Getting a full-ride scholarship is a dream come true for any student, regardless of their financial background. A full-ride is essentially a scholarship that covers all college-related expenses, including tuition, textbooks, housing, and other costs associated with attending college. With a scholarship of this type, you don’t pay a cent towards your education, and you definitely do not need to take any student loans.
Ideally, a full-ride scholarship is what you should be aiming for. The thought that you will be able to graduate without any debt can be tremendously empowering. You don’t have to worry about monthly payments or curbing your lifestyle or any of those other loan-related-stressors. It does not get better than that.
However, getting a full-ride scholarship is not easy. They are pretty rare and, as expected, are highly competitive.
With that in mind, there are a few ways to increase the likelihood of earning a full-ride. With some serious planning and determination, you could be one of those lucky few to get your full tuition paid for.
Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of earning a full-ride scholarship.
Start Preparing Early
How early is early enough? Think freshman year of high school. When it comes to offering large scholarships (and it doesn’t get larger than a full-ride) you can expect that the sponsors will take several factors into consideration when assessing applications. Most of the factors that go into the evaluation cannot be worked on at the eleventh hour. You need to show persistence, commitment, and dedication, which means you have to start early and keep at it.
Strive For Academic Excellence
There is no getting away from this. If you are aiming for a full-ride scholarship, you will have to put in the effort to score outstanding grades and test scores. Nothing less than top marks will do.
Choose Challenging Courses
Academic excellence is not just about getting good grades. If you choose all easy courses, high grades aren’t super impressive. Instead, aim for academic rigor by taking AP classes.
Develop & Hone Your Leadership Skills
Leadership skills are a major factor when assessing scholarship applications. Organizations that award scholarships are looking to invest in future leaders. Their main aim is to support and encourage students who have the potential to bring about big changes in any field, whether academia, business, medicine, or any other.
From being an active participant in the classroom to volunteering to lead projects, and helping your classmates, there are several ways that you can showcase your leadership skills.
Participate In Extracurricular Activities
You want to show that you have interests outside of the classroom too, but be careful here. Participating in too many extracurricular activities and just flitting from one to another will not earn you any accolades. As with any other area, quality matters more than quantity.
Choose one or two activities that matter to you and focus on these and keep working your improve your skills in these activities. Aim to be recognized for your accomplishments in your chosen activity, instead of being just a participant. Excel.
Get Involved In Your Community
It takes much more than academics and accomplishments to make a good leader and a good citizen, which is what scholarship programs are looking for. One way to show that you the kind of person that cares for your community is to get involved with it. This does not mean volunteering at a shelter once a year.
The best way to get recognized for your community involvement is to pick something that is close to your heart, whether it is working with animals, children, the environment, or some other worthy cause, and work towards their welfare consistently. Ideally, you should spend time volunteering at least once a week or a few times a month.
Build Relationships With Your Mentors
Making the effort to develop a relationship with your mentors is well worth it for the benefits you will enjoy. A mentor is someone you have built a close relationship with and can offer you valuable academic, professional, and personal advice that you may not be able to get anywhere else.
Most importantly, a mentor who knows you well will be able to write a strong, insightful letter recommending you for a full-ride scholarship. Scholarship authorities place great value on recommendation letters and often use them as a deciding factor when they have to choose between two equally deserving applicants.
Set Your Expectations
You have to be realistic when hoping to get a full-ride scholarship. Even if you manage to do all of the above, it does not guarantee that you will win that top prize. That is because there are countless other students vying for that same award, and they will all be putting in just as much effort as you. Unfortunately, the reality is that many students who more than meet all of the requirements for a full scholarship will not get it. In fact, only 0.1% of students get a full-ride per year.
Don’t Overlook Smaller Scholarships
No matter how hard you work, there is no guarantee that you will get a full-ride. Pinning all your hopes on that one big prize is a big mistake. There are other ways to earn enough money to cover your college cost.
There is no limit to the number of scholarship programs that you apply to, or the amount of money you can get, so go ahead and apply to all scholarships that you are eligible for. You could very well earn a ‘patched-together’ full-ride made of smaller scholarships and grants, which is just as good.
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