Full-ride scholarships pay the full price of attending a college.  This usually includes tuition, fees, and room and board.  Some full-ride scholarships go even farther and throw in stipends for books, study abroad, transportation, yearly spending money, and even a laptop computer.

Often people think of athletic full-ride scholarships, but there are also many academic full-ride scholarships offered. These are the ones I am focusing on here.  These scholarships are usually based on high school GPA and SAT or ACT score.  Many also take leadership, extracurricular activities, and community service into account. There are also some academic full rides reserved for National Merit Finalists and Semi-Finalists.

The largest source of merit-based full-ride scholarships is the colleges themselves. Colleges around the country offer academic full rides in order to attract top students. If you have a student who is eligible, this can take away most or all of the burden of paying for college. However, you have to know where to look.

What Schools Offer Full-Ride Scholarships?

Ivy league and other most competitive colleges do not usually offer merit-based full-ride scholarships because they don’t need to.  If you look at the percentage of applicants admitted to these schools each year, you will see why. They attract so many students on reputation alone that they do not need to offer merit-based full-ride scholarships to get the students they want.

Most merit-based full-ride scholarships are offered by lesser-known schools.  It is possible to find them at well-known state schools like the University of Kentucky, the University of Alabama, UCLA, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Pittsburgh.  It is also possible to find a few at highly ranked private colleges like Tulane and Wake Forest, but the majority are found at lesser-known private colleges and non-flagship state schools.

How Do You Find Full-Ride Scholarships?

Here are the most effective ways I have found to search for these merit-based full-ride scholarships:

  1. Individual college websites –  It’s pretty easy to go to a college’s website to check out its scholarship offerings.  These can usually be found under Financial Aid or separately under the Admissions area of the website.  You have to look through all the scholarships offered to find any that are full rides. This can get quite time-consuming.
  2. Scholarship websites – Some scholarship websites like fastweb.com and scholarships.com list private scholarships along with some scholarships offered directly by the schools. Full-ride scholarships can be hard to find here and are mixed in with smaller scholarships offered by a school.
  3. MyCAP – Back in 2014, I started a database of colleges that offer full-ride scholarships around the country.  I was frustrated because it was so hard to find these academic full rides. This database grew to be a listing of all merit scholarships offered by colleges around the U.S. It is now the merit scholarship database that powers our MyCAP tool. We make it easy to find any full-ride scholarships a student will qualify for.

If your high school student has good grades and good ACT/SAT scores, or has a shot at being a National Merit Finalist or Semi-Finalist, it is worth checking into academic full-ride scholarships. Imagine how much money you could save if your child is offered one!

How MyCAP Can Help

MyCAP is an all-in-one application that helps families and students find their most affordable path to college. When you sign up for MyCAP you get:

  1. Data on schools across the country. This means we’re able to create an “actual cost” projection of schools on your student’s “to apply” list!
  2. Expected family contribution and financial aid. Get to know what schools cost (beyond the listed sticker price), what your expected family contribution will be, and whether or not your child qualifies for aid.
  3. Scholarship search. Get access to scholarships across the country and track application deadlines!

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