How to Get a Full Scholarship

Trying to learn how to get a full scholarship? We’ve got the answers here. Use the menu below to jump to:

  1. A few private full scholarships.
  2. Institutional full scholarships.
  3. How to get lots of little scholarships that make up one full scholarship.
  4. Apply early, apply often, go small: How to build your own full scholarship.
  5. When full scholarships aren’t really full.
  6. How to get a full scholarship.
  7. How to use the full tuition scholarship search app.
  8. Inside info from full scholarship winners.

To answer the question, “How to get a full scholarship,” or “How do I get a full scholarship?” we spoke with Kevin Ladd, Vice President at, the country’s leading scholarships search site. Ladd is also a mentor for Chicago Scholars, a nonprofit that helps academically driven students from under-resourced communities to enroll in and graduate from best fit colleges.

How to Get a Full Scholarship

According to Kevin Ladd from, full tuition scholarships or full ride scholarships are few and far between.

how to get a full scholarship kevin ladd

Kevin Ladd, Vice President of and mentor for Chicago Scholars, seen here in superhero mode.

“It’s rare,” says Ladd. “I don’t want to say it’s impossible. I don’t want to crush hopes and dreams, because it does happen. There are definitely a bunch of full scholarships, but if you took the percentage of scholarships that are full, it’s definitely going to be a decimal and then a zero and then a number, if that. It might be a couple zeroes. It’s really the extreme minority of the time that you get a full scholarship.”

A Few Private Full Ride Scholarships

Though full tuition scholarships are rare, Ladd did list a few. To get the Chick Evans Caddy full Scholarship, a student would have to be a caddy. Since it’s not hard to become a caddy, and it’s fun, figuring out how to get that particular full scholarship is as easy as getting a Saturday job.

There are a couple other full scholarships like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship and the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation Scholarship. Students wondering how to get those full scholarships can visit their websites and read the descriptions, or see our explanations below. Some other scholarships aren’t full but will fund the gap between the cost of tuition and what the student can afford, so that comes fairly close to a full ride.

how to get a full scholarship chick evans

Screen grab from the Chick Evans full scholarship application web page. Click the image to visit.

“There’s a qualifier,” says Ladd. “Whenever you say full scholarship, that may mean you get a full scholarship as long as you can show zero Expected Family Contribution. Often, a full scholarship is going to have a financial need requirement. So they’re going to look at your FAFSA and whatever your parents earn and so on.”

Also see: 30 Weird College Scholarships

How to Get Institutional Full Scholarships

how to get a full scholarship institutionalMost full ride scholarships are institutional, meaning that they’re awarded by the school. Generally speaking, these institutional full scholarships come from smaller schools that have very large endowments. There are exceptions, such as sports full tuition scholarships naturally, but if you’re getting a full scholarship for playing a sport you’re probably being recruited by the college and not searching for that type of scholarship.

“For example,” says Ladd, “I’m a mentor for Chicago Scholars, and one of my mentees’ parents don’t have a large income and he got a full scholarship to Princeton. So the combination of the fact that Princeton has a huge endowment and that their threshold for expecting your family to contribute is something like $60,000 total household income got him that scholarship. They don’t do loans at all. If you get in, their endowment takes care of all the stuff you can’t take care of. There’s no loans at all unless I guess if you were from a fairly wealthy family and you were strapped, like if you had everything invested elsewhere, so if I made like $300,000 a year and my kid goes to Princeton but I don’t have any actual cash but I make a lot of money, I could take out loans or something like that. But as far as the institution is concerned, anyone who shows financial need, Princeton picks up the tab.”

how to get a full scholarship ladd and mentees

This screen grab from shows Ladd and mentees.

Most full tuition scholarships are institutional as in the case above. It’s the college that grants the full scholarship. It could be an athletic full ride scholarship or an academic scholarship or it could be merit based, but it’s more typically going to be a smaller, private school, such as an Ivy League school like Williams College or Amherst College in Massachusetts.

“There’s a bunch of smaller schools that have a ton of money that they throw at stuff like that,” Ladd says.

