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What’s a full-ride scholarship?

    As you start looking into colleges, you’ll quickly realize the many costs associated with getting a degree. This is why so many students turn to scholarships to help cover the costs.

    What’s often considered the holy grail of scholarships is a full-ride scholarship, which covers not only tuition but room and board and sometimes other expenses. There are also full-tuition scholarships that just cover tuition.

    Both types of scholarships are highly coveted. Given how competitive these scholarships are, it’s important to understand what they are and how to access them. Read on as we delve into the different types of full-ride scholarships.

    What’s a full-ride scholarship?

    Full-ride scholarships usually cover tuition, room and board, and sometimes other expenses related to attending college, including books. It shouldn’t be surprising that these are highly sought after. Wouldn’t it be nice to graduate from college without any student loan debt, as would be the case with some full-ride scholarships? These scholarships are offered by colleges, companies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals, for the most part.

    How hard is it to get a full-ride scholarship?

    Financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz explained in Forbes, “Winning scholarships should be part of your plan for paying for college. For most students, however, it should not be the entire plan,” pointing to the rarity of students receiving full-ride scholarships. Overall, it’s important to note that very few students get full-ride or full-tuition scholarships.

    Are full-tuition scholarships and full-ride scholarships different?

    Full-ride and full-tuition scholarships may sound similar, but they differ in how much aid they provide. Full-ride scholarships cover all (or most) of the costs of attending college. In contrast, full-tuition scholarships only cover tuition, leaving the student responsible for room and board, books, and other expenses.

    Types of full-ride scholarships

    Students can earn full-ride scholarships because of their academic history, athletic skills, leadership, or other merits. Here are just a few of the reasons someone might be awarded a full-ride scholarship.

    Leadership scholarships

    Being a leader in your community and school can look great during the college process. Check with your school or online to find full-ride leadership scholarships that you might be eligible for designed to award young leaders.

    Athletic scholarships

    Students with athletic prowess can earn full-ride scholarships to colleges and universities. Depending on the division of the college sport you’re trying to obtain a full scholarship for, there might be different rules that the college or university must follow when it comes to awarding these scholarships.

    State-sponsored scholarships

    Depending on the state you live in and attend college in, some state programs will cover the cost of college for students. Often, these scholarships may only be used at specific public universities.

    Federal government scholarships

    The federal government offers full-ride scholarships to some students, such as Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) students or students studying at a military academy.

    Academic merit-based scholarships

    Academic merit-based scholarships are usually reserved for students who’ve shown academic excellence. This is usually determined via their grade point average (GPA), SAT scores, ACT scores, or a combination of factors.

    Company-sponsored scholarships

    There are company-sponsored full-ride scholarships that are awarded to students. Sometimes, this is a benefit for the children of employees. In other instances, companies are looking to help students pursue a career in a field related to their business focus. For example, a company manufacturing computers might award scholarships to students who plan to study computer science or engineering. Depending on the scholarship, it may be awarded based on financial need, academic merit, or both.

    Financial need-based scholarships

    Students from lower-income homes might be eligible for full-ride scholarships at some schools or via other institutions like nonprofits. These might be awarded solely on financial need, or they could factor in other merits.

    Final thoughts

    College is a substantial financial commitment, and if you can secure scholarships that help cover your tuition and other expenses, it’ll help you immensely in the long run. Still, it’s important to be realistic — full-ride scholarships are hard to come by. That’s why we recommend applying to multiple scholarships and grants to access the most aid possible.