Schools That May Give Me A Full Ride

Hi! Thank you for taking the time to read my stats. I am currently a high school junior preparing my list of schools to apply to. My goal is to receive a full ride or full tuition and cover the rest with outside scholarships, but I don’t really know which schools I should shoot for. Please feel free to give me suggestions or any tips/advice for this upcoming application season. I am not as competitive of an applicant which is why I worry. Prestige is important to me but as someone on the pre-health track I have prioritized finance over prestige!
Here are my stats:

  • US citizen
  • State/Location of residency: Virginia
  • Type of high school: Magnet Program (Math and Science) at Medium Sized Public High School
  • Female/Black/West African
    *Not first-gen but first child of Immigrants.

Intended Major(s)
Health Science, Public Health, or Biomedical Engineering (Pre-Med or Pre-PA)
Possible Second Major: Business/Finance
Probable Minors: Spanish or Sign Language or anything along the realm of Foreign Relations

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.7 (4.0 scale)
  • Weighted HS GPA: 3.9 (4.0 scale)
  • Class Does Not Rank
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 1280 SAT (retaking in June)

*AP Human Geography, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Language and Composition, AP Physics, AP Calc AB
(Scheduled to take these senior year: AP Calc BC, AP Bio, Dual Enrollment English, AP Psych)
*Magnet Courses(all weighted): Geology, Anatomy and Physiology, Marine Biology, Chemistry, Molecular Biology
*Enrolled in Program for 2021-2022 school year in which I will become a certified Pharmacy Technician

Honor Roll and Principal’s List
Graphic Design Contest Winner
NMSI STEM STAR $500 Recipient.
End of Semester Award for Dedication
(Spanish Class 9th grade)

Student Council; Executive Board and Officer (Elected as President for next year)
Black Student Org; Vice President
Class Executive Board; Social Media Director
National Honor Society (running to chair the annual blood drive)
Volunteer with Nonprofit dedicated towards providing affordable cleft lip and palate surgeries (Operation Smile)
JV Soccer, Varsity Track and Field, Varsity Cheerleading
Mentorship Program- Tutor
Upcoming Summer Tissue Engineering Program
Retail Job (5 months, Employee of the Month April)

Not written yet, I don’t know what to write about at all.

Cost Constraints / Budget
Don’t have enough saved up. Parents income is >150k so need based aid will probably not cover much . (but they have many expenses in their home country and student loans hence why my goal is to complete undergrad debt free.)


There used to be a decent size list of full ride merit scholarships, but many of them have become smaller or changed to competitive over the years.

Here are a few remaining that appear to be for stats, but confirm with the schools whether anyone with the stats gets them, or if they are competitive among those who have the stats:


Are you interested in HBCUs? A full ride will be tough given your stats, but would be possible at some of the less competitive HBCUs (not Howard or Spelman). If you can get your SAT up, take a look at the Levine program at UNC-Charlotte. I’ll come back later with some additional suggestions.


You have to remember why schools give money away. It’s to increase their rankings. They do so by swaying high GPAs and high test scores to attend. Although your scores are admirable, they aren’t in the free money realm for most schools.

You mention expenses for your parents in “their home country.” Are you a US citizen? If not coming by money is even harder. Many schools use international students to pad their coffers.

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Despite the fact that your school does not rank, do you have ANY idea where your GPA puts you within your class, percentile-wise? Because I can tell you, the colleges will know. Many, if not all, schools that do not rank send a letter that explains this, and then gives a range for GPA’s. Something like, “Our school has 400 students in a grade. We grade on a 4.0 scale, with this much extra awarded for honors/AP. 50 students have GPA’s of 4.0-4.5. 50 have 3.75 - 4.0.” And so on. This piece of information would be very helpful, if you have an idea of where your GPA places you.

One thing that you can improve, with a small investment of time, is your standardized test score. I don’t know how you’ll have time to study for finals AND the SAT. What I suggest you do is delay your re-take of the SAT until a bit after finals are done, and prep like mad as soon as finals are done. You should also, if you can find a free 4 hour chunk of time, download the sample test from the ACT website and try that, to see whether it’s better for you. Don’t worry about the science section - it’s NOT science. It’s data interpretation, which is very easy to prep for by just doing a few practice sections to familiarize yourself with the data. See whether your score on this practice test predicts a higher “prepped for” score than the SAT does.

Your stats are not going to bring merit money. You will have an admissions advantage as an underrepresented minority, not as a first gen student, nor as a low socioeconomic status student. Depending upon the school, you might not get much or any financial aid, because the fact that your parents are sending a lot of money home to support relatives outside the US may not persuade financial aid offices to support you. You may be eligible for significant private scholarship money specific for African American students.

