A full-ride scholarship is an academic scholarship that covers tuition, fees, and other direct university expenses. Some also provide stipends for room and board. With such scholarships, students may not need additional grants and loans. If they have documented financial need in excess of the scholarship award, they can qualify for additional funding under some scholarship programs.
Such scholarships are rare and highly competitive. Some are awarded on the basis of academic merit to outstanding incoming first years and transfer students. The college or university may require a separate application for the scholarship or could pool all eligible applicants together automatically for further review by a scholarship committee. In addition to having an excellent academic record, students also usually need to have a solid collection of extracurricular activities to document their contributions to the community as well as their academic skills.
Full-ride scholarship programs are also sometimes available to extremely disadvantaged students who might not otherwise be able to attend college. These scholarships are usually open to low income students who meet additional criteria like being the first in their families to go to college or being members of a minority group. In addition to meeting these criteria, the student also needs to show academic promise. The program may be more forgiving about the student's academic record in recognition of the fact that a disadvantaged background may mean a student has fewer opportunities for extracurricular activities or advanced classes while in high school.
Athletes can also be eligible for a full-ride scholarship. A school's athletic program typically distributes funds to each sport and allows coaches to determine how to divide them to provide financial assistance to athletes. Students who participate in competitive sports while in school may have less time available in their schedule to work, and such scholarships can make it possible for them to stay in college and remain on their teams. Especially talented athletes can be eligible for a full-ride scholarship, particularly when schools compete to attract them.
A student who receives a full-ride scholarship must typically continue to meet criteria throughout her educational career. The school can suspend the scholarship in the event of academic dishonesty, poor grades, a decision to leave a sports team, or other changes in circumstances. The funds will be released to another student in need of financial assistance. The student can typically appeal the decision if she feels it is unfair or wants a chance to compete for the scholarship again.