How can I get a full ride scholarship?

I’m currently a junior in high school and want to go to a good school (not ivy), but I really need a scholarship in order to go. I plan on applying to the Robertson and AB Scholars programs for Duke, but I don’t think I’m as accomplished as all of the winners of full ride scholarships. What should I focus my time on now so I might have a chance at getting a scholarship?

ACT - 36, writing 9
AP - Chemistry (5), Human Geography (5), Capstone Seminar (5)
Classes this year - AP Physics 1, AP Calc AB/BC, AP Language & Composition, AP US History, Spanish 4

Extra Curriculars -
Intern in biochemistry lab at local university (starting junior year ~5 hrs/week)
ZooTeen volunteer at local zoo (over 600 hrs since 2016)
JV tennis team (spring, freshman & sophomore year, might not have time this year with internship)
Mandarin Chinese class (outside of school)

Awards -
AP Scholar
International Economic Summit Winner
A few academic excellence awards for a specific class in school

Thanks for any help!

What’s your financial situation? You might be able to make up a lot of it with a combo of merit and need scholarships, but it would be very difficult. Of around 1,100 freshmen, only 62 were given merit scholarships. I wouldn’t say you’d get a full-ride anywhere in the T50. Schools like Duke don’t give full rides unless you’re an athlete, hooked, or a legacy. What’s your gpa? It would give more insight into how much you might get, but merit aid at Duke is rare. It’s a little late to do anything differently, other than doing well in classes and writing an amazing application. You’re above average for Duke, but you haven’t described anything that would make you stand out.

I have a 4.0 UW and 4.15 W. I won’t get much if any need based aid. So you think I’ll have to aim for lesser schools if I want any money?

The 4.0 is impressive but a 4.15 isn’t enough to put you in the top 10% of Duke admits. You’ll have to find safeties if you want a full ride. Duke is not the place to search for merit aid. You can try some other T50s but you most likely won’t get a full-ride. Try looking for some outside scholarships.

I doubt if any top 100 college, let alone top 50 college, awards full ride merit scholarships.

There are some top colleges that do offer full rides but they are very limited. BC, Vanderbilt , UVA (actually not the school’s scholarship but the Jefferson Foundation), etc. These are highly competitive and very limited. I think BC gives approx 20 per yr and no other form of merit aid. Essentially htey are trying to pick off the HYP kids by enticing them with full COA (or tuition), internships, mentors, etc.

If you go down the rung a bit, there are many schools that will offer significant merit for your stats. And they are great schools. Schools like Fordham, Elon, Bentley (if you like business), etc.

@rickle1 Full ride means tuition, room and board. Boston College offers 15 full tuition merit scholarships. They do not cover room and board.

@TomSrOfBoston is correct. Sorry about that. The Cornelius (Vandy) and the Jefferson Scholarship (UVA) are both full COA and additional benes.

@midnight03 First congratulations on your accomplishments so far. Let’s start by backing up just a bit; have you spoken to your parents about a budget? Have they given you an estimate of $/year they are able to contribute? What state do you live in? Does your school use Naviance? What do you want to study? What are you looking for in a school and program (please don’t answer a top 20 school)? Meaning what specifically are you looking for: size, LAC or Stem research, atmosphere? CC is full of people across the country who have experience with a variety of schools and scholarships. I’m sure everyone can help you find some great schools with some additional information. It’s great to have reach schools, but start with safety schools (above 75th percentile in stats and is affordable without merit) and match schools first and work up from there.

Vanderbilt scholarships are full tuition plus some summer stipends. They are not full rides. If you qualify for financial aid in excess of the scholarships then you can get part of your room and board covered.

Stop thinking of schools as lesser or better. Look at each school for what it can offer and what you can bring to the school.

If you become a national merit finalist, you will have a lot more opportunities for a full ride.

If you need a full ride, you are going to need to look much lower than top 100. While your GPA and ACT are impressive, it takes much more to win a full ride, and I don’t see that extra something described in your post. You’ll have an easier time finding full tuition in the sub 100 range.

