Full-Ride Scholarships

Full-ride scholarships are, without a doubt, every college student’s dream to receive. What is a full-ride scholarship? It’s a scholarship that generally covers most of, if not all, of your college expenses. Full-ride scholarships fall into a few different categories: ones that are merit-based, ones that are need-based (these two are both generally offered by the colleges/universities themselves), and ones from private organizations. 

The fact that full-ride scholarships often cover not only tuition but also textbooks, room and board, and other expenses, is amazing. However, since these scholarships are so significant (and honestly life-changing), it also means that they are extremely difficult to win. They may be difficult, but it’s important to remember that they’re by no means impossible! 

In this article, I will highlight some of the best full-ride scholarships (along with some that are hopefully less known - less well-known = higher chance of winning, right?) and even leave you with some tips on how you can put your best foot forward when applying for these types of scholarships.

Private Organization Full-Ride Scholarships

Coolidge Scholarship 

Application deadline: January 20

Details: The Coolidge Scholarship is a full-ride scholarship that covers a student’s tuition, room, board, and expenses for four years of undergraduate study. The Coolidge may be used by recipients at any American university. Anyone of any background, pursuing any academic discipline of study, may apply to this non-partisan, need-blind, program.

Coolidge scholars must possess a distinguished academic record. Competitive candidates will have pursued and succeeded in the most rigorous course of study available to them. Like the president, Coolidge Scholars will engage in the pressing issues of their time. The Coolidge Scholarship seeks young people who display a sense of service and care for the well-being of others, as Coolidge himself placed a high value on Americans helping their own communities and fellow citizens.

Eligibility: Must be a current high school junior 

Science Ambassador Scholarship 

Application Deadline: December 14 

Details: The Science Ambassador Scholarship is a full-ride scholarship for undergraduate women studying science, technology, engineering, or math, funded by Cards Against Humanity. To apply, applicants must submit a three-minute video explaining a scientific topic they’re passionate about.

Eligibility: The Science Ambassador Scholarship is open to female undergraduate students and high school seniors. All fields within science, technology, engineering, and math are eligible. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply. You do need to attend college (or plan to attend college) in the United States or a United States Territory.

Flinn Scholars Program 

Details: Flinn Scholars are articulate, fun-loving, and hard-working. They are generous, creative, curious—and imperfect. They have excelled in their high-school classrooms while maintaining purposeful involvement in extracurricular activities, whether in the arts or athletics, in laboratory research or community service. They have assumed leadership roles at school and beyond. 

Eligibility: To be awarded the Flinn Scholarship, an applicant must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) by time of application;
  • Be an Arizona resident for two full years immediately preceding entry to the university.
  • Attain at least a 3.5 grade-point average (unweighted);
  • Rank in the top 5 percent of their graduating class (if the school reports class rank);
  • Participate and demonstrate leadership in a variety of extracurricular activities

Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway Contest

Details: The special application requirement is a VIDEO. What should go into your video? Anything that helps explain your goal, why it’s important to you, and how you plan to achieve it. Get creative, show us what you’ve got, and have fun. Be you.

Videos will be judged on…

  • How you want to make an impact with your degree/education
  • How our tuition prize will impact your life, your community, or the world
  • Inclusion of Dr. Pepper (not mandatory, but recommended)
  • Overall presentation quality

Eligibility: Must be between 18 and 24 years old. 

Air Force ROTC (High School Type 1) 

Details: Pays full (100 percent) college tuition and authorized fees at any public or private institution with an Air Force ROTC detachment. Type 1 selectees will also receive a monthly living expense stipend and an annual book stipend. Applicants must pass a Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB) medical exam and complete a Physical Fitness Assessment.

Eligibility: SAT composite of 1240 or ACT composite of 26 and GPA of 3.0 or higher are also required for high school student applicants. Must be a current high school student. For college applicants, the Air Force ROTC Commander will determine the minimum GPA and test scores, if applicable, for scholarship eligibility. 

