Finding Scholarships for College
If you think your teen may attend college, you’re probably already wondering how you’ll afford to send him there. Few families have the capital to meet rising college costs, and saddling yourself or your teen with school loans is hardly appealing. But there is a third source of college funds that you should consider—scholarships.
A scholarship (sometimes referred to as a grant or award) is simply free money given to a student on the basis of need, merit, or a combination of the two. Scholarships are awarded by colleges, federal and state governments, and outside sources such as foundations and businesses.
College and outside scholarships have enabled North Carolina homeschooling parents Ralph and Teresa Lloyd to send their two oldest children to state colleges. “Most of Charissa’s expenses have been covered through her scholarships,” says Teresa, whose six other children are still school age. “Daniel’s expenses are all paid through his Park Scholarship, offered by the Park Foundation to North Carolina State University students.”
Whether or not your student wins a full ride to the college of her choice, the scholarship search and application process is still an important investment in her college future. Because scholarships in any amount decrease your outlay in college costs, they have a direct impact on your bottom line.
Here for You
HSLDA members may contact our high school coordinators, Diane Kummer and Becky Cooke, for advice on teaching teens. Call 540-338-5600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out HSLDA’s Homeschooling Thru High School webpages for more helpful information on teaching teens.
But, like any investment, that “free money” doesn’t come free of effort. “Finding scholarships takes work,” affirms HSLDA High School Coordinator Diane Kummer. “But if you have time, energy, and motivation to find them, they’re out there.”
“It’s never too early to start looking for scholarships,” states the College Board’s Scholarship Handbook 2008. In fact, some scholarships are open only to high school freshmen and sophomores.
Typically, though, it is advisable to begin familiarizing yourself with the scholarship world when your student is in 10th grade. “Then start figuring out what you want to apply for in 11th grade,” says Jeanne Domenech, a Virginia homeschooling mom, whose three older children’s college educations were partly paid for by scholarships. “You run out of time really fast.”
“Certainly by 11th grade, you should know what’s available, what’s required. Making sure that you have everything ready by the beginning of the senior year is important, and use that time over the summer to start working on the essays and other requirements,” adds Teresa.
What if your teen is already halfway through 12th grade? You haven’t missed the boat—just swim out to it. Some scholarship deadlines fall late in the senior year. The important thing is to start now.
Wise decisions during the high school years can give your homeschooled teen an advantage, not only by helping him make a good impression on scholarship applications, but also by providing objective data should a scholarship committee ever doubt his eligibility.
Parents should plan to have their high schooler take the SAT or ACT. “SAT/ACT scores are very important,” emphasizes Diane. “Especially for homeschoolers, people are going to look at those as being objective evaluation. Students should prepare and study before they take those tests, and take them more than once for the best score that they can possibly achieve.”
Diane also recommends that parents sign up their students for a couple of high school courses outside the home, such as at a co-op or community college. These can yield letters of recommendation for scholarship applications and bolster a high school transcript.
The third thing that homeschooled high schoolers can do is show leadership in their community. “Have your teen pick a few extracurricular activities—that’s better than a whole lot—to be involved in,” says Diane. “If your student is in 4-H, maybe he’ll be elected as an officer or become president of his local group.”
Good records are essential to a smooth scholarship application process. In addition to maintaining a transcript and files of your student’s schoolwork, keep records of extracurricular activities and accomplishments such as sports, volunteering, jobs, projects, honors received, leadership positions, special training or certification, and internships. (Download HSLDA’s recordkeeping brochure.)
Where to Find Scholarships
Ready to start searching? Begin with a few comprehensive books and websites that provide an overview of how scholarships work, guidance for finding and selecting scholarships, and application tips. (See the resource sidebar.)
You can save time and effort by searching scholarship directories and databases, available (often for free) in print, online, and in CD-ROM formats. Check the websites of your state homeschool organizations for scholarship listings as well. But don't stop there. Explore the following avenues:
State scholarships: Contact your state’s education department and higher education council. That’s how Diane Kummer discovered Maryland’s Distinguished Scholar Award—but by then her daughter was a senior, and only juniors are eligible. Don’t miss out!
Community scholarships: Though scholarships offered by local businesses, civic organizations, or your church typically come in smaller amounts than large national scholarships, a student’s chances of winning them are much higher because applicants are fewer. “I was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and I heard them talk about scholarships, so I had my kids apply,” recalls Jeanne. Her two older children, Benjamin and Emily, won small scholarships from the Sons of the American Revolution and the DAR respectively.
“I would definitely check with employers,” adds Diane. Some companies, such as Chick-Fil-A and Wal-Mart, offer scholarships for employees and employees’ children. “It may be a little part-time job, but it could end up providing you with a scholarship.”
Check also with statewide homeschool organizations and other homeschool-friendly associations. For example, the Home School Foundation offers a scholarship to homeschooled students desiring to attend Patrick Henry College. Find out more about the Patrick Henry College Scholarship Fund for HSLDA Members.
College scholarships: “Most of the scholarships that Charissa and Daniel applied for were scholarships available through particular colleges,” notes Teresa.
According to the College Board’s Scholarship Handbook 2008, scholarships offered by non-college sources constitute only 7% of total financial aid (loans, scholarships, and work-study), whereas “a great deal of financial aid comes from individual colleges.”
That’s why Jeanne advises, “Any college that you’re really serious about going to, find out what they have available.”
Some Christian colleges and universities offer scholarships for which only homeschoolers are eligible. For instance, Nyack College in New York grants $1,000 for every year a student was homeschooled. Liberty and
Bob Jones universities offer tuition-matching scholarships to students who have been enrolled in the Liberty University Online Academy or Bob Jones’s Academy of Home Education, respectively. Often, the only way to find out about such scholarships is
to contact the school directly.
As you explore the wealth of scholarship information, you’ll likely run across ads for businesses that promise to do the work for you, claiming to match your student up with thousands of dollars in scholarship funds—for a small fee. Or you may hear about a scholarship that requires an entry fee as part of the application. While the advertised company or scholarship could be legitimate, it is most likely a scam. Protect yourself by avoiding all entry fees and by remembering that there is so much free scholarship information available that you should not have to pay for any of it. See the Federal Trade Commission’s scholarship scams brochure.
Typically, scholarship applicants are required to submit an application form, essay, and one or more letters of recommendation. What do homeschoolers do if the letter must come from a teacher or school counselor? Enlist someone (not yourself) who has been involved in your student’s instruction and is familiar with his or her academic abilities, such as a community college professor, online teacher, or umbrella school administrator. “That’s why I encourage people to put their mature students in one or two courses outside the home,” emphasizes Diane.
Occasionally, a homeschooled applicant is informed that she is not eligible for a particular scholarship. “A lot of times the scholarship committee isn’t familiar with homeschooling,” says Diane. “Encourage your student to take the extra step of being proactive and asking, ‘What could I supply you with to convince you that I have the qualifications you’re looking for?’ ” Objective information to supply could include SAT, ACT, or AP test scores, community college course grades, reference letters, and documentation of job experience, special projects, and community involvement.
“Sometimes a scholarship committee simply needs to be educated about homeschooling in general,” Diane says. “Maybe your student is the first homeschooler they’ve ever encountered.”
With a rising awareness of homeschooling, the scholarship community is increasingly willing to make a place for home-educated students. “There are scholarship administrators who contact HSLDA and let us know that they’d love homeschoolers to apply!” says Diane. “More and more people are understanding that homeschoolers make great applicants. It’s hard work, but for a qualified homeschooled student, there is a good chance of winning.”