Can My Kid Get a Full-Ride Merit Scholarship?

Capstone is honored to be presenting a guest blog from our friend Wendy Nelson author of the website and the Full Scholarship List...

“Can my kid get a full-ride merit scholarship?”  That’s a question I set out to answer about a year after starting the website. 

I started in the summer of 2012 as a blog to help parents and their college-bound kids through the college search process.

My professional background was in project management and business analysis. I had been treating myoldest daughter’s college search like a project I could manage and also used my business analysis skills to analyze the colleges she was interested in and what they had to offer academically and monetarily. I created a college search spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel to keep track of all her potential schools, locations, costs, benefits and potential merit scholarships. I shared my spreadsheet template with other local mothers and received very positive feedback. I was surprised that something so simple was making a difference in helping other parents organize their kid’s college search.

At the same time, I had a strong desire to start my own website. I just hadn’t figured out what type of website I could create. Then it hit me – maybe I could use what I was learning as a parent going through the college search process to help other parents and I could offer my college search spreadsheet to a wider audience.

As a parent, the biggest source of stress I have experienced is determining how we would pay for college for our 3 girls. I was not prepared for current college sticker prices! After my initial research several years ago when my oldest daughter began looking at colleges, I found that we were in an unfortunate group. We make too much money to qualify for need-based aid, but we don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars set aside to send our kids to college.

The one thing I found encouraging with my oldest daughter was that she was a pretty high performer, with a strong ACT score and top GPA, so we began looking at more selective colleges while still unsure how we would afford them. That’s when I discovered that many colleges were offering merit scholarships to attract students like her. I was seeing amounts ranging from thousands of dollars up to full-ride merit scholarships. 

This led me to want to learn more about full-ride merit scholarships.  I did some research and wrote a blog post called “Can My Kid Get a Full-Ride Scholarship?”, and it instantly became one of my most popular posts to date. I realized it was a topic on the minds of many parents.  

I stumbled across a couple of lists of schools offering full-ride merit scholarships online, but I found that they were outdated, not searchable and lacking in specifics. Given my love for spreadsheets, I started envisioning a sortable and filterable spreadsheet of full-ride merit scholarships offered by colleges. Since nobody else had created one, I decided it was up to me to do that and to provide it to my blog readers. That was when the Full Scholarship List was born.

I decided if I charged a minimal amount for readers to download this spreadsheet for their own use, I could at least pay for the cost to maintain my website. If I made enough money to go beyond my maintenance costs, I wanted to start a scholarship fund so I could help students in my local area pay for college.

Over the past 3 years, I have been able to grow the Full Scholarship List from around 400 scholarships to over 1200. I include only merit scholarships offered directly by colleges around the U.S. that are for the full price of tuition, for the full cost of attendance (tuition plus room and board) or more, or are advertised to be for an amount “up to full tuition” or “up to full ride.” The list includes automatic scholarships, competitive scholarships, scholarships exclusively for National Merit finalists and/or semi-finalists, scholarships available to international students, and also talent scholarships. The spreadsheet provides links to the college websites for full scholarship details. I verify and update the list twice a year to make sure the links are still valid and the information is current.

With the Full Scholarship List, I have been able to help other parents with similar circumstances to my own avoid the biggest college search frustration and turn their student’s high school success into the ticket to pay for college. I have heard from many families who have taken advantage of the great scholarship opportunities included on the Full Scholarship List. It is so rewarding to know that the work I put into the list pays off for families and to realize my goal of using profits from the list to provide a yearly scholarship for graduating high school seniors in my community.

Thank you Wendy for your blog post! You can learn more about her website at as well as order your own Full Scholarship List for only $4.99.