How to Get College Scholarships as an Out-of-State Student

Female student at graduation
February 15, 2024
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Students going out of state pay more for college. To mitigate the high costs of education, most colleges contribute by providing scholarships and financial aid.  

Any prospective college student can start looking for scholarship opportunities at any time. The earlier, the better. Money is a huge factor in getting a secondary education, so many students look to scholarships as a great way of obtaining it. After all, scholarships don't fall into the loan category and can cover more than just tuition. 

A few methods work well if you want to know how to get a scholarship out-of-state. Research is the most useful and rewarding way, but your eligibility may have scholarships come in direct offers to you. 

Your school may also offer or qualify for scholarships through merit, social reasons, and personal connections. Scholarships can go to great lengths to reduce your debt.

How to Get Scholarships for Out-of-State Colleges: 7 Methods

Scholarship opportunities are available all year round from many sources, from non-profit groups to funds set up by government bodies. Some you may have to compete for, and others are granted based on specific qualifications that you meet. 

Anyone looking for scholarships should start with a few of these critical methods. In no particular order, each of these methods works for students looking to learn how to get out-of-state scholarships. 

Scholarship Databases and the Internet

The best way to find out about any scholarship is by doing online research. Databases hold constant updating information on what scholarships are on offer. You can even set your search results to your location, interests, needs, and merits to find scholarships you meet the qualifications for. 

There are even unique databases for those looking for funding that know they want to go out of state for school. Look for scholarships that want students looking to go to school in that state, as they will likely offer more money.  

Listen out for scholarships information online outside of just research and your searches. News organizations and social media often advertise, receive sponsorships, or occasionally make stories on scholarships. 


The best way to start your research on how to get scholarships for out-of-state colleges is to check your college's offers. Many institutions will offer students they think meets their standards a set number of full-ride scholarships that pay for the student's entire education. 

Although these may require good grades, luck, and other exceptional qualities, they are the pinnacle of scholarships. Students don't get full-ride offers very often, so don't worry if you don't. Your college may have other opportunities that you can apply for. 

Be sure to check the schools website for any information regarding potential scholarships. Some of the more popular scholarships that award a huge amount of money come from major companies, such as the Gates Foundation, Google, and Coca-Cola

Major-Based Scholarships

Sometimes a specific program draws in a great deal of interest from out-of-state students to a particular college. These universities note this attention and offer unique opportunities by giving away scholarships for students interested in joining these programs. 

If you're looking to go down an uncommon career path, check if the few colleges that offer your program of interest give scholarships to students from across the country. Apply for what you can.


Scholarships look at a student's merit the most out of anything. Merit can come in a couple of forms, usually measured by ability. Athletic and academic prowess stick out as the most common. Some colleges look for promising athletes to play on their sports teams. 

Other colleges want students of high academic potential, as the more they have, the better their prestige. They may try to recruit you for your merits or award you more money after acceptance. Students going out of state typically receive more for merit-based scholarships to better meet their financial needs, as the cost adds up to be much more. 

For tons of merit scholarship options, check out our merit scholarship database, where we’ve listed plenty of great scholarships you can earn based on your talents or skills! 

Local Organizations

Local organizations are a great way to find scholarships you may never see online. If you have interests in joining an extracurricular activity, doing community service, or taking or learning leadership, find opportunities. Organizations that focus on these could award you a scholarship if your service is extraordinary. 

You will need to compete for local scholarships, but you may have a more significant advantage, as the number of eligible people should be smaller than other scholarships. 

If you have managed to earn a distinction like that, you may qualify for other scholarships. Colleges may look at you more favorably if you earn these scholarships. 

Some great examples of organizations that offer community service and leadership opportunities include scout troops, beta clubs or honor societies, religious groups, etc. Scholarships of this kind should apply to your school of choice.

Government Funded Scholarships or Grants

Depending on what school you're going to, your GPA, and your high school career, you may qualify for government funding. Some states will give your scholarships for merit, while others recognize you for your service to particular organizations or from a particular background or culture. 

Many of these scholarships came from government officials to set aside funding for students from underprivileged groups or people who would be unable to pay for college otherwise. Government-funded out-of-state student scholarships draw students to the state's colleges to help those schools and the students going there. 

As part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students may receive grants instead of loans depending on their financial needs. Make sure you fill out your FAFSA every year to determine your eligibility for annual college funding. The FAFSA applies to both in and out-of-state college students. 

Contest and Sweepstakes

For the more creatively-minded students, contests focusing on your talent could award you a scholarship. Whether you can write, draw, play an instrument, or submit some project showing your skills as a student could reward you. 

Awards of this kind may be for excellent application material and may earn you distinction for institutional scholarships. Organizations that make innovative products, like Adobe, often use these scholarships to give back to communities that fostered their innovations. 

While there are some unusual scholarships out there, be aware that some contests may turn out to be fake. Take care when you're looking for opportunities and use reputable websites, and search results show corroboration on other sites as legit. Avoid scholarships that take a fee to apply, as they could be scams.

In-State vs. Out-Of-State College Scholarships

The cost is the most significant difference in staying in-state for college versus going out-of-state. Students going out-of-state pay way more for college than in-state. Students that want to go to their out-of-state dream school may want to focus on looking for scholarships that brand themselves as out-of-state.

Most scholarships don't take issue with wherever you go to college. The money directly goes to whatever college fund you've set up. However, there are a few notable exceptions. 

To help make up for the cost difference, merit scholarships offer out-of-state students more money to help offset the increased costs. Lottery-funded scholarships often don't apply to out-of-state students, as they often require you to be a state resident. 

