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How Do I get a Full-Ride Scholarship?

High standardized test scores may be required to get a college scholarship.
Full-ride scholarships are difficult to get.
The Rhodes Trust is the organization behind the Rhodes Scholarships.
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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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A full-ride scholarship is a good way to afford going to college without being saddled with debt after graduation. No matter how large or small the school, a it's difficult to win a scholarship that will pay for all of your expenses. There are several things that make a student more attractive to schools, however, and colleges like to know that their money will not be wasted, and that you stand an excellent chance of graduating on time.

Colleges look at grades, standardized test scores, the types of classes that were taken in high school, and outside interests. Each college has their own criteria and considers each of these factors differently. To increase the odds of winning a scholarship, it is important to devote time and energy to each of these components.

While earning straight A’s is considered the gold standard for grades, a less than perfect record will not prevent a college from awarding you a full-ride scholarship. Many students make the mistake of taking easier courses in order to inflate their grade point average. Colleges are aware of this and will look carefully at the types of classes taken as well as the grades for each class. B’s in advanced placement courses will be considered highly, while A’s in general education classes may be nearly meaningless.

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The reason for this is simple. College is a rough transition for most students. It makes the situation even worse if the student is used to floating by in easy courses in high school. Once the student has to work in college, there is no way to predict whether a he will sink or swim. Colleges prefer to hedge their bets by awarding valuable scholarships to students who have a history of working hard academically.

Standardized test scores are important as well. Scores from tests such as from the SAT or ACT allow colleges to compare students from across the country. Each school system is different, and a college preparatory English class in one school system may cover much more ground than the same class in another area. Standardized tests allow the college admissions officers to learn what a student’s general level of knowledge is compared to their peers across the country.

If a high school student’s academic history is a little weak, the final area of comparison is a chance to shine. Outside activities, whether through a job or volunteer work, tell the college admission a great deal about you as a prospective student. Not only does shouldering this responsibility show maturity, but it also gives the college an idea that the student has time management skills and it accustomed to juggling several things at one time. These are traits that are valued on the college level.

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Discuss this Article

anon945672
Post 11

I am the single father of a student who has had straight A's from the first to the eighth grade. He was selected to go to a prep school ranked fifth in the country next year and he will be the first in my family to go to college. I thought straight A's were a shoo-in for a full ride, but I guess there's a lot I need to read up on. Thanks for the info. I have learned a lot here.

wavy58
Post 10

Even if you only get a partial scholarship based on your grades, you can get more scholarships because of your abilities that might help you pay for everything in the end. My cousin was an excellent band student, so she got a scholarship because she planned to join the university marching band.

Also, the music department would offer partial scholarships to students who auditioned for the university choir and impressed them. So, whatever you are good at, there might be a scholarship for it.

Kristee
Post 9

The university I attended placed a lot of value in students' ACT scores. I know this because I got a full-ride scholarship by getting a good score.

I was a bit worried about whether or not I could get a scholarship, because I dropped out in tenth grade to do homeschooling. I basically taught myself, but because I had gotten straight A's prior to this, my parents figured I was up to the challenge.

Also, I had no extracurricular activities. I was a shy person who kept to myself.

However, I scored a 31 on the ACT, and I got a full ride. There was enough money left over after tuition fees to pay for my books and food.

John57
Post 8

I think that most kids are a little surprised that college is as challenging as it is. Some kids who are really smart breeze through high school without having to put forth that much effort.

That is why I think the standardized tests are a good way to gauge them against other students from across the country. Many kids who get a full-ride scholarship end up going to a college in another state. If they score high on a standardized test it shows they will probably do OK wherever they go to school as long as they apply themselves.

There really are a lot of options when it comes to applying for college scholarships and grants. It can take some time to sort through them all, but is really worth it if you end up getting scholarship money.

myharley
Post 7

Getting good grades isn't the only way to get a full-ride college tuition scholarship. The daughter of a close friend ended up going to college on an athletic scholarship. She also got very good grades and could have gone to more than one school on an academic scholarship. She loved to play soccer though, and ended up going to the college that offered her the full-ride athletic scholarship.

andee
Post 6

My nephew is very smart and received a full-ride scholarship at a college in a different state. At first he was pretty excited about this and completed his first year of college. After that first year, he went back for the second year, but wasn't applying himself.

This college was across the country from where he grew up and he never really adjusted to the differences in people and tastes. He did finish his second year, but after that transferred to another college to finish his degree. I thought he should have stuck it out just 2 more years, but he was willing to give up the scholarship to go to a different school.

honeybees
Post 5

@icecream17-- My daughter is a good example of the importance of being involved in outside interests. She always got good grades, but didn't have straight A's. She worked very hard at her grades but was also involved in many community projects.

When it came time for her to apply for college scholarships, I believe these activities really made a difference. If they went by grades alone, she might not have received a full-ride scholarship. When they took a look at the whole picture, they realized she was a good candidate.

She has one more year of college left and has been able to go on a full-ride scholarship. This is a huge blessing as she will not have any debt when she graduates from college.

SauteePan
Post 3

Icecream17- I also want to say that the Scholarship Monkey site offers over one million scholarships in their database. The Scholarship Page and Broke Scholar also offer almost one million online college scholarships.

icecream17
Post 2

SurfNturf- I did not know about that site. I just wanted to add that many students that obtain full ride college scholarships not only have a high grade point average on college bound courses, but have a well-rounded background as well.

Colleges want to know if the student performed any community service or was employed while in school. Many of these activities demonstrate leadership qualities which makes a college more likely to provide scholarships for high school students.

surfNturf
Post 1

I just want to add that many colleges offer scholarships based on community service, or extra curricular activities.

Sites like Fastweb provide information on how to apply for college scholarships. Sometimes being a part of a particular club in school might give a student the advantage on various scholarships for high school students.

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