There are still colleges in the United States that offer full-ride scholarships to attract students with high ACT or SAT scores. However, the number of schools offering these scholarships seems to be shrinking over the past several years, so it takes some work to find the ones that still do.

What Scores Automatically Win Your Student a Full Ride?

I have maintained a database of full-ride scholarships offered by colleges since 2014. Here is some information on my latest findings around ACT and SAT scores that can automatically win your student a full ride. By automatically, I mean there is no separate application to complete or competition to get these funds. All students with a particular ACT/SAT score will receive the scholarship. Usually, there is a GPA component as well, so a student must have an ACT/SAT score and a high GPA.

For example, the University of Alabama’s Presidential Elite scholarship offers the full cost of tuition for four years, plus additional funds, for students with a 4.0 GPA and a 36 ACT score regardless of whether you’re in state or out of state. 

Some schools offer more merit scholarships to out-of-state students. This is done to help promote school diversity and create a well-rounded student body. For more information on schools with flexible out-of-state merit scholarships, click here. 

Other times, merit aid is only offered to in-state students or, alternatively, in-state students have a more robust offering of merit aid opportunities. 

Overall, my research so far has been surprising in that there are a few schools that will offer full-tuition scholarships starting in the 22 – 25 ACT range, but most full-ride scholarships require a 28 ACT or higher. These are typically the lesser known public campuses in a state but can offer a great opportunity for students to have a fully funded education.

What Can Students Do To Increase Their Financial Aid?

Does your student not qualify for a full-ride scholarship based on their grades and test scores? That’s okay! There are several other avenues to pursue before throwing in the towel. Let’s look at ways you and your college-bound student can pave the most affordable path to college:

  1. Research schools that reward on a merit basis. There are many colleges and universities out there that offer merit-based scholarships and grants. Often, these schools use a “grid system” to determine what combination of GPA and/or test scores will earn students a scholarship. However, not all schools offer this type of merit-based financial aid! It’s important to know which schools have merit-based scholarships and grants available, and plan your applications accordingly.
  2. Don’t ignore smaller, lesser-known schools. Even if they can’t get the full cost of college covered at one of their “dream schools”, there are many other schools in the country that are actively trying to attract top-of-the-class students — and they reward them for their hard work with scholarships and grants! Research schools based on degree programs your student is interested in, and try to keep an open mind when it comes to exploring schools that you may not have heard about before.
  3. Go private! Not all scholarships come from the schools themselves. Use a tool like MyCAP to research private scholarships, track deadlines, and get serious about applying.
  4. Understand the actual cost of colleges on your “to apply” list. Although this isn’t exactly a way to “increase” financial aid, it’s a critical step when trying to reduce the cost of college for your college-bound junior or senior. The truth is that the “sticker price” that schools advertise often isn’t an accurate representation of what the cost of attendance will be for four (or five, or six — depending on when your student graduates) years. By leveraging MyCAP, you can estimate the actual cost of attending different colleges, what your expected family contribution will be, and whether there is financial aid (merit-based or otherwise) available for your student.
  5. Get specific. If a student knows what they want to do when they go to college, they open themselves up to a world of career or degree-specific scholarship programs. These programs might be offered through the colleges themselves, or through private foundations that want to support students going into a specific career field. For example, there are many scholarship programs for STEM industries, nursing, education, etc. This can also help your student narrow their college search — if certain schools have an excellent program in the degree they’re interested in, and offer financial aid for those specific students, that may be a more affordable school that provides an excellent education.

Sign Up For MyCAP

Our team at MyCAP has compiled a list of colleges and universities that offer scholarships based on testing scores and we updated it regularly. To learn more, sign up for your free MyCAP account by clicking here.