DoD SMART Scholarship

Deadline: December 1 

Details: SMART is a scholarship-for-service program that provides full tuition and other financial benefits to individuals in exchange for a period of post-graduation civilian service in a DoD facility. Another benefit of the program comes in the form of internships that allow for broadly relevant hands-on research and work experiences in DoD facilities, thereby enhancing their educational experience. The SMART Scholarship Program represents a critical DoD investment in attracting the best and brightest of minds whose technical expertise will help execute the Department’s mission.

Eligibility: Individuals applying for this scholarship must be:

  • A citizen of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom
  • Applicants MUST be pursuing a technical degree in one of the 21 STEM disciplines.
  • Able to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility
  • Willing to accept post-graduate employment with the DoD
  • A student in good standing with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale at the time of award
  • Pursuing a technical undergraduate or graduate degree in one of the disciplines listed on the “About SMART” page

Cooke College Scholarship Program

Deadline: October 30 

Details: The Cooke College Scholarship Program is an undergraduate scholarship program available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend and graduate from the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities.

Each award is intended to cover a significant share of the student’s educational experience – including tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees. Awards vary by individual, based on the cost of tuition as well as other grants or scholarships they may receive. This highly competitive scholarship includes:

  • Up to $40,000 per year to attend a four-year accredited undergraduate school.
  • Ability to pursue any area of study.
  • Personal advising about selecting a college and navigating financial aid.
  • Multifaceted advising about how to transition to college and maximize the student experience.

Eligibility: To be eligible to apply to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program you must:

  • Earn a cumulative unweighted GPA of 3.5 or above
  • Demonstrate unmet financial need. We will consider applicants with family income up to $95,000. Last year’s cohort of new college scholarship recipients had a median family income of approximately $35,000.

Thomas G Labrecque Smart Start Program

Details: If you’re an ambitious, analytical New York City high school student who is ready to get a head start on a career in financial services, then Smart Start is the program for you. You’ll gain real-world experience working in our industry-leading businesses, while attending university on a full four-year scholarship.

Eligibility: New York City high school student interested in business / financial services

5 Strong Scholarship Program

Deadline: December 31 

Details: The 5 Strong Scholarship Foundation, Inc. Partners with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to provide full-tuition scholarships and ongoing support to promising student leaders from “Matriculation to Graduation.”

Eligibility: To be considered, you must reside in the METROPOLITAN ATLANTA, Georgia AREA (surrounding Fulton County areas), have a minimum GPA of 2.8 and minimum ACT: 19 / SAT: 990 (Verbal & Math only), have the potential to be a leader in the classroom and on campus, and be available to attend all College Ready Prep Sessions in Atlanta (twice a month) if accepted.

Microsoft Scholarship Program

Details: Microsoft awards tuition and conference scholarships each year to encourage students to further their learnings in Computer Science and related STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines. Recipients for the scholarship will be awarded in recognition of their demonstrated passion for technology, academic excellence, and leadership while working to push the software industry forward.

Eligibility: Must be enrolled full-time in a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year college or university in the United States, Canada, or Mexico at the time you submit the application.

  • A demonstrated record of academic achievement/excellence. Because the scholarship is merit-based, you must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average out of a possible 4.0, or a 4.0 cumulative grade point average out of a possible 5.0.
  • Show satisfactory progress toward an undergraduate degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related STEM discipline.

The Gates Scholarship 

Details: The Gates Scholarship (TGS) is a highly selective, last-dollar scholarship for outstanding, minority, high school seniors from low-income households. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to 300 of these student leaders, with the intent of helping them realize their maximum potential. 

An ideal candidate will have:

  • An outstanding academic record in high school (in the top 10% of his/her graduating class)
  • Demonstrated leadership ability (e.g., as shown through participation in community service, extracurricular, or other activities)
  • Exceptional personal success skills (e.g., emotional maturity, motivation, perseverance, etc.)

Eligibility: To apply, students must be:

  • A high school senior
  • From at least one of the following ethnicities: African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native*, Asian & Pacific Islander American, and/or Hispanic American
  • Pell-eligible
  • A US citizen, national, or permanent resident
  • In good academic standing with a minimum cumulative weighted GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent)

Additionally, a student must plan to enroll full-time, in a four-year degree program, at a US-accredited, not-for-profit, private, or public college or university.