As far as how to get an institutional full scholarship, the college awards those automatically based on need. There is no application process for these full scholarships. Therefore, it’s best not to spend any time or effort on them.

It’s Better to Go After Lots of Smaller Scholarships Than One Full Scholarship

how to get a full scholarship lots of littleBecause the odds of getting a full ride scholarship are so low, asking how to get a full scholarship might be the wrong question.

A much better strategy is going after a lot of smaller scholarships that each give the student a higher chance of success. Students who play it that way can effectively make their own full scholarship out of lots of smaller ones. Full tuition scholarships are pie in the sky, while smaller scholarships are lots of small slices of pie right here at ground level. It’s better to ask, “How do I get a lot of little scholarships” than to wonder how to get a full scholarship.

“You shouldn’t not look for them,” says Ladd, “but my point is that most people are not going to qualify for a full scholarship, and if you think you’re going to go out there with some sort of silver bullet, one scholarship, done, cool, I’m coasting through school, no debt when I get out, that’s not likely to happen. If you think that way you might not work as hard at trying to get multiple scholarships.”

Also see: How Do I Save For My Kid’s College? 529 for College Savings

How to Make Your Own Full Scholarship: Apply Early, Apply Often, Don’t Count on One Full Scholarship

late payment bills calendarThe best approach to getting a scholarship is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. Instead of or in addition to going after a full ride scholarship, go for a lot of smaller scholarships. The earlier a student starts this process, the better.

The question of how to get a full scholarship is actually answered best by saying, “stitch a lot of smaller scholarships together into one big full scholarship.”

“When I talk to anyone, whether it’s a parent or a student,” says Ladd, “I say if you’re really good you might win one out of every six scholarships you apply for. If you’re average you might get one out of ten. If your circumstance is unusual you might get a higher ratio, but typically if you want to win ten scholarships to pay for 90% of your need, you’re going to have to apply to five to ten times that many to win them. So rather than having the approach of trying to get a full scholarship, I always tell people, if you have a kid and they’re 14 or 15 right now, start right now looking and researching and figuring out how they’re going to go to college. It’s probably going to take a lot of time and effort. Community service, participating in different extracurriculars, all that stuff will be considered when you apply to college and when you apply to scholarships. That’s why I kind of take that cynical view about the full scholarships, because I think it’s more practical to tell someone, start early, plan to do a lot of them. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe you’ll hit the jackpot and you’ll get that full scholarship, but don’t count on it.”

Full Ride Scholarships Do Exist, But it’s Not Worth Spending the Bulk of Your Effort on Them

how to get a full scholarshipWhile a full scholarship would of course mean a lot less work, the chances of getting one are so low that it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of hours going after them. Even more of a disincentive is the fact that most of the institutional full tuition scholarships get awarded automatically, which means students don’t need to try for those particular full scholarships to begin with.

“I never want to rain on someone’s parade,” says Ladd, “and certainly I’d love to be wrong about there not being that many full scholarships, and if someone were to respond to this article and say, “I won a full ride,” I love to hear those stories, but as far as my experience of 15 years working in this field, I don’t see it a lot and if you do get one, like I said, it’s probably going to be institutional, and it doesn’t really come into play because you automatically get submitted for those scholarships when you apply to the school, so it doesn’t really behoove you to spend your time researching it. that’s unless it’s early in the process and that is part of your reason or strategy for applying to certain schools. Basically whatever school accepts you, it’s going to come up in your financial aid letter anyway.”

Also see: How to Get Money to go Back to College

Even Many “Full Scholarships” Aren’t Always Full

how to get a full scholarship room and boardPrivate full ride scholarships are not only few and far between. They’re also not always technically full scholarships depending on what school you go to. The Chick Evans scholarship might fall into the category of a full tuition scholarship because it pays such a large amount and is renewable year after year if you maintain your study level year after year and you maintain your grades, but it’s still a fixed amount.

