Full-Ride Scholarships

Chasing the Elusive Full-Ride Scholarship

Last week, I was having lunch with a friend and the subject of college came up. We both have daughters who are high school juniors, so it’s never far from our thoughts. We discussed the intensity of the International Baccalaureate program (our daughters are enrolled but at separate schools) and even planned for an upcoming college tour at the University of Florida (UF). The conversation was going smoothly until I asked how he planned to cover the tuition and other fees at UF. With a completely straight face, he replied that he expected his daughter to get a full-ride scholarship. Why wouldn’t he believe that his child, who has played softball since she could walk and carries an unweighted grade point average (GPA) of 3.5, should be able to win such a coveted award? The media is full of reports about students who are being showered with full-ride scholarship offers, so it’s only natural that he would expect it to be a viable option. Although I hated to be the bearer of bad news, I felt obligated to clue him in on the reality of his financial plan.

Merit ScholarshipsYes, the full-ride scholarship does exist; however, it’s highly unusual for a college to offer more than a handful. Competition at the most prestigious schools is fierce because nearly all the applicants have high GPAs and test scores, so standing out among the crowd takes some real effort. Those who want even a remote shot at earning a full-ride, merit-based scholarship may be able to increase their chances by applying to lesser known schools where they are over-qualified for admission, but it may also mean giving up the dream of attending an Ivy League school. Out of the millions of students enrolled in college, less than 20,000 across the country will receive the golden ticket of scholarships.

Even those who are star athletes don’t have much of a chance at scoring a full-ride scholarship. In fact, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reports that only about two percent of high school athletes are awarded scholarships and many of those do not cover full tuition or other expenses.  A total of six college sports (men’s basketball and football; women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and tennis) offer full-ride scholarships; for students in other sports, such as softball, the average NCAA scholarship is less than $11,000. For out-of-state students, that really won’t make much of a dent.

As I tossed out statistics, I could see the wheels turning in my friend’s mind. He was counting all the hours and money spent on equipment, uniforms, and travel. After doing everything right, he just couldn’t understand how his investment would not result in the ultimate reward. He, unfortunately, is not alone. Many parents make the mistake of relying on their child’s academics or athletic ability to earn them that elusive full-ride scholarship. Now, I’m not saying that’s impossible for her (or any other student) to earn one, just extremely unlikely, so he needed to include other revenue options in his college financial aid plan. Here is what I suggested:

FAFSAFirst, no matter what your family’s income is, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the key to institutional, state and federal money for college, which opens doors to grants, scholarships and low-interest student loans. Next, make sure your child is applying to private scholarships, local and national; the odds of winning one of these awards is much better than earning a full ride. Don’t discount the smaller awards, either. Small scholarships ($500 or less) are often paid directly to the student and can often be used for books, meals and other essentials. Finally, reach out to friends and relatives. Your child could launch a crowdfunding campaign or even offer his/her skills in exchange for donations to a college fund. It’s also not a bad idea to encourage them to pick up a part-time job over the holidays or summer break.

No matter how many scholarships your child eventually earns, never think of the time or money spent as a waste. She learned valuable time management skills and how to work with others, which will come in handy at college. Earning a scholarship is not validation that your child is a winner; it simply means she was lucky enough to grab the judges’ attention at the right moment. Walking across the stage to get her diploma is the real reward.

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Tamara is the Social Media Coordinator and a regular writer for ScholarshipExperts.com, eStudentLoan.com and CampusDiscovery.com. She enjoys helping students prepare for college. As a mother of four, Tamara has first-hand experience with many areas of education, including special needs (autism), the International Baccalaureate program and post-secondary education. She enjoys speaking at schools and mentoring others online. In her free time, Tamara enjoys volunteering and supporting her favorite football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
18 Responses to “Chasing the Elusive Full-Ride Scholarship”
  1. monwar says:

    Hello..I am monwar from Bangladesh,a Masters student in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular biology.Can you help me in getting a scholarship in any country outside of Bangladesh without IELTS or TOFEL..I can write and understand English very good but are a moderate speaker..It would be a great pleasure to me if you kindly give me information about it..
    Thank you….

  2. otx says:

    Out of possible fee of usd 67,000, i have been offered USD 63,000 and asked to pay usd 4000. The bulk of the scholarship pays for tuition\fees, accomodation, meals, transport, books and insurance.Im an international student and to raise the 4,000 is almost impossible. Can this scholarship be described as full ride?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      No, because you must pay out-of-pocket for some of your college expenses. A true, full-ride scholarship will cover all your fees. It’s still a pretty amazing offer considering you will only need to pay $4,000 a year for all your costs.

  3. MamaPikin says:

    Hello Tamara,

    This is great information! Thanks for sharing. Are you (or a representative) available to give a workshop to interested parents in the NW suburbs of Chicago?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hello and thank you for visiting our blog. Currently, we do not have representatives available outside of Florida, but we do offer free brochures and other resources for financial aid nights and college fairs. Please send an email to info@scholarshipexperts.com and we’ll be happy to send you a request form. If you are interested in setting up a Twitter chat or Skype interview with me, please include that in the email and I’ll see what we can arrange.

