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 can 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.
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
Application deadline: January 31
Details: The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program was established in 1992 as part of the partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the 1890 Land-Grant Universities. The goal of the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program is to increase the number of minorities studying agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, and related disciplines.
Application deadline: January/February time
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
Application deadline: September 10
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 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:
Application deadline: September 15
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:
Eligibility: To apply, students must be:
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.
Application deadline: mid-September
Details: “We are looking for high school seniors who have shown outstanding academic ability despite financial challenges. We take a holistic approach to reviewing applications, and we do not have absolute criteria or cut-offs for GPA, standardized test scores, income, or other factors.”
Finalists typically come from households earning less than $65,000 annually for a typical family of four and have minimal assets. This is not a strict cut-off and we encourage students who feel they have faced significant financial hardship to review these financial criteria carefully to see if they may qualify.
Eligibility: Must be a current high school senior
Application Deadline: Early October
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:
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:
Eligibility: To be eligible to apply to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program you must:
Application Deadline: mid-October
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…
Eligibility: Must be between 18 and 24 years old.
Application deadline: December 1
Details: Act Six is a leadership and scholarship program that connects local faith-based community affiliates with faith- and social justice-based colleges to equip emerging urban and community leaders to engage the college campus and their communities at home.
To be eligible, a student must:
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:
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.
Open to international students! 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.
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.
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.
Application deadline: Varies by location
Details: The Posse Scholars Program is a full-tuition scholarship offered to students in these 10 cities that the Posse community operates. High school students must be nominated for through their high school or community-based organization to be eligible.
To be eligible, a high school senior must:
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.
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.
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.