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Top 12 full-ride scholarships

Find options for nursing students, science enthusiasts, aspiring pilots and more.

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

  • Annual award: $5,000 to $69,000
  • Four-year award: $20,000 to $275,000
Eligibility requirementsEligibility requirements vary by school, though you need to meet the following criteria at a minimum:

  • Attend a partner school
  • Strong leadership skills
Eligible schoolsEligible schools include:

  • Barry University
  • Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia
  • Dartmouth College
  • Elizabethtown College
  • Frost School of Music at the University of Miami
  • Georgia Tech University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Mercer University
  • Miami University
  • Moorehouse
  • Notre Dame
  • Oberlin College
  • Ohio State University
  • Purdue University
  • Tulane University
  • UCLA
  • United States Air Force Academy
  • United States Naval Academy
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Virginia Tech University
  • Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Wake Forest University
  • West Point
  • Wiliam and Mary

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)

AmountUp to the full cost of attendance while enrolled at an eligible school
Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to be eligible for this scholarship:

  • High school senior
  • Identify as an African-American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander American or Hispanic American
  • Eligible for a Pell Grant
  • US citizen, permanent resident or national
  • 3.3 GPA or higher
  • Plan on enrolling full-time at an eligible school

American Indian and Alaska Natives are required to provide proof of tribal enrollment.

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.

Amount$2,000 to $250,000
Eligibility requirementsTo be eligible for this award, you must meet the following criteria:

  • High school senior
  • Older than 13, with parental consent for students younger than 18
  • Complete an individual scientific research project

Team research projects are ineligible for this scholarship. You also can’t qualify if your parents are Society for Science and the Public employees, trustees, Regeneron Science Talent Search evaluators or judges.

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

AmountUp to $40,000 per year for four years
Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following criteria to qualify for this award:

  • High school senior
  • Attending accredited four-year college in the fall
  • 3.5 GPA or higher
  • Minimum 1200 SAT score or 26 ACT score
  • Family income of $95,000 or less

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

AmountFull tuition plus a monthly stipend for health insurance, books and summer internships for up to five years
Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to qualify for the SMART Scholarship:

  • Pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree in an eligible STEM discipline
  • Enrolled at an accredited US college or university (graduate students can be awaiting admission)
  • Able to complete at least one summer internship at a Department of Defense (DoD) facility
  • Willing to work for the DoD after graduation
  • 3.0 GPA or higher
  • At least a year and a half away from graduation
  • US, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand or UK citizen
  • At least 18 years old as of August 1, 2020
Eligible disciplinesEligible STEM disciplines include:

  • Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
  • Biosciences
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Cognitive, Neural and Behavioral Sciences
  • Computer and Computational Sciences and Computer Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Geosciences
  • Industrial and Systems Engineering (technical tracks only)
  • Information Sciences
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Oceanography
  • Operations Research (technical tracks only)
  • Physics

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

  • Full tuition, fees, books, laptop, housing and meal plans for up to four years
  • Employment with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) during the summer and after graduation
  • USDA employee benefits
Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following criteria to be eligible for this program:

  • High school senior or rising college sophomore or junior
  • 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Minimum 1000 SAT score or 21 ACT score
  • Demonstrated leadership skills
  • Enrolled at an 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant University
  • Pursuing an undergraduate degree in an eligible agriculture-related discipline
Eligible schoolsThe 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities include:

  • Alabama A&M University
  • Alcorn State University
  • Central State University
  • Delaware State University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Fort Valley State University
  • Kentucky State University
  • Langston University
  • Lincoln University
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Prairie View A&M University
  • South Carolina State University
  • Southern University and A&M College
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tuskegee University
  • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • University of Maryland at Eastern Shore
  • Virginia State University
  • West Virginia State University
Eligible disciplinesEligible agriculture-related disciplines include:

  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural Business or Management
  • Agricultural Economics
  • Agricultural Engineering or Mechanics
  • Agricultural Production and Technology
  • Agronomy or Crop Science
  • Animal Sciences
  • Botany
  • Food Sciences or Technology
  • Forestry and Related Sciences
  • Home Economics or Nutrition
  • Horticulture
  • Natural Resources Management
  • Soil Conservation or Soil Science
  • Farm and Range Management

    Other related disciplines such as Non-medical Biological Sciences, Computer Science or Pre-veterinary Medicine might also be eligible.

