9 Places to Look for Full Ride Scholarships

There are full-ride scholarship options out there for college students. You just need to know where to look!

Kathryn Knight Randolph

October 04, 2023

9 Places to Look for Full Ride Scholarships
Pay for school with one of these full-tuition opportunities.
It's the holy grail of every college applicant's scholarship search: a full-ride scholarship. To be honest, full-tuition scholarships are hard to come across and even harder to win. However, that shouldn't stop you from at least trying. The key to winning college scholarships is to apply to as many as possible. And if you're putting your name in for a $500 award, you might as well enter yourself in a $30,000 scholarship too. We've found nine places to look for full tuition scholarships – start applying today.

9 Places to Look for Full Ride Scholarships


The Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) provides students interested in joining the Army, as well as continuing their education, a unique opportunity. Students who join ROTC are able to complete training while attending college courses. After graduation, Cadets are commissioned as Second Lieutenants, where they receive specialized training during their first assignment. From there, Second Lieutenants can either continue training in the field or pursue postgraduate education opportunities.
Cadets are given full tuition scholarships as well as additional allowances for books and fees and a monthly living stipend. To apply, visit Army ROTC.


Microsoft Scholarships are open to students already enrolled in college who are studying computer science, computer engineering, or a related field of study like electrical engineering, math or physics. Recipients will receive one full year of scholarship money to cover tuition costs only. Apply to Microsoft Scholarships.

Air Force ROTC

Like Army ROTC, Air Force ROTC gives students the opportunity to excel in the Air Force as well as the classroom. The scholarship covers full tuition as well as fees, textbook costs and spending money. Get more information about applying for Air Force ROTC Scholarships.

The Gates Millennium Scholars

Gates Millennium Scholarship recipients receive a good-through-graduation award to use at any accredited college or university in the country. The scholarship stems from a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, made in 1999. To qualify, students must be African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American or Hispanic American. Applicants should also have at least a 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale. They must also meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria. Apply for the Gates Millennium Scholarship.


To round out the military branches, Navy ROTC also distributes full-ride scholarships to students who train for their future career while attending college classes. Like the other ROTC programs, students receive living stipends and financial assistance with books and fees. Students can begin the application process second semester of their junior year of high school. Get more information about applying for Navy ROTC Scholarships.

SMART – Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation

The SMART Scholarship, part of the National Defense Education Program, is a full-tuition award opportunity for students currently in college and interested in the science, mathematics or research fields. Additionally, students receive financial assistance for student fees, a paid internship, health insurance reimbursement, $1,000 book allowance, mentoring and job placement after graduation. Learn more about the SMART Scholarship Program.

QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship

The QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship is a unique opportunity exclusively for low-income high school students. Not only is it a scholarship program, but it allows students to apply to some of the most selective colleges in the country for free. Applicants to this scholarship program apply Early Admissions to schools like Grinnell, Stanford, and Brown. If selected for admissions, they receive a full tuition scholarship as well as funds for room and board, books and supplies, and travel expenses. Match Scholarships do not require parental contributions or feature student loans as part of the scholarship and financial aid package. Instead, students may be awarded with work study or may need to contribute in the form of summer work or college savings. Last year, according to QuestBridge, over 1,700 finalists received a full ride scholarship.

Colleges & Universities

At many colleges and universities, there are full-ride scholarship opportunities available to students who apply. Generally, these awards are for students who display exceptional academic, leadership, and philanthropic aptitude. However, some can be based on financial need or other factors. To find these scholarships, visit the school’s website and look under their admissions or financial aid sections. There will typically be a page full of school-specific scholarship opportunities.

In-State Programs

Finally, some states offer in-state full-tuition scholarships to residents. Many stipulate that the student must attend college in that state in order to receive the award. For instance, the Eli Lilly endowment offers students in Indiana a full-tuition scholarship for four years of study as well as a stipend each year for textbooks and equipment. Finding full-tuition opportunities in your state will take a little research. Start by asking your high school counselor about well-known, in-state scholarship opportunities – they will be your best resource in finding these. Otherwise, you'll need to turn to the web and do some research on your own.

Other Ways to Pay for College

If you can't land a full-ride scholarship, you're not alone. It's estimated that about 1% of students applying to college receive a full-ride. A majority of students must get creative when it comes to paying for college. That means they must utilize one, some, or all of the following:

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are free ways to pay for school. The money you earn from each of these categories never has to be paid back. Put your efforts into applying for these opportunities early and often. Many awards are available for high school juniors and seniors; however, there are opportunities for students that are even younger. And don't forget to continue the scholarship search through your senior year of college. Commit to applying to 1-2 scholarships per week. Many Fastweb scholarship winners share that they commit to applying for scholarships on a weekly, or even daily, basis.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is distributed by the federal and state governments as well as colleges and universities. In order to qualify for any form of financial aid, students and their parents must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Financial aid packages can be comprised of grants, work study, and even federal student loans. Once students have been notified of their admission decision and have completed the FAFSA, they will receive a financial aid package.

Private Student Loans

Oftentimes, there is a gap between what a college costs and what a student can afford to pay after merit and financial aid packages have been distributed. In this case, it's necessary for students to take out private student loans. Schools typically have a preferred lender list, which is a list of providers that they currently work with for student borrowing. However, Fastweb also features a student loan finder to help you find a loan tailored to your needs.

College Savings

It's never too late to start saving for college. Some families may have started saving when their children were young, through a 529 College Savings Plan. Even if you're in high school, you can open a college savings account. Just be sure to do so in the parent's names as student assets are judged more harshly on the FAFSA.

Part-Time Jobs & Internships

Many students use earnings from part-time jobs and internships to help subsidize student expenses, like school supplies, meals out in their college town, and shopping. However, in some cases, your work experience can help you pay for college. Many employers are now offering employer tuition assistance, or tuition reimbursement. By working part-time for these employers, they will help cover the cost of tuition in addition to your paycheck.

Education Tax Benefits

Finally, students are eligible for Education Tax Benefits each year that they are enrolled in college. 1. Lifetime Learning Tax Credit – Up to $2,000 per year can be claimed for being enrolled in any continuing education courses or programs. This ranges from PhD programs to career development courses. 2. American Opportunity Tax Credit – Up to $2,500 can be claimed for up to four years by students seeking a degree, certification, or other recognized credential.

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