@midnight03 How was your PSAT? Is National Merit Finalist a possibility?

There is a scholarship call Benacquisto that waives OOS tuition and provides a scholarship for the full in-state cost of attendance to the University of Florida for National Merit recipients. Just google Benacquisto Scholarship and you will find the information. UF is the 34th ranked National University and 7th ranked Public University by US News. Not an Ivy League, but up there with UNC, Georgia Tech, UC Santa Barbara, etc.

Hi! Duke merit scholarship recipient here! While it’s definitely possible, you cannot bank on getting a full ride to a school like this. Mine came out of nowhere, and honestly it’s as much luck as it is hard work. I’m no more intelligent or qualified than my friends, but I got a scholarship and they didn’t. You’re automatically considered for most with your application to Duke, so go ahead and apply, but if a full ride is the dealbreaker, don’t get your hopes up.

Some misinformation in this thread…First, Duke does indeed offer merit academic (and athletic of course) scholarships, but the academic ones are VERY limited in nature. Some are geared towards service or certain groups (low income, URM). I agree that you can’t bank on getting one and there is a component of luck, but it’s really more than stats. The stats need to be near perfect and THEN you have to show you’ve been passionate about something and made a big impact outside the classroom in some manner. Also, one can’t say a 4.12 GPA Weighted doesn’t “put [the applicant] in the top 10%” of applicants given we don’t know the weighting scale of the high school. Every school does it differently. With a 4.0 UW GPA clearly the applicant has been perfect. Hard to judge the course difficulty and challenges presented without seeing all that information.

Overall, though, I agree that if you come from a family of means but they don’t want to contribute, you’ll likely have to broaden your search and not expect getting a full-ride to a Top 20 ranked academic institution. But in applications, showing things beyond academics is what a school like Duke looks for. Schools with perhaps lower prestige (which still may be great fits) will likely weigh flawless academic credentials more and incentivize those types of students to attend. Good luck.

I would say depending on your family financial situation, don’t rule out the Ivy. You may not get a full ride but you may be better off with school with no loan than banking on a full merit scholarship from the other top school.

My son decided not to apply to any Ivy and was hoping to chance it with school that has STAMPS, Robertson or similar. It has been disappointing so far. We are now wondering if it would be been better off going after some of the Ivy.

I’m a current freshman at Duke on a full ride merit scholarship. I can confirm that no one who has posted in this thread thus far knows how Duke, scholarships, etc. work.

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@broozi Please educate us on how full ride merit scholarships work at Duke.

@broozi all talk but does not want any smoke

From my decisions this year,

Tulane, GW, Fordham and Drexel would be good ones to apply to if you want merit aid. You are an above average applicant for them & could likely get a lot of $$.

Generally private schools have more aid than public schools imo. So Duke, Vandy, and BC all sound like good choices to apply (I was not accepted to any of those so idk how good it’d be).

I’d also try using RaiseMe. I recieved a few thousand at some schools solely through using that app.

If you will NEED $$ to afford college, likely your financial status could qualify you for need-based (which top schools like Duke or say Princeton are generally generous with).

Even if you don’t get FULL from the university itself, apply to outside scholarships. With your credentials, you’ll be a top applicant likely for them.

Should you fall in that “middle” category of not qualifying for need, but “needing” $$, I can relate. My recommendation is to apply to a good # of safeties & at least one instate public school. Do not apply OOS to public schools, generally they won’t give you anything. Exceptions are schools like Pitt that may give you merit & aren’t terrible OOS.

Truthfully it’s impossible to predict. I got more merit money at Tulane, which is considered the “highest rank” school I was accepted to, than some lower tier schools (UMiami for example). It really depends. I’d make it a priority to contact your admissions rep in the fall for each school & share how you’d like to know about any and all merit awards. Vanderbilt, for example, has 3 awards that require additional early applications. I’d consider reading up on those.

With regards to Duke, it’s best to talk to current students like the one above