Do you have any better idea of what you want to do in healthcare? I think you might be an excellent fit for nursing with the goal of APRN, NP, or nurse anesthetist. Nursing degrees combine with business for lots of good business jobs in the heathcare industry. There is a LOT of private scholarship money for people going into nursing, for African Americans, and for African Americans who are going into nursing. You have to search them out an apply.

I think you should consider VA public schools while living at home, if possible. This will save you a lot on room and board. Another option is for you to fulfill the prerequisites for admission to an RN program at your local community college, then an RN to BSN program at a public state college. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t also apply to some schools where you might get merit money. I’m just saying also make options that you can work for you with the up to 27K total in student loans that you’d be eligible for, and be sure that you are direct and focused in your career plans. Usually, one can get through a bachelors degree with that 27K by doing your first two years at community college (which you could probably whittle down to one year with AP and CLEP scores), and the last two at a public college, all while living at home.

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The original poster says:

Man…details :joy:

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I would look at some of the Jesuit colleges. Many are trying to increase diversity on campus and giving good scholarships.

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There are essentially two ways to get there, the defined matrix way, which looks unlikely unless your test scores dramatically rise (300 points), or the generous merit programs. You can only know what you get from the latter after acceptance.

What’s you plan B?

Don’t think your #s are right there but SMU and Washington & Lee are both seeking to diversify and have programs. Pitt won’t be full but they have very generous diversity scholarships if you have a high 20s ACT…cathedral of learning. Good luck.

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Run the NPC on Grinnell, Muhlenberg, Mount Holyoke College. Is any of those affordable?

Full rides have become incredibly uncommon, or have almost-impossible-to-maintain conditions (anything higher than 3.3 would be very hard to reliably keep every semester in college, higher than 3.5 means your odds of losing that scholarship are very high.)

Although your parents want to help family in the home country, they have to let them know that during your college years they won’t be able to help as much. The primary responsibility for your college costs rests on them. Once you’re settled with a college degree things will be easier for them.

The federal loans are limited to 5.5k for freshman year and 27k total over 4 years (31k with interests) because that’s what a college graduate can reasonably pay back over 10 years.
You can start working a job for a few hours a week (5-8 hours a week shouldn’t impact your grades while teaching you good time management). Save everything.


Thanks for the advice, I am interested in HBCU’s I think they’re excellent at catering an education towards students that prepares us for success in modern day’s societal structure. I will for sure work on getting my test scores up and hopefully it will make me more competitive for scholarships!

Ask your school guidance counselor your class rank, whether you may qualify for scholarships at James Madison University

Virginia Commonwealth University

Consider Honors College and GAP

Or their transfer scholarships


Hi! Thank you so much for all this advice and information. To answer some of your questions.

  1. I kind of just assumed that because my school does not rank that there’s not too much timorese to it. I’ll definitely make sure to ask my counselor where I stand! Since I’m in the magnet program we are automatically at the top because a lot of our required classes are weighted and our Senior Project which is also mandatory is given a grade and weighted. My class size is 500 so I’d guess top 20% which isn’t that competitive.
  2. Thanks for the exam advice. I just wanted to add that I unfortunately took it cold this March but have since studied and I’m confident I can get it to the 1400s by next month, and maybe with studying this summer I can raise it more for the August Exam.
  3. Yea I’m not sure about the merit when it comes to my stat and I definitely understand that I very well may not receive any. I was thinking maybe lower ranked colleges might see me as a good student to give Merit but I’m not sure where to start which is why I posted!
  4. Although I think nursing is essential and I respect it completely (My M is one) My goal for health care is either to become a Medical Doctor or a Physician’s assistant. I currently haven’t decided and I feel as if I have a little more time before I’ll have to. I think there’s a huge difference between the two when it comes to work-life balance, and also the amount of debt and how fast you can pay it back. I like how often PA’s can switch specialties with ease because I’m interested in a lot of different aspects of Medicine. The reason I’m interested in studying business as well is because I’d like to work towards providing more affordable healthcare or maybe starting a practice one day who knows! Im also currently exploring my interest in Biomedical Engineering this summer through a research program and applying that to my senior project. If I end up liking it that’s also a career path I’m interested in!
  5. Yes thanks! A lot of VA public schools are on my list, hopefully my overall cost will be affordable, my main concern is that since I want to either go to PA school or Medical School (both of which are incredible expensive) that I could save a lot in undergrad by going somewhere that will give me full tuition!
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I don’t really have a Plan B for if I don’t get any merit scholarships. I’ll of course apply to o outside scholarships because I am somewhat of a strong writer. But if they don’t work out then If be taking out loans which is typical of most with a college degree but the idea of having that much debt is very stressful! I’m not really considering community college because although that’s a great option… I’m sheltered as is so I’d like to experience living on campus!
I understand the dilemma that is my SAT score. Im not depending on the schools that are test blind because I know that for scholarships they aren’t, my plan is to raise it to at least a 1400 which I feel is attainable knowing that my first and only exam was (irresponsibly) taken cold.