For out-of-state students, there are several ways to get an in-state discount. Some states offer programs for students looking to go to college in a state nearby, offering them the in-state rate instead. If you decide to go to your parent’s alma mater, your school might offer in-state tuition. 

Universities systems may also allow you to participate in an exchange program offered to specific majors to attend other schools for a set amount of time. 

Regional Scholarship Exchange Programs

If you’re wondering how to get scholarships for out-of-state, there really isn’t a distinct set of scholarships exclusive to those students. Most people focus on whatever type of general scholarships they can find, as most can be applied to any school. 

There are far fewer scholarships exclusively for students looking to go out-of-state than those staying in-state. From a financial standpoint, staying in-state is almost always better. However, there are regional programs for state schools that students can search for their dream degree through. 

Academic Common Market by Southern Regional Education Board

Students looking for a specific major that they can't find at any state school may have no choice but to go out-of-state. By applying for the Academic Common Market system offered by the Southern Regional Education Board, students can find the college degree they're looking for at an in-state rate. 

There are a limited but significant number of degrees available for eligible students. States that participate in the ACM include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia and West Virginia

As long as you live in one of the southern states that participate, you can attend any state at hardship in the program. This program opens up a great deal of variety and saves students a ton of money.

New England Student Exchange

The equivalent of the ACM for the northeast United States is the New England Student Exchange. The organization helps students find programs they may not have access to due to the price in-state. Given the size of some of the states in this region, a program is essential. Some states may be too small and thus may not have that many schools available. 

The states that participate in this program include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Do note that private colleges, including Ivy League schools, do not participate in this program. These are only for state-funded schools. 

The Western Undergraduate Exchange

For students living in the western half of the US, the Western Undergraduate Exchange offers huge discounts on tuition from participating schools. By signing up through your school, you may be able to afford degrees from public universities that you may not be able to attend otherwise. 

The participating states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Notable Schools with Strong Scholarship Programs

While scholarships exclusive to out-of-state students are common, there are a few exceptions. Though Ivy League schools do not offer scholarships, other colleges do. Some of the top-ranked colleges offer really great scholarships for students that have been accepted. 


As an institution, Stanford is incredible when it comes to giving out scholarships and aid to incoming students. As a general rule, students from families with an annual income under $150,000 do not have to pay tuition. Furthermore, aid packages have become incredibly generous and widely accessible to all students. 

Stanford also receives an enormous amount of charity from former students and parents, enabling them to give back to the students. If you can get accepted, you likely will not have loans by the time you are out of college. 


Through the FAFSA system, MIT awards college scholarships based on needs. The most common scholarship given out is the first year grant, which gives $1000 dollars for each semester of that first year. Through private donation funding, students can be given a lot more based on their needs. 

As a side note, MIT requires an Outside Award Reply form for any scholarship you receive, not from the institution.   

University of Chicago

The University of Chicago offers a generally robust scholarship system. Students going to Chicago can expect an average of $2000 of merit-based aid. Outside of that, first-generation students can earn the First Phoenix Award. 

If applicable, students can earn up to $20,000 in scholarships over the course of their four years at the school. As long as you are a full-time student, you should qualify for these programs.

FAQs: How to Get College Scholarships as an Out-of-State Student

Still wondering how to get a scholarship for college out of state? Here are a few common questions about scholarships and going out-of-state.

1. Do Ivy League Schools Offer Scholarships?

No, Ivy League schools do not offer scholarships. Merit-based scholarships do not matter to these schools as the rigor needed to get accepted is covered by the application alone. Though these schools have sports teams, they also do not give out athletic-based scholarships or scout students. You must prove to these schools that you can manage as a student through your application. 

2. Can You Get Lottery-Funded Scholarships From Your School’s State?

Unless you are a resident of that state, you cannot receive any money from a lottery fund for college. If you have lived in that state as a resident while in college, you may qualify for it when you fill out your FAFSA. 

3. What Other Options Are Available Other Than Scholarships?

Most of the highly ranked and acclaimed schools in the US offer extremely generous financial aid packages that can help you pay for school and then take on the loans later. 

Many of these schools offer careers with high salaries, so those can help pay off some of the debt leftover. Some of these aid packages fall into the range of tens of thousands of dollars. 

4. What Is the FAFSA and How Can It Help You?

The FAFSA is the government run application for people needing financial aid to attend college. The program can help people either take on loans so they can pay for college after or receive grants as a federally awarded scholarship. By filling out the application every year, students can continue to receive aid every year that they need to.

5. How Common are Full Ride Scholarships?

A full ride to any school is fairly rare. You have to stand out as exceptional and desirable to a school to receive something like this. Universities have to want you. Overall, less than a single percent of students earn a full-ride every year. That being said, if you are lucky enough to get one, it is in your best interest to take it. 

6. Why Is Going Out-of-State for College So Much More Expensive?

For the most part, it comes down to taxes. Since you don’t live in that state, you don’t pay funds to that state for their colleges. Because of that, the high price comes as a way of paying out of pocket to make up for not paying taxes to your school of interest.

Final Thoughts 

For people looking to know how to get out of state scholarships, the good news is that most scholarships work in any situation. In most cases, going out-of-state can lock you out of a few scholarships, but your college should be willing to help you, especially with the ever-growing cost of secondary education. 

There are a few programs used to help students going out-of-state for schools, such as regional exchange programs, financial aid, and tons of general opportunity and merit-based scholarships open to anyone. 

Students can earn a great deal of money out of scholarships programs that can come from anywhere. You only need to apply and see what you can find. Start your research as early as the start of high school, if you can.

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