“So technically,” says Ladd, “if I wanted to go to Georgetown and use the Chick Evans Scholarship, it wouldn’t be full tuition because it’s around $35,000 and Georgetown costs around $48,000 and an average of about another $15,000 for room and board and everything else. But it kind of is a full scholarship because there’s a lot of schools you can go to for $35,000 a year. Fewer than there used to be, but there’s still some.”

Full Scholarships Don’t Generally Include Room and Board

how to get a full scholarship room and board etc“Full tuition scholarship” is a specific phrase that means just that. Someone who gets a full ride at Pamona College will save around $44,000 in tuition. However, they’ll still have to pay $12,000 to $15,000 a year for room and board and other costs. So just bear in mind that if you do get a full tuition scholarship, over a four year undergrad degree you’ve still got to come up with between $48,000 and $60,000 depending on where you go.

“If you go to school in Washington D.C. or New York City or LA,” Ladd says, “you’re going to pay about $15,000 for non-tuition costs. If you go someplace in Iowa that’s not a big city it might be $10,000 or $12,000. It just really depends on where you go. But the point is that full tuition doesn’t mean full ride. I don’t personally know a specific full ride scholarship that pays all of your living costs, the book store, the computer and room and board and all that stuff that goes on top of tuition. If you did win a full tuition, you might still go out and try to get $10,000 more a year or $15,000 more a year in other scholarships, and even then you’ve got to find a scholarship that allows you to use it for something other than tuition. Because with some scholarships the check goes right to the school and if the scholarship provider has stipulated that it has to be used for tuition, well then your room and board is extra. I guess it could work out if you’re living on campus, but what if you’re not doing that or what if you don’t want to live on campus the whole time. But yeah, full tuition is one thing, full ride would imply that you’re also getting your room and board paid for.”

Also see: Will College Make You Richer?

So How DO You Get a Full Scholarship?

how to get a full scholarship earlySince single full tuition scholarships are so few and far between, and since most of them are awarded automatically anyway, the best way to get a truly “full scholarship” is by building it from lots of smaller scholarships.

The best way, therefore, to get a full ride scholarship (or put another way, all of your tuition plus your college room and board paid for) is to start looking for scholarships early and go after as many as possible. Then stitch together your own full side scholarship from lots of smaller ones. As Ladd said, an average person who wants to win ten smaller scholarships to pay for 90% of their schooling will have to apply to 50 or 100 of them. The best way to do that is to use a scholarship search tool, complete a profile of yourself including your GPA and other pertinent facts, and start the search.

But how do you get lots of smaller scholarships? In other words, how do you get a full scholarship by getting lots of smaller ones?

How to Build a Full Scholarship From Smaller Ones

There are a number of solid scholarship search tools online. is the most popular. The beauty of these search tools is, they make looking for a scholarship a lot easier on the student by immediately doing away with the thousands upon thousands of scholarships that the student is not eligible for. That narrows down the field rapidly and lets the student concentrate only on those scholarships they actually have a chance of winning. A sample scholarship search can be seen in the screenshot below. Click to enlarge.

how to get a full

How to Find Full Scholarships With This iPhone App

The best part about having an iPhone is being able to fit in tedious work like searching for a full scholarship, full ride scholarship or full tuition scholarship when you’re trapped somewhere like a plane, a bus or a concrete underground fallout shelter. Students can search for full ride scholarships with’s handy app for iPhone or Android.

no essay scholarships search app

The app is fast, easy and the best way to find full ride scholarships while on the move. Just download the app, answer a few questions and with one click the full tuition scholarship search is on. The app jams in over 2.7 million national, local and state college scholarships. Use the app to get a single full scholarship or build one full ride out of several smaller ones. The app also lets users research over 7,000 colleges, right from their iPhone. Search full ride college scholarships that match your profile and see detailed descriptions of full tuition scholarships including contact info, number of awards, maximum dollar amount and purpose.

How to Get Full Scholarships: Get the Inside Dope

One great way to inspire and prepare yourself for any quest, whether it’s getting into a college, getting a full tuition scholarship or landing a job, is to learn from others who’ve gone before you. Learning how to get a full scholarship gets easier if you can see how other people did it.