      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

      Amount$2,500 to $100,000
      Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to qualify for this giveaway:

      • Between 18 and 24 years old
      • US citizen or permanent resident
      • Enrolled or plan on attending a two- or four-year college
      • Not an active NCAA collegiate athlete
      • Never played professional, semi-professional or Division I college football
      • Not an immediate family member or work for any company involved in the 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

      AmountFull tuition and housing for up to four years
      Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to qualify for this scholarship:

      • At least two years of caddie experience
      • Currently caddie or work at your sponsoring club during the summer
      • High school senior or first-year college student
      • B average or higher
      • Demonstrated financial need
      • Outstanding character

      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

      AmountFull tuition, fees, books, clinical supplies, uniforms and a $1,383 monthly stipend
      Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to qualify for this scholarship:

      • US citizen, national or permanent resident
      • Enrolled in a professional nursing degree program at an accredited US school of nursing
      • Begin classes no later than September 30th
      • No federal judgment liens
      • Not overdue on federal student loans

      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

      AmountFull tuition or room and board, an allowance for books and fees and $420 a month for living expenses
      Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to enter the Army ROTC program:

      • Between 17 and 26 years old
      • 2.5 GPA or higher
      • High school diploma or equivalent
      • Minimum 1000 SAT score or 19 ACT score
      • US citizen
      • Meet physical standards
      • Agree to serve either on active duty or as a reserve in the US Army

      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

      AmountUp to full tuition plus a stipend for living expenses, depending on the program
      Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to qualify for this program:

      • Enrolled full time at a college that offers Air Force ROTC classes or accepts credits from another university
      • Minimum 1240 SAT score or 26 ACT score
      • 3.0 GPA or higher
      • US citizen
      • Good physical condition
      • Pass Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB) medical exam

      Additional requirements may apply, depending on the applicant.

      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

      AmountFull tuition, fees and housing, as well as a $750 stipend for textbooks, a monthly allowance of $250 to $400, naval uniforms and three fully-funded summer cruises
      Eligibility requirementsYou must meet the following requirements to qualify for this scholarship:

      • Plan to enroll in an approved Navy ROTC college or university
      • Minimum 1200 SAT score or combined math and English ACT score of 47
      • Between 17 and 23 years old
      • US citizen — or in the process of becoming naturalized
      • No criminal record
      • High school diploma or equivalent
      • Pass a physical test
      • No piercings or tattoos that go against Marine Corps policy

      Additional requirements may apply, depending on the applicant.

      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.

      10 colleges that don’t charge tuition

      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.

      Frequently asked questions

      What’s the difference between a full-tuition and full-ride scholarship?

      Traditionally, a full-tuition scholarship only covers the cost of tuition, but not other costs like room and board. A full-ride scholarship covers your entire cost of attendance — many include a stipend for miscellaneous personal expenses. However, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Make sure to learn what a program actually covers before you apply.

      Can I get a full-tuition scholarship through my school?

      It depends on where you go to school, your academics and your family’s finances. Some schools cover 100% of financial need, meaning that students below a certain income automatically have their tuition covered. Others offer full-tuition scholarships based on merit or talent. Reach out to your school’s financial aid department for more details.

      Are there full-tuition scholarships for private elementary and secondary schools?

      Yes, many private elementary, middle and high schools offer full-tuition scholarships. Typically, these are available through your school and not outside organizations. There are often need- and merit-based options available.

      Can I get a full-ride scholarship to study abroad?

      While not technically a scholarship, some schools in Europe offer free or low-cost tuition to all students — regardless of where you’re from. You can learn more with our guide to international universities where US students can study for free.

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