full-ride ones do
    • Both institutions and private organizations and nonprofits offer full-ride scholarships
    • If you are looking to go to college for free, you can also investigate attending tuition-free colleges in the US or abroad

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    Frequently asked questions about full ride scholarships

    How rare is a full ride scholarship?

    Full ride scholarships are quite rare. This does not mean that you should give up all together on receiving one, but that you should temper your expectations.

    What GPA can get you a full ride scholarship?

    Unfortunately, having a certain GPA won’t usually be enough to get you a full ride scholarship. A high GPA means that you did very well in your courses, but what those courses varies by student. This means that a student may take all easy courses in order to earn a high GPA and look more desirable. Another student may challenge themselves with more difficult courses and earn a lower GPA, but they worked much harder. This is why, while your GPA is important, the courses you take in high school are also just as important. 

    What SAT score will get you a full ride scholarship?

    Similar to having a high GPA, having a high SAT score alone won’t be enough to get you a full ride scholarship. However, some colleges offer automatic scholarships when you have a high enough SAT (or ACT) score along with a high enough GPA.

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