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Education Investing

7 Simple Steps to Get a Full Scholarship

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Full-ride scholarships (also called full scholarships) are the holy grail of funding opportunities, as they cover almost everything for the three or four years of college. Tuition and living expenses will be covered by the provider, leaving you free to focus on your studies and social life without worrying about money. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, there are not many such scholarships. Full scholarships are rare and those that are available are very competitive. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply: read on to find out 6 tips on how to increase your chances of getting one of these prestigious scholarships.

1. Know where to look

First of all: where to find full scholarships? The first thing to do is to check the official website of your chosen university, which may offer its own funding opportunities for students in your area or major, or list external scholarships for which you may be eligible.

In addition to your university, you can check out sites such as InternationalScholarships.com or FastWeb.com, as well as our Scholarships Abroad page, which lists funding opportunities in different study destinations, subject-focused scholarships, and scholarships aimed at specific groups of students (e.g., African students).

2. Prepare in advance

If you know that you will need a full scholarship to attend college, it is important that you start preparing as far in advance as possible. This is especially important if you realize you will be interviewing: some universities hold special “scholarship weekends” where 50 to 100 students are invited to campus to meet with a faculty member and answer questions about their goals and motivations and how they fit in with the university and the course. If you must attend a scholarship interview, you should treat it like any other formal interview, dressing smartly and arriving well prepared with good answers to their potential questions, and having some questions ready to ask when you are invited at the end of the interview. Find out how to answer the most common admissions interview questions here.

3. Work hard and stay motivated

While some full scholarships are based on financial need rather than academic excellence, others take both into account or are awarded only to exceptional students. It goes without saying that you will have to work hard at your studies, but you will have to work really hard if you want to get a full scholarship, since most are awarded to top-performing students. In some cases, universities may automatically consider applicants for full scholarships through the normal college application, making high grades crucial. Although engaging in study can be mentally exhausting, try to stay motivated by keeping your goals in mind and give yourself a break from time to time to relax (especially during and after exam season).

4. Stand out from other applicants

With so much competition for a full scholarship, it is essential to stand out from the group of applicants by demonstrating a real commitment to improving yourself as an individual. This means having extracurricular activities to show scholarship providers, demonstrating your passions and interests outside the classroom, as well as examples of involvement in the local community, perhaps by participating in volunteer activities for a good cause.

Scholarship providers also place a high value on leadership skills, which you can demonstrate by volunteering to lead projects within your extracurricular or community activities.

Another thing that can make you stand out from the crowd when it comes to scholarship applications is a rousing account of your academic and personal qualities through letters of recommendation, so it is important to establish strong relationships with your academic mentors: if a mentor knows you well, he or she will be able to give a more personal and accurate reflection of you in his or her letter.

5. Read the application instructions carefully.

This may seem extremely obvious, but you don’t want to lose your chances by accidentally omitting a document or piece of information that was provided in the application instructions. Be sure to read the application instructions carefully and repeatedly to reduce the likelihood that you will miss something, and email the provider if you need clarification.

6. Submit an outstanding essay or cover letter


It goes without saying, but the wording of the application or cover letter should be of the highest quality possible. This means making sure it is clear and concise, that it is formatted correctly, that it draws the reader in with a good introduction, that it focuses on the main topic, and that it has perfect spelling and grammar. Don’t just proofread the text hundreds of times to make sure it is perfect-ask a friend to proofread it and check for typos or sentences that don’t read as well as they could.

7. Be realistic

Finally, as we have already mentioned, the truth is that full scholarships are not many and are extremely competitive, which means that many applicants who meet and exceed the requirements for a full scholarship end up being excluded. Do not let this stop you from applying, but be realistic in your expectations. Remember that there is no limit to the number of scholarship applications you can submit, and there is usually no limit to the number of scholarships you can be awarded, so you may be able to build your full scholarship by using two or more smaller scholarships (of course, be sure to check with providers that you can apply for and receive funding from other sources). If you are rejected, try not to be discouraged: get back up, dust yourself off, and don’t stop trying in life until you get what you want.