We’ve all heard the scary statistics about student loan debt. Altogether, Americans owe almost $1.3 trillion in student loans. In the class of 2016, the average graduate owes $37,172.
These high stats aren’t surprising, what with the cost of a private college averaging $32,410 per year. But what if you could reduce that number to zero with a full-tuition scholarship?
While competitive, there are full-tuition scholarships around the country. They cover most or all of the cost of attendance at a college of your choice. Read on for eight full-tuition scholarships for college, plus some tips on how to win one.
8 full-tuition scholarships that save you thousands
1. Gates Millennium Scholarship
The Gates Millennium Scholarship covers unmet financial need for African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students. You need to have a GPA of at least 3.3, along with a commitment to service and leadership.
To win the Gates Millennium Scholarship, your school needs to nominate you. You also need to answer several essay questions. If you think you could qualify, speak to a teacher, counselor, or your principal about next steps.
2. Intel Science Search
The Intel Science Search is a national contest for aspiring scientists and mathematicians. Before winning scholarship money, you have participated in a long-term research project.
Projects could be in computer science, environmental science, engineering, or biochemistry, among other fields. The Intel Foundation awards one winner with $75,000 and other finalists with scholarships of varying amounts.
3. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship
This merit-based scholarship goes to high-achieving students with financial need.
The selection process is similar to the college admissions process. The scholarship committee looks at your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, essays, and recommendation letters. Winners get up to $40,000 each year for tuition, books, room, board, and other fees.
4. Microsoft Scholarships
Microsoft awards a variety of scholarships, some of which cover the full cost of tuition. To qualify, you must plan to study computer science, science, technology, engineering, or math. Winners have a strong academic and extracurricular background, along with demonstrated financial need.
5. Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology
The Siemens Competition is another national contest for budding scientists and mathematicians.
After a long-term research project, finalists win between $1,000 and $100,000 for tuition. Students can work individually or in groups of two or three. Projects cover a range of scientific fields, but most are devoted to solving global problems.
6. SMART: Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation
This full-tuition scholarship goes to aspiring STEM students who are interested in a career in national defense. Winners are expected to do a summer internship and work for a period as a Department of Defense civilian.
The scholarship also includes a healthy stipend, health insurance, mentoring, and a yearly allowance of $1,000 for miscellaneous supplies.
7. USDA 1890 National Scholars Program
The United States Department of Scholarship offers this full-tuition scholarship to students planning to attend one of the 1890 historically black land-grant universities, like Alabama A&M University or Tennessee State University.
Winners have a record of leadership, plus they plan to study food, agriculture, natural resource science, or a related discipline. USDA scholars get summer jobs and potential employment with the USDA after graduation.
8. Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway
The requirements for a $100,000 Dr. Pepper scholarship are unique. First, you need to post your goal to change the world on Facebook. If you get 50 likes, then you make a short video. A committee reviews all the videos, and winners receive prizes anywhere from $2,500 to $100,000 for tuition.
How to get a full-tuition scholarship
The scholarships on the list above are rare finds. Instead of schools with full-tuition scholarships, these opportunities come from private organizations and you can use most of them at any university.
So, how to get a full-tuition scholarship from one of these private organizations? Most are merit-based, and they require a strong academic and extracurricular background.
If you’re applying, you need to start early to put together the strongest application you can. Produce thoughtful essays, and connect with your recommenders to get outstanding references.
These national, full-tuition scholarships are extremely competitive. You can’t rely on them as your financial plan, but they’re definitely worth a shot. Besides these scholarships, you should apply to smaller ones to help with tuition costs.
As long as you’re thoughtful about how you’ll pay for college, you can avoid taking on too much student loan debt. For more on scholarships, learn about popular scholarship myths that could be holding you back.
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