Also see University of New Mexico
Amigos or possibly Regents scholarships, however may have significant travel costs.

Possibly Meyerhoff Scholarship at UMBC

Good luck, many colleges have November deadlines for best consideration for scholarships. Some nursing programs ir health science programs have early rolling admissions starting in July.

There’s a scholarship at Duquesne, but your net price might still be too high

UPitt has rolling admissions, application may open in July, with scholarship consideration starting in October.

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Thank you for suggesting some schools. JMU & VCU are definitely on my list, I have a friend who attended the same magnet program and had a similar it not lower SAT score but a higher GPA and received the Centennial Scholarship. Although the friend was in the class to 2020 so test scores may not have been as heavily considered as they will be for my cycle.
I’ll look into the other ones you suggested, thanks again!


Seconding Meyerhoff.
Howard and Spelman are very strong HBCUs but they have high score thresholds for merit. Definitely worth applying to, early (EA) if possible.

Look into Colleges that change lives - good merit scholarships.

Most financial aid (merit based or need based) comes from the colleges themselves. External scholarships can even reduce the aid given by the college (since they consider you dont have as much need for it).
Your best bet is to

  1. run the net price calculator on every college website (all colleges calculate need differently, and most don’t “meet need”).
  2. see what your parents can afford: can they afford their EFC (most can’t)? Can they afford in-state public universities at full price? With or without room&board?
  3. leverage your strengths for increased odds at merit (what is called “preferential packaging”): colleges where there are more boys than girls, often tech schools, have an incentive to offer money to qualified girls; women’s colleges; private colleges where fewer students come from your state or region have an incentive to attract students from your region to keep their “national” designation (aim for New England and, especially, the Midwest. The PNW may also be worth looking into: Whitman may be especially generous). And of course most private colleges will be interested in a highly qualified URM applicant.
  4. public universities tend to based merit aid on test scores so aim for a 1400/act 32+.

Note that as a freshman you’re limited to 5.5k in loans.


Hey @ghgal04. Congratulations on what you have been able to achieve so far and I am already confident in your profile to say that you will improve your standardized test score and find lots of merit aid waiting by choosing a good list of schools. I believe you are right where my daughter was who received a 1250 on the PSAT in October of Junior Year, 1390 on SAT in January of Junior year and 1470 (680 ERBW/790 MATH) in August of her senior year with small “bursts” of targeted prep before each sitting. A 1400+ target is a reachable goal and will unlock merit aid to almost all HBCUs along with the ability to compete for some of the most competitive scholarships offered at those schools.

As someone who has watched my younger siblings, niece, nephew, and 2 children get full rides to HBCUs and non-HBCUs, one of the keys was selecting schools known for being generous with merit aid, but I would also make sure to look at schools who are known for being successful in producing students who do well in your chosen path. I have attached a link to a thread with scholarship opportunities at HBCUs so you can do some research and a link to schools who are the best at producing Black Medical school applicants (since pre-med is an option).


I agree with others that a higher SAT or ACT will unlock more merit for you. Also, how much can your parents pay? If they could contribute even 10K/year that could open doors for you. Your federal student loan + part time and summer earnings could get you to another 10K. With a budget of 20K/year, options start to become more abundant. For example, the Amigo scholarship at UNM, mentioned above, would bring your total cost of admission per year to slightly under 20K.

An even less expensive option is SE Louisiana University, about an hour north of New Orleans, where your current stats would yield a priority scholarship that would reduce your costs per year to about $6500.

Here is their merit scholarship table. Your SAT is roughly equivalent to a 28 ACT.

You wouldn’t qualify for TOPS (an in-state award) but you would qualify for an out of state tuition waiver:

At Youngstown State, your stats would qualify you for the Honors College and merit up to 18K/year. Total OOS costs are about 25K, with a balance of about 7K.

At Prairie View A&M (a HBCU in TX), your current stats would qualify you for an OOS tuition waiver plus 10K in merit per year. This would bring your cost annually to about 10K

At West Virginia U, your current stats would get you 12K/year in merit. Nudge up that test score and you could get up to 16K annually. That would still leave around 23K to pay and at that point, you probably have cheaper in state options.

Note that I’m only including tuition/fees/R&B in my cost estimates, not miscellaneous expenses, books, transportation, etc. because these will vary according to how the student manages his or her funds, how far away they live, the cost of books for their major, etc.

Bottom line, if you are willing to look at public universities you might never have heard of, where your stats put you in the top 25% of admitted students, you can find affordable options. Such schools will tend to be more plentiful in the south and west. You might also check out MS State, Old Miss, satellite campuses in Alabama, etc.