Understanding the Difference Between Full-Ride and Full-Tuition Scholarships

Full Ride Scholarships

Understanding the Difference Between Full-Ride and Full-Tuition Scholarships

Full Ride Scholarships

A full-ride or full-tuition college scholarship is every parent’s dream and something that many students wonder if they are eligible to apply for and win, but these types of awards don’t just magically appear and are often misunderstood.

It is important to know the difference between full-ride and full-tuition scholarships when searching for schools and making college decisions.

What’s a Full-Ride Scholarship?

Full-ride scholarships usually cover all college costs including; tuition, housing, meals, textbooks, fees and possibly even a stipend to pay for any extra personal expenses.

Full-ride scholarships are the cream of the scholarship crop, but often have strict guidelines and requirements for students to keep the award for their entire college career.

These generous scholarship awards are not easy to come by, but they are worth researching and becoming familiar with when trying to obtain funds for college.

What’s a Full-Tuition Scholarship?

Full-tuition scholarships are those that cover the cost of tuition only and usually do not include all the extra fees of going to college. In a nutshell, the scholarship money pays for tuition and nothing else.

There are exceptions to this however, as each award comes with its own criteria in regards to what the scholarship money may be used to pay for.

Many parents and their students may be surprised to find out that even with a full-tuition scholarship, only half (or less) of the total cost of attendance may be covered, as room and board and other expenses are a huge part of paying for college.

Like full-ride scholarships, full-tuition awards are not easy to win, but are scholarship gold if awarded.

Which Colleges and Organizations Offer Full-Ride or Full-Tuition Scholarships?

Full-ride and full-tuition scholarships are mainly offered by universities and colleges and are commonly referred to as “institutional awards”, but there are also private organizations or businesses that offer such large awards to select students.

One example is the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship. This award is a $40,000 per year scholarship that pays for tuition, room and board, books and any other college fees.

National Merit Scholarship and Full-Ride and Full-Tuition Scholarships

Many full-ride and full-tuition scholarships are offered to National Merit Scholars or National Merit Semifinalist and are sponsored by the individual colleges.

A few universities offer substantial scholarships to Semifinalists, but most schools require that students obtain Finalist status in order to be eligible for full-tuition scholarships. Some of them also have GPA requirements.

Below is a sample of schools that offer full tuition or full ride scholarships to National Merit Scholars and Semifinalists….

Schools Offering Full Ride/Full Tuition for National Merit Scholars

Guidelines to Keep Your Full-Ride or Full-Tuition Scholarship

Full-ride and full-tuition scholarships, whether institutional or private, all have very specific guidelines regarding the students who are eligible to apply.

Many have a financial need requirement and mandate the submission of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) each year.

In order to keep receiving the scholarship money, students may also need to have a minimum G.P.A. and it is often up to the student to submit grade reports each semester.

Other stipulations may also include what the student has to do after college graduation, as some full-ride and full-tuition scholarships come with a job commitment for a specific number of years.

State Schools Offering Full-Ride or Full-Tuition Scholarships

Many states, or specific cities or counties within a certain state, offer “promise” full-ride or full-tuition scholarships to those students who meet certain criteria. The Florida Bright Futures program is one such scholarship that helps public school graduates pay for higher education. Find a list of state and county promise scholarships here.

Always Search for College Generous With Merit-Based Scholarships

Doing a little research into what institutions offer full-ride or full-tuition scholarships is a smart way to strategize in the effort to find money for college, but families should never count on students winning these elite awards.

Early college planning should also include narrowing down schools that offer the most merit money to students who meet certain baselines; such as G.P.A., SAT/ACT scores, valedictorian/salutatorian status, etc.

Filing the FAFSA should always be on the college planning “must do” list, as well as having students apply as many for national, state, and local scholarships as possible.

Using our College Insights tool can make finding schools that will be generous with their merit scholarship money a breeze. Click here for details.






In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

Financial Aid and More: How to Pay for College With No Money

College Financial Planning

Financial Aid and More: How to Pay for College With No Money

For many families, saving up enough money to cover the entire cost of their children’s higher education just isn’t possible.

Our Full-Tuition Scholarship Journey


Our Full-Tuition Scholarship Journey

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

A Community Member Shares HBCU Scholarship and College Application Tips


A Community Member Shares HBCU Scholarship and College Application Tips

This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow. 

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.


Explore College Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.


Get coaching on admissions and college financing.


Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.