A Full-Ride Scholarship Winner Shares His 7 Best Tips to Earn College Money

Young man pumping one fist and holding a fan of cash in the other.

A Full-Ride Scholarship Winner Shares His 7 Best Tips to Earn College Money

Published January 1, 2024

Young man pumping one fist and holding a fan of cash in the other.

Student Ricky P. worked hard during his senior year to win scholarships. His effort paid off–he earned a full-ride to the University of Texas at San Antonio. Here’s his college scholarship journey filled with tips you and your student can use.

This story was originally published in our Paying for College 101 (PFC 101) group. It has been edited for clarity and flow. 

As a high school senior who snagged a full-ride scholarship, I’m sharing my insights on the world of college admissions and scholarships. Keep in mind that everyone’s journey is unique, but I hope my experiences can help other students earn full rides to college, too.

1) How And Where to Find Scholarships

While many universities offer automatic annual scholarships based on class ranking, GPA, and test scores, other scholarships may be waiting to be discovered. These often come with separate applications and their own set of rules. 

I found these by looking up “universities with full-ride scholarships” on Google. Then, I narrowed my search to “universities with full-ride scholarships in the state I live in.” Once you start finding specific universities, go to that school’s website to find more information about the scholarship and what it requires. 

In addition, you can type “XYZ University scholarship” into Google to see if anything comes up. You could also call a university’s financial aid office to inquire about scholarships. The research may seem daunting, but I promise it’s worth it.

2) The Earlier You Apply, The More Time You Have to Apply For Scholarships

Unfortunately, many substantial scholarships share a deadline with college applications—December 1st, to be precise. 

If you wait until the deadline to submit your college applications, you may miss out on the scholarships that have the same deadline. Even if you apply to a college a few weeks before the official deadline, that may not give you enough time to craft a quality scholarship application and essay. In this case, the earlier you can apply to college, the more time you’ll have to discover and apply for scholarships.

To stay ahead of the game, submit college applications well in advance, so you have plenty of time to craft exceptional scholarship applications without sacrificing quality.

3) Know the Scholarship Requirements In Advance, So You Can Be Prepared

Scholarship applications can be complex, often requiring more essays and recommendations than college applications. These take time, so the sooner you know what you’re up against, the better.

4) Schedule Time to Apply For Scholarships

During my application season, I committed to an hour of essay work every day after school. I realize that may not work for everyone, but I also squeezed in some writing on my phone whenever I could, and that’s something everyone can do when you find yourself with a few minutes of free time.

5) Choose a Winning Essay Topic

Here’s a tip: Research scholarship-winning essays online for inspiration. Doing so will help you craft better essays.  

Additionally, for “why us” essays, try to steer clear of generic responses. Research the school’s unique offerings, including professors, clubs, research opportunities, and more. Your application should shout, “I’m committed to this particular place!” rather than the more generic, “I’m committed to insert name of college here.” And don’t forget to have an English teacher or a college counselor review and fine-tune those essays.

6) Share Your Unique Passions, Hobbies, and Interests

If you decide to write about your passions and extracurriculars, don’t just copy items from your resume, but rather dig into why they are your passions, hobbies, and interests, and highlight any time spent volunteering or honing your skills in that specific area. 

For example, I want to be a pediatric therapist, so I centered some of my scholarship and college essays around my passion for helping children. I focused on my hours spent volunteering with children’s organizations, and how I held leadership positions in this area and did a project with my church to help children in the community. 

7) How to Prepare For Scholarship Interviews

If you’re invited to participate in a scholarship interview, be prepared to answer the pivotal question: Why this school? Specificity matters—professors, clubs, research projects—the more detailed you are, the better. A bit of online research for practice questions can boost your confidence and set you apart from students who give the same generic answers no matter what school they’re applying for.

It’s important to note that this is what helped me be successful and may not work for everyone. Just focus on what makes you different, and go from there. 


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

How My Daughter Got $53,000 a Year in Merit and Financial Aid Plus More in Private Scholarships

The Price You Pay for College: Why It’s So Difficult to Predict Merit Scholarships

How to Get Students Motivated to Apply for Scholarships




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