  4. Ib grad says:

    You left out the most crucial scholarship for florida residents. Bright futures.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Unfortunately, the changes to the program have made it less lucrative for students. The increase in GPA and test scores has dropped thousands from the program, and the amount paid per credit hour continues to dwindle. When the program first began, it definitely was a golden ticket for Florida students who met the requirements. Now, even those who score the highest level still find themselves coming up short with funding to most state schools. Several states have Bright Futures or similar programs, but few cover 100 percent of tuitions, fees and other expenses.

  5. Merritt Ford says:

    Tamara, love this article! I stumbled upon it searching for additional scholarship information for my clients. I would certainly like to include this information in a future blog, with your permission. The term “full-ride” is such a major obstacle for parents and student athletes that we talk with regarding our service. So many fail to realize; you first have to find (connect) with a university program that has an interest (athletically), second; you have to be academically sound…..then financial aid can be discussed. Please check out my website (www.vantageathletes.com), all my contact information is there. I would enjoy hearing from you.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Merritt. So glad you enjoyed the article. Please feel free to use it in a future blog post, as long as you credit the source of your information (or include a link to my article). If you need any additional information on scholarships, you can reach me at info@scholarshipexperts.com.

  6. Diana C. says:

    Hello, i am a high school junior crrently stressing about college i want to become a surgeon that is my ultimate dream job but that type of job requires a lot of money for college and medical school. My mom makes less than 15,000 a year! We can’t even cover half of the tuition required i know full-ride is one in a million chance so i dont even try it but i really truly want to go to college study and help my mom with it. I try not to stress her about it that i will manage, but i don’t know where to begin or what to do i havw a GPA of 3.9 and am in the top ten in class I’m in UIL theater and going to be in National Honer Society i hope you could help me get through al these obsticles or tell me where to start i want to make my mom proud. Please help.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Diana. First, take a deep breath. You’ll need to get through your undergraduate program before heading off to med school, so focus on that for now. Since your mom has a limited income, you should qualify for Pell Grants and other need-based financial aid when you go to college, so be sure to complete the FAFSA in the spring of your senior year (and each year of college). To keep your expenses to a minimum, look into the public colleges within your state or private colleges that offer healthy financial aid packages (espcecially those that claim to meet 100% of your need). Next, start applying to 5 to 10 scholarships every month. Keep up the great academic work you have done so far and consider enrolling in an honors program at college, as this may provide you with additional financial assistance (looks great for med schoool, too!). Just remember to keep your options open and look at the long-term financial outcomes of any colleges you are considering.

  7. Atonie says:

    I am currently a senior. Just recently my mom made me move from California and I’ve lost my residency. So now I do not have residency in California nor do I have residency in Florida. My sophomore and junior years were really harsh for me and my grades were not up to par. It’s always been a dream of mine to go off to college and be on my own-it’s the only way I know I’d truly succeed- but my GPA is less than a 3.0. I’m looking for scholarships I can apply to, but just about everything (that will make a “big difference”) I have applied to requires a 3.0 and I am going insane. Please help!

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Atonie. Is your mom living with you in Florida? If not, you would still have CA resident status because colleges use your parents residency to determine in-state and out-of-state tuition. Since your GPA is below a 3.0, I would suggest concentrating on creative contests (writing, art, and video), as most do not require any specific GPA. You can find these by registering for a free account with http://www.scholarshipexperts.com. Also, try searching for ‘writing contests’ or ‘essay scholarships’ on Google. Don’t give up hope; there are plenty of opportunities that are not merit-based.

  8. Ibrahim N. says:

    Hello Ms.Krause I am currently a junior in the IB program like your daughter and was automatically expecting a scholarship to any university as your friend. Now that you have opened my eyes I’m worried that I won’t be able to follow my dream and get a full ride. So if you can please help me and show me how to get a full ride to ANY university I would highly appreciate it.
    If you can please give me any reliable sources and websites to help me get as close as possible to a full scholarship i will highly appreciate it
    Thank you!

    • Tamara Krause says:

      There is no guaranteed method to secure a full-ride scholarship. There are, however, some thing you can do to improve your chances. Not only will you need a stellar GPA, but also high marks on the SAT and/or ACT. Being selected as a National Merit Finalist (PSAT) is also a great way to score some larger scholarship offers from colleges. I would encourage you to start researching smaller private colleges, as well. These schools tend to be more generous with their financial aid packages. I would not rely on receiving enough financial aid from the colleges on your list to cover all your expenses. Instead, be proactive and start applying for every and any scholarship you can find. Don’t wait until senior year. Do it now. Try our scholarship search, and check out reddit.com/r/scholarships.

  9. Alec says:

    Dear Mrs. krause,
    I am currently a sophmore at a private school. My unweighted GPA is 4.86 and Weighted is 4.80. I am currently enrolled in 3 AP classes. I would like to attend an Ivy league University however unless I am awarded a full ride scholarship I will not be able to attend any of my dream colleges. Can you please let me know how can I increase my chance of getting a full ride scholarship from a highly selective college. I have received several $250-$500 scholarships in the past, however these small scholarships will not cover the cost of universities with tuition of $50,000-$60,000 a year. Thank you.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Alec. Please understand that Ivy league colleges do not award merit-based scholarships, so you’re chances of getting a full-ride scholarship hinges on how much income your family earns. If you are really interested in getting larger scholarships, your best bet is to score really high on the PSAT (junior year) as this will lead to many opportunities, and look into smaller, private colleges that offer generous financial aid packages to academically-gifted students.

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