Flickr user DigitalRalph

Flickr user DigitalRalph

Many students dream of receiving a full-ride scholarship in order to pay for their college education. In essence, a full-ride scholarship is an award that fully pays for a student’s time at college—including: tuition, room and board, other fees, books and materials, and sometimes even living expenses and study abroad costs.

A full-ride scholarships seems almost like an elusive Golden Ticket—with it paying for college you’d be able to avoid taking out student loans, or parents paying out of pocket, or spending time and effort applying for other financial aid opportunities. It’s an ideal solution, right?

Well, yes and no. For students fortunate enough to earn a full-ride, it can be a wonderful opportunity. However, fewer than 20,000 students a year earn a full-ride scholarship. This may seem like a lot, until you realize that about 20.5 million students are enrolled in college as of 2016. Therefore, about 0.1% of students earn a full-ride scholarship per year. Hmm.

Full-ride scholarships are highly, highly competitive since they are so coveted. They can be offered by the government, by the schools themselves, or by private sources (which are quite rare–only about 250 total).

So, should you apply? Sure—but don’t stake your college financial plan on it.

If you were banking on a full-ride, don’t worry just yet. There are many ways to make college much more affordable that don’t rely on being in that 0.1% of lucky students.

First off, you should know the difference between sticker price and net price. The sticker price is the published cost of college, the price-tag if you will. This is the number that often intimidates people, and makes them worry about being able to afford college. For example, the sticker price of Stanford is over $65,000 (including tuition, room and board, books, travel expenses, etc.). That number will cause many students and parents to strike Stanford off of their application list—but don’t do it just yet!

Let’s talk net price. The net price is what you actually pay for a college, and it is usually a lot less than the sticker price. The net price takes into account the scholarships and financial aid a student will receive, and lowers the sticker price accordingly. This is the number you should look at while comparing colleges and making a financial plan.

College Raptor’s net price calculator will help you find your personalized net price for nearly every single college in the country—for FREE! That’s right, enter your information in one time and you can see your college price estimates, potential financial aid opportunities, and more. The more you fill in, the more accurate your net price estimate will be. You will be amazed at the difference looking at the net price can make. Oftentimes private colleges are actually more affordable than in-state colleges! Use College Raptor to make more informed decisions about colleges and financial planning.

Now let’s circle back around to scholarships. Did you know that most scholarship award money is actually given out by the federal government and the schools themselves? File your FAFSA to discover federal opportunities, and check in with the financial aid offices of the schools you’re interested in to find aid there—of course, College Raptor can give you a sneak peek as to what potential aid you can find at both!