Cameron Impact Scholarship

Details: The Cameron Impact Scholarship is a four-year, full-tuition, merit-based undergraduate scholarship awarded annually to 10-15 exceptional high school students who have demonstrated excellence in academics, extracurricular activities, leadership, and community service. The Cameron Impact Scholar is unique among their high-achieving peers in their desire to make an impact on their communities and in the world at large. Our Scholar aspires to contribute to positive forces for change and plans to tailor their education to that end. The Cameron Impact Scholarship covers the full tuition, fees, and books at any accredited U.S. based college or university that the recipient chooses to attend.


The applicant must:

  • Maintain a minimum, cumulative, unweighted GPA of a 3.7/4.0 scale or equivalent in their high school studies;
  • Be a full citizen of the United States of America;
  • Be in the high school graduating Class of 2021, planning to enroll in a full-time course of study towards a degree at an accredited four-year U.S. college or university for the full academic year following high school graduation;
  • Show proven excellence in extracurricular activities, be motivated leaders with a strong work ethic, demonstrate active participation in community service and/or civic-minded arenas; and
  • Submit by the Application Deadline:
    • Online Application;
    • Two required Letters of Recommendation; and
    • Transcript certifying academic performance.

Colleges with Full-Ride Scholarships 

While most top-ranked universities do not offer merit-based full-ride scholarships, luckily, some of them do! Be sure to look on each college or university's website for additional details on the full-ride scholarships that they offer and if you are eligible to apply. 

  • Agnes Scott College
  • American University 
  • Clemson University 
  • Drake University 
  • Duke University 
  • Fordham University 
  • Furman University 
  • Indiana University Bloomington
  • Knox College
  • Lewis and Clark College 
  • Louisiana State University 
  • Loyola Marymount University 
  • Miami University 
  • Michigan State University 
  • Morehouse College
  • North Carolina State University 
  • Northeastern University 
  • Oberlin College
  • Ohio State University 
  • Purdue University 
  • Rhodes College
  • Saint Louis University 
  • Salem College
  • Southern Methodist University 
  • St. Lawrence University 
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Syracuse University 
  • Texas Christian University 
  • The Catholic University of America
  • The George Washington University 
  • University of Alabama 
  • University of Buffalo
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Illinois 
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • University of Miami 
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of North Carolina, Charlotte
  • University of Pittsburgh 
  • University of Richmond 
  • University of Texas at Austin 
  • University of Texas at Dallas 
  • University of Wisconsin 

Tips for Applying for (and Winning!) Full-Ride Scholarships 

  1. Be realistic! The majority of full-ride scholarships are extremely competitive because of the amount of money that is awarded. So, don't plan to attend a certain college or plan your scholarship searching/applying around the hope that you will be the recipient of a full-ride scholarship.
  2. Sure, applying to every full-ride scholarship that you are eligible for can't hurt you, but it is important to make sure that you are varying the types of scholarships you are applying for. Applying for a mix of small amount and bigger amount scholarships will leave you more likely to walk away with some cash. 
  3. Be ready for interviews. Most of these scholarships, as I stated, are extremely competitive. Therefore, the organization (or college) running the scholarship program likely will require an interview at some stage in the process to get to know you better. So, practice practice practice! 
  4. Be strategic with your letters of recommendation. While this goes for any scholarships you are applying for, it is especially important to consider this when applying for the big full-ride scholarships. Make sure you ask people who know you well, and can attest to all of your wonderful qualities and potential. 
  5. Get involved in your community. So many of the full-ride scholarships specify that leadership skills and experience, along with community outreach, are some of the most important and decisive factors in who wins and who doesn't. So, if you know early on in high school that you want to apply for some of these scholarships, be sure to find personally rewarding ways to get involved in your community as early as possible. 
  6. Choose courses that challenge you. If you are in high school, and you are applying to merit-based full-ride scholarships (aka, scholarships based on academics), then it is very likely that the judges will be determining winners based on the types of classes you have taken and how well you have performed in them. These scholarships often look for students who take on rigorous course loads and succeed in doing so.   

PS - If you're a high school student reading this article, you also might want to check out our Scholarships for High School Juniors and Scholarships for High School Seniors articles!


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