I think most students would agree that finding a scholarship that covers all of their college expenses would be a huge blessing. But would that award be called a full-tuition scholarship or a full-ride scholarship? With so many people using the terms interchangeably, it can get a bit confusing. Personally, a school could call its award the ‘We’ll Pay for Everything’ Scholarship, and I wouldn’t care, especially if it meant I was taking out fewer student loans. I do, however, think it’s important for students to understand the subtle differences in each program.
Let’s start with the full-tuition scholarship. Just as the name suggests, it covers tuition costs at college. This typically is restricted to the published tuition, but may also include lab or other student fees, as well as books. Many colleges offer full-tuition scholarships to incoming freshmen (or transfer students) for high academic achievement, such as scoring within a certain range on the SAT or ACT, or meeting a required grade point average (GPA) or class ranking. Although some colleges have one set of standards, many require out-of-state students to achieve even higher academic marks to qualify for these awards. Some colleges also offer guaranteed scholarships; this means students who meet the requirements will automatically receive the award. Here are two examples of guaranteed, full-tuition scholarship programs.
First-time, full-time freshmen who have an ACT of 30 or higher, as well as a GPA of 3.5 or higher, are eligible for the Louisiana Scholarship. This award covers tuition, fees, and also provides a book allowance.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama offers the Presidential Scholar Award to incoming freshmen who apply before the scholarship priority deadline of December 15. In-state students must have a 3.5 GPA or higher, and score above a 30 on the ACT or 1330 (reading and math) on the SAT. Out-of-state students must meet the same GPA requirement, but need to score above a 32 on the ACT or 1400 on the SAT. The award covers tuition only over four years.
Most colleges, however, award full-tuition scholarships on a competitive basis. This means that out-of-state and in-state students will be competing for the same awards. Competitive scholarships are usually limited in number and are typically given to the top students selected for admission. Here are just a few of the colleges that offer this type of full-tuition scholarships.
Knox College – Presidential Scholarship
University of Illinois – Provost Scholarship
Boston University – Trustee Scholarship
In addition to colleges, other organizations also provide full-tuition scholarships. The military offers several through various ROTC programs, such as the Air Force ROTC High School Student Scholarship Program, and Microsoft provides several scholarships that cover the cost of tuition for one academic year.
Of course, the scholarship that most students really want to secure is a full-ride scholarship. This type of award not only covers tuition and fees, but also books, room and board, supplies, and sometimes even living expenses. Some awards also cover the costs for study abroad programs. These awards are limited in number and are highly competitive. Here are few examples of full-ride scholarships that are offered through various colleges.
University of Kentucky
Through its Otis A. Singletary Scholarship Program, the University of Kentucky provides a four-year award that covers tuition, room and board, a yearly $1,500 stipend, and a $2,000 stipend for a summer abroad program. Students also receive an iPad with this scholarship.
Incoming freshmen who are selected to receive the John Montgomery Belk Scholarship do not have to pay out-of-pocket for tuition, fees, or room and board; each scholarship recipient also receives a substantial stipend to pursue other academic endeavors.
North Carolina State University
Approximately 40 high school seniors receive the Park Scholarship annually. This four-year award covers tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, travel and personal expenses. Students also receive computer stipends and have access to grants for research projects, service activities, and conferences.
Several organizations also provide full-ride scholarships to exceptional students. Some target underserved or underrepresented populations, such as the one offered through the Tom Joyner Foundation. Any high achieving student who plans to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU) may be eligible to receive this award, which covers tuition, fees, room, board, and books for up to 10 semesters. Another scholarship that benefits minority students is the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. To receive one of these prestigious awards, students must not only meet certain academic standards, but must also demonstrate financial need. Unlike the majority of full-tuition and full-ride scholarships, this program is not restricted to incoming freshmen. Graduate students in various fields may also apply for funding. Outstanding high school seniors in Colorado also have access to the Boettcher Scholarship, which pays for four years of tuition, fees, and books, and also includes an annual $2,800 living stipend. Students selected for this full-ride scholarship also have access to enrichment programs and educational grants.
Earning one of these coveted awards can truly make a huge difference for students financially, but most should not expect to win full-tuition or full-ride scholarships; only a very small percentage of students receive such scholarships. Instead, students should consider a variety of funding options, including need-based grants, private scholarships, part-time work, or even crowdfunding campaigns. No matter the size of the award, every little bit helps when paying for college!
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