One of the surest ways to win a scholarship is also one of the easiest: Apply to a college that awards money to every student that attends.
Of course, your odds are high of winning a scholarship at most private colleges. The typical private school awards scholarships to 88% of freshmen. But be wary: Some of those are low-quality schools that use partial scholarships to lure students. And research has found nearly 40% of students are so dazzled by a prestigious-sounding scholarship that they’ll choose it even when they get in to higher-quality schools that are likely to be less costly over the long term — because of speedier graduation rates, for instance, or ultimate earning power.
So Money has scoured the data to find 91 colleges that award every freshman a scholarship and meet at least basic standards of quality — a good graduation rate, and financial stability. (See the full list below.)
Even at a good school offering a big scholarship, counselors and financial advisors recommend you ask about these five possible gotchas before you commit:
- Admissions odds: Many of the highest-ranked and most generous colleges on the following list, such as Cooper Union and Berea, are so selective that they can be long shots even for good students. There are also several high-scholarship, high-quality schools with more forgiving acceptance rates, however. The Minnesota liberal arts campuses of Saint John’s University (for men) and the College of Saint Benedict (for women), for example, accept at least 79% of their applicants.
- Poor fit: One of the most expensive college decisions you can make is to drop out, because college dropouts tend to make an average of $400 a week less than do graduates. So make sure the school will provide the activities, courses and guidance to keep students involved and on the path to graduation — preferably in four years. To check a school’s track record, enter the school’s name at CollegeResults.org. and click on the “Similar Colleges” tab; you can choose to see graduation rates broken down by race and gender.
- Net price: Do not get distracted by the scholarship size itself. Some colleges offer big scholarships but such high tuition that the net cost is still unaffordable, notes Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution. To get a true comparison, subtract each school’s scholarship from the total cost of attendance to get its net price. She offers a sample comparison: The College of Idaho has a comparatively low sticker price (for a private college) of about $42,000 this year, so its typical scholarship (roughly $14,000 in recent years) brings the net cost down to about $28,000. On the other hand, Mills College typically offers grants of almost $24,000 a year — but with a sticker price of more than $62,000, the typical student’s net price is likely to be closer to $38,000.
- Tricky renewals: Most scholarships are awarded for only one year, notes Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Cappex.com, and let students renew each year only if they meet certain requirements — whether family financial situation or academic achievement. Ask about any scholarship scholarship’s renewal terms, Kantrowitz says, and be realistic about the prospects of any scholarship requiring more than a 3.0 — the average freshman’s GPA typically drops by at least half a grade from their high school level. (In Tennessee, where students have to achieve a 3.0 to renew the state’s Hope Scholarship, about half of students lose their scholarship because of grades.)
- Inflation hits: While need-based awards generally rise with tuition, merit awards are usually fixed. So although a $10,000 grant, say, makes a nice dent in the typical private school tuition of about $35,000, even just 3% inflation would raise the cost of tuition to more than $38,000 by senior year — essentially reducing the value of the scholarship.
Here are the 91 schools — in order of their Money Best Colleges ranking — that have a history of offering scholarships to all freshmen.
|Name||Rank||City||State||Avg. freshman grant (2013-14)||Cost of attendance (2015-16)|
|Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art*||8||New York||NY||$31,000||$62,710|
|Saint John’s University||25||Collegeville||MN||$21,849||$52,230|
|College of Saint Benedict||47||Saint Joseph||MN||$21,595||$53,475|
|Saint Vincent College||78||Latrobe||PA||$19,894||$46,135|
|Bethel University||82||Saint Paul||MN||$14,608||$47,586|
|Mount Mercy University||137||Cedar Rapids||IA||$14,564||$41,516|
|Cedar Crest College||160||Allentown||PA||$19,291||$48,715|
|Mount Saint Mary’s University||163||Los Angeles||CA||$13,948||$54,143|
|Dordt College||205||Sioux Center||IA||$12,289||$41,200|
|Westminster College||206||New Wilmington||PA||$18,392||$46,725|
|Nebraska Wesleyan University||218||Lincoln||NE||$16,343||$42,640|
|Rockhurst University||221||Kansas City||MO||$22,558||$49,900|
|Calvin College||224||Grand Rapids||MI||$13,022||$44,050|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||235||Chicago||IL||$25,641||$60,424|
|Hamline University||238||Saint Paul||MN||$19,426||$49,302|
|John Carroll University||280||University Heights||OH||$22,185||$52,100|
|Le Moyne College||291||Syracuse||NY||$17,642||$47,500|
|Agnes Scott College||299||Decatur||GA||$22,269||$50,386|
|Augustana College||306||Sioux Falls||SD||$16,609||$39,628|
|Wisconsin Lutheran College||316||Milwaukee||WI||$13,474||$39,136|
|DeSales University||324||Center Valley||PA||$15,650||$47,978|
|Marian University||332||Fond Du Lac||WI||$11,227||$38,180|
|Saint Norbert College||334||De Pere||WI||$16,742||$45,081|
|Concordia College at Moorhead||353||Moorhead||MN||$17,266||$46,054|
|Monmouth University||359||West Long Branch||NJ||$13,106||$50,250|
|Bay Path University||367||Longmeadow||MA||$18,750||$47,209|
|Washington & Jefferson College||387||Washington||PA||$21,360||$56,332|
|The College of Saint Scholastica||389||Duluth||MN||$17,230||$46,036|
|Saint John Fisher College||401||Rochester||NY||$13,824||$44,650|
|St Bonaventure University||431||Saint Bonaventure||NY||$16,568||$44,717|
|The College of Idaho||445||Caldwell||ID||$14,177||$38,600|
|Baldwin Wallace University||450||Berea||OH||$15,488||$43,332|
|Saint Xavier University||496||Chicago||IL||$13,888||$44,706|
|William Jewell College||510||Liberty||MO||$20,044||$45,610|
|Northwestern College||514||Orange City||IA||$15,344||$42,100|
|University of Northwestern-St Paul||526||Saint Paul||MN||$11,909||$41,120|
|Concordia University-Chicago||535||River Forest||IL||$14,054||$41,112|
|University of New England||551||Biddeford||ME||$16,286||$51,830|
|University of Mount Union||565||Alliance||OH||$11,663||$40,825|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||600||Delaware||OH||$24,413||$58,260|
|Mount Mary University||628||Milwaukee||WI||$15,098||$41,520|
|University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne||634||Fort Wayne||IN||$10,784||$39,350|
|Berry College||656||Mount Berry||GA||$15,176||$46,384|
|Grand View University||661||Des Moines||IA||$11,364||$36,082|
*Cooper Union scholarship size data is for 2016-17.