Below, we’ve posted a few videos by and about full ride scholarship winners to give you a burst of energy in your full scholarship search. We’ve included videos from people who know all about how to get scholarships, whether those are full ride scholarships or scholarships or any other kind.

1. A Full Scholarship Dream: Chick Evans

Here’s one way to get a full scholarship. Check out the video below about Maryclaret Ndubuisi-Obi, a Nigerian student who fulfilled her dream of winning a full ride scholarship from the Chick Evans Foundation. Ndubuisi-Obi started life washing her dishes with dirt in Africa, but later moved to Chicago with her father. During her freshman year in high school, she learned of the Chick Evans scholarship, which isn’t always a full tuition scholarship but does give students a full ride to many colleges. Watch her inspiring story below and learn the tale behind this amazing full scholarship. Every year 225 full college grants are awarded through the program. Hmm… maybe learning golf isn’t such a bad idea…

2. Awestruck by Winning Gates Full Scholarship

Amanda is one of many students every year who win a full ride college scholarship from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She realized one of the few things she has control over is how she reacts to adversity. To her, how a person reacts to negative events is the primary ingredient of character.

How did Amanda win her full scholarship? She worked hard to pursue her education and pursuing activities that would benefit her future. She is the valedictorian of a medical magnet high school. Even though the school is an hour bus ride from her home, she says attending it is one of the best decisions she ever made. Not only did she learn a ton about healthcare and ethics, but her choice of that school was likely also instrumental in winning the Gates Foundation full tuition scholarship. Her participation in several honors societies and volunteer programs probably also gave her a leg up in winning the full scholarship. Amanda is attending Texas A&M and pursuing a degree in public health.

3. How to land a Full Scholarship

The NBC interview below with college admissions expert Katherine Cohen of Ivy Wise has some great tips on how to win a full scholarship or lots of smaller ones. Cohen explains that there are literally billions of dollars in free money for college up for grabs. She stresses that the March 1st deadline is important, and also that the criteria for winning full scholarships and small scholarships alike vary greatly. However, many depend on things like GPA, test scores, resume, essays, letters of recommendation and often some kind of interview.

Cohen stresses that the most competitive scholarships (such as full tuition scholarships) are so competitive that even the smallest error will disqualify a student in the first round. To avoid errors, applicants should take care to submit all the parts of every full scholarship application, read all fine print, be on time and specifically tailor each application to its scholarship.

4. Sources of Free Money That Could Build a Full Scholarship

Taking the advice of both Kevin Ladd and Katherine Cohen above, a student trying to build their own full tuition scholarship from lots of smaller ones could do worse than to listen to Matthew Lesko. The guy’s a kook. He dresses like a kook. He sounds like a shyster. In fact he may be a shyster. But he does real research and shares real sources of free money for college. Watch his video to find sources of scholarships for dumb rich people, how to get a free college education entirely online, and even how to get college money for illegal immigrants and millionaires. Want to build your own full scholarship? Check out Lesko’s tips.

5. Coca Cola Full Scholarship Winner Justin Koch

Coca Cola full tuition scholarship winner Justin Koch is a member of the class of 2015 at the University of San Francisco. Koch (interestingly pronounced “Coke”) won the Coca Cola “first generation” full scholarship, for students who are the first in their family ever to attend college. Koch is passionate about reading and writing. He hopes the opportunity will help him make a mark on history in a way his family hasn’t been able to do before. Koch was able to get this full ride by, among other things, being the first of his family to go to college. Being the first member of your family to go to college is just one way to get a full scholarship.

6. Winning Video for Coca Cola Full Scholarship Application

Ever wonder what a winning full ride scholarship video looks like? Below is a personal video statement from Coca Cola Pay it Forward Scholarship semifinalist Evan Mouton. Now a student at North Carolina A&T, Mouton has a passion for theater and the performing arts. Mouton’s creativity and confidence come across in this short video essay. His ultimate goal is to start a nonprofit that exposes youth and especially black youth to theatre. The video shows a young man with many interests and talents all centered around the theatre, making it easy to see how he was picked for a full ride scholarship.