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Top 12 full-ride scholarships

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Looking for outside scholarships is a great way to reduce or eliminate how much you have to borrow for school. Most of these full-ride scholarships are based on merit, though some also require that you demonstrate financial need. And many come with some kind of commitment, from taking a few required courses to signing up for the Army.

How did we choose these scholarships?

We picked these top scholarships based on reputation of the organization and funding limits. While not all picks cover the full cost of attendance at every school, the programs we chose should cover most student’s expected family contribution after school-based funding at the very least. We also favored scholarships that were available in multiple schools and states.

Stamps Foundation Scholarship

The Stamps Foundation Scholarship is a national scholarship program based on merit funded by the Stamps family. It’s available in 38 schools across the country, with the partner schools and Stamps family evenly sharing the costs of the awards.

You can apply through your school’s financial aid office. Often you don’t have to fill out a special application, but you might have to go through a series of interviews. Deadlines vary depending on which school you attend and run from October 4th through February 1st.

The Gates Scholarship (TGS)

Up to 300 high school seniors of color receive this merit- and need-based scholarship. It’s meant to reduce barriers low-income students might face with higher education. Ideal candidates have graduated in the top 10% of their class, participated in community service and other extracurricular activities and demonstrated emotional maturity.

Applications open in July and close in September of your high school senior year. After a series of interviews, the selection committee picks scholars by April of the following year and presents awards between July and September.

Regeneron Science Talent Search

The Regeneron Science Talent Search is a science, math and engineering competition for high school seniors. At least three PhD scientists, mathematicians or engineers judge each submission based on the individual research conducted at school, home or in the field.

Not everyone will get a full ride. The top 300 scholars get a $2,000 award and an invitation to apply for a Regeneron summer internship. The top 40 finalists get a free trip to Washington, DC to present their findings and compete for the top award of $250,000, which only 10 individuals can win. Applications for the 2020 competition are open until November 13, 2019 at 8 p.m. ET. You can apply through Regeneron’s website.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship

This need- and merit-based scholarship is open to low-income high school seniors that might otherwise have to take out loans. Ideal candidates have strong academics and proven leadership and service skills through sports, their religious community, the arts or other areas.

High school seniors can apply when they complete the Common App, which opens on August 1, 2019. Select the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation as one of the schools you plan on applying to and follow the instructions to submit a few additional short essays, plans for your college career and your family’s financial information.

Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program

The SMART Scholarship for Service Program was established by the Department of Defense (DoD) and offers full tuition and a stipend to students in the STEM field. It’s one of the few scholarships that’s available to graduate students as well as undergraduates.

You can apply through the DoD’s website between August 1st and December 1st each year. Winners are typically announced in the spring. Scholars must complete at least one summer internship with the DoD and agree to work with the DoD after graduation.

USDA 1890 National Scholars Program

This scholarship program provides both a full ride and a job with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to students studying agriculture-related fields. It’s available to undergraduates at one of the 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities. Applications can be downloaded on the USDA website and are due to your university by January 31st each year.

Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway

The Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway is an annual video contest that requires you to submit a 60-second video submission describing your goals, why they’re important to you and your plans for achieving them. If you’re selected to be a finalist, you’ll compete to win prizes during the College Football Conference Championship games.

Prizes include five $100,000 tuition prizes, five $25,000 runner-up prizes and ten $2,500 consolation prizes. You can apply through the Dr. Pepper website by uploading your video submission by the October deadline each year.

Evans Scholarship

The Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation (WGAESF) offers this need-based scholarship to high-achieving caddies. The average 2018 scholarship recipient logged 160 loops, had an ACT score of 27 and an expected family contribution of $7,500 on the FAFSA.

To apply, you first need to fill out the CSS Profile and FAFSA starting on October 1st each year. You can then submit the application along with any supporting documents on the WGAESF website by the October 30th deadline. Scholarship winners are typically announced the following April.

Nurse Corps Scholarship Program

The Nurse Corps Scholarship Program established by the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) offers full tuition and other living expenses to both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a career in nursing — with preference given to applicants who demonstrate financial need. In return, you must agree to work at a Critical Shortage Facility (CSF) upon graduation for at least two years. You can apply by filling out an online application on the HRSA website. Deadlines are typically in May each year, with winners announced in September.

ROTC scholarships

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) covers part or all of your cost of attendance in exchange for years of service in the US armed forces. Generally, they cover the cost of tuition, including a stipend for living expenses. High school students, college students and enlisted service members are eligible. You can apply online or by visiting your school’s ROTC office.

Army ROTC Scholarship

You can apply for this scholarship to cover all or part of your tuition at any point during your college career — or as a high school senior. You must serve in the US Army for at least eight years after graduation, though some might qualify for early discharge.

Air Force ROTC Scholarship

Thinking about joining the Air Force? This scholarship can cover part or all of your college expenses in exchange for four to 10 years of service, depending on your career. You’re also required to take several Air Force ROTC courses at your school or another school that accepts crossovers. You can find out if you meet the physical requirements on the Air Force ROTC website.

Navy ROTC Scholarship

Students interested in joining the Navy can have their cost of attendance covered in exchange for four to five of service in the US Navy, depending on your specialization. Like other ROTC scholarships, you can be at any point in your college career to qualify, as long as you meet the age requirements. Students are required to take several naval science courses, participate in summer training activities and attend weekly drill instruction.

Where else can I find full-tuition scholarships?

Many private companies, organizations, states, local governments and schools also offer full-tuition scholarships. You might want to get started by visiting your school’s financial aid website or setting up an appointment. Often they list in-school and outside scholarship and grant opportunities available to all types of students.

Didn’t find anything? Search for scholarships available to residents or high school graduates from your state, city or county. Many schools and organizations also offer talent-based scholarships for athletics and the arts.

Full-tuition scholarships aren’t always free

Tuition is only part of the cost of attending college. If you get a full-tuition scholarship, you still might be on the hook for housing, meal plans, textbooks and other expenses associated with going to school. You could end up having to pay for these out of pocket or with student loans.

Many programs also come with strings attached. While ROTC scholarships are the most extreme — you have to join the US armed forces after school — others might limit your academic or career choices. It’s common for leadership scholarships to come with community service requirements at a minimum.

To make sure everything is covered, fill out the FAFSA and consider other types of financial aid.

Bottom line

Applying for full-tuition scholarships available outside of school might require an extra application and some planning ahead. But you can reduce or totally eliminate your need for student loans. Just make sure you aren’t locking yourself into a career path you aren’t interested in.

You can learn more about how to pay for school by reading our guide to student loans.

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