Originally Sent: 2/6/2014
February 6, 2014
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Hunting for Scholarships—An Education in Itself
February is usually not a good month to make important homeschooling decisions. As one mom put it, you are “too far into the year to quit, but not far enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel!” In fact, you may also be ensconced in winter weather, while others are seeing the first evidence that spring is around the corner. Take heart—you are right where you are supposed to be.
If you have juniors or seniors in your household, this season may be busy with preparing and taking SAT/ACT tests, checking out educational options for post-high school plans, and searching for scholarships. We receive many calls from parents who want to know how and where to look for scholarships and if it’s worth their trouble. Our 2007 newsletter, “Contests, Competitions, and Scholarships”, covered all varieties of financial aid, including scholarships. It is worthwhile to read it. This month we want to zero in on scholarships (the free money) and suggest ways to streamline your scholarship search.
It’ll be a tremendous help if you systemize your search by laying out a method that works for you and takes as little time as possible such as utilizing a spreadsheet, blank calendar, or notebook. Then set up categories, perhaps General Information, Financial Information (for the FAFSA), Student Profile, Sources, Scholarship Requirements and Deadlines, to name a few. The College Board’s article, “Where the Scholarships Are: How to Develop a Scholarship Strategy,” provides helpful information for your research.
Now let’s get started.
It’s very important to be aware that there are disreputable people and sites who want to scam you when it comes to finding scholarships. The College Board and The Smart Guide to Financial Aid share guidelines to protect you. Some noted cautions include:
Did you know that there are strategies to winning scholarships? Additional resources on The Smart Guide to Financial Aid website, outline some for you. Likewise, supplemental information from The College Board also suggests steps to secure financial aid. Of course it’s not a slam dunk that your teens will be awarded all the scholarships they apply for even if they follow this advice. But, encourage them that the Lord knows their needs and He has riches untold that He will use to provide for them if this path is according to His plan.
Scholarships are often awarded for merit through a competition, for academic excellence, athletic prowess, volunteer projects, or for financial need. If an institution offers the money, the student will most likely be required to submit the FAFSA form (Free Application for Financial Student Aid). This form cannot be completed until January of the year your son or daughter will be entering a post-high school program. However, before that time we encourage you to become familiar with the document and information requested.
Some families have found it wise to enlist the help of a financial manager, especially if they own property in addition to their home or have types of investments that can be presented in various ways on the application. A financial planner may also be helpful in interpreting questions that are not clear to you.
We encourage teens to work and save for college during the high school years. There is merit in developing a work ethic and practicing time management through holding a job while keeping up with academic studies. We believe these skills and habits offset the fact that your teen’s wages and savings accounts can impact the size of scholarships or financial packages he receives. (This is another area where a financial manager can provide you with helpful advice.) In any case, do not let the benefits of a job and savings discourage you and your teen when applying for scholarships.
Many search engines that are used to find scholarships will ask students to complete profiles in order to match them up with specific scholarships. Questions concerning gender, race, interests, majors/careers, and types of schools will aid the process. It’s important to be specific when filling in the answers. One mother told how her daughter found a scholarship targeted to tall women—you never know!
Sources for Scholarships
An internet search will give you hundreds of sites advertising lists of scholarships given by many different sponsors. Local organizations, state agencies, national corporations, colleges, employers, and even private sources make money available to students furthering their education.
To help you start your search, we have a list of competitions and scholarships on the high school web pages, as well as a page with additional information on financial aid, that includes some reputable search engines to use. Remember, encourage your teens to focus their efforts and only apply for scholarships where they meet the requirements, e.g. Veterans of Foreign Wars because parents currently serve or have served in the military.
The College Scholarships website provides another good starting point to look for college, state, or federal grants. They say there are even grants for students who started college but were interrupted and now want to return, as well as for students with disabilities, military families, and even for graduate studies. Some grants may be associated with need-based awards; but this varies, so be sure to read the fine print.
We field questions concerning scholarships for community college. The U.S. News & World Report’s Education section, published an article on some scholarships available to these students. It mentioned possible scholarships for students who transfer from the community college to a four-year school. Your teen should also check with the local community college for scholarships it may offer directly to students.
Foundations, organizations, or corporations may sponsor scholarships. If you have a teen interested in science, technology, engineering, or math (known as STEM), check out Great Minds on STEM’s website for an interesting list of possibilities and links to application information.
If you have children wishing to pursue athletic training through research and education, the NATA Research and Education Foundation has a list of sources for money from various foundations.
Many retailers and other employers offer scholarships to their employees. Some well-known companies include Chick-fil-a, Wal-mart, Target, Kohl’s, and Burger King. Organizations your teens are involved in during high school are another source: 4-H, Awana, Civil Air Patrol.
Of course, good grades and test scores will open up another source for funds. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards scholarships to students who qualify to be National Merit Scholars by virtue of high PSAT test scores. The College Board gives information about the qualifying process and registration for the test. Colleges often have merit scholarships available to applicants, so don’t neglect to seek out information about them. If your teens participate in talented and gifted programs through universities, these schools and others may recruit your teens by offering money awards.
Don’t leave any leaf unturned as you search. Often one site will lead you to another, to another, or recommendations may come through friends or family. Some homeschool organizations include a list of scholarships on their websites. Many public and private schools keep scholarship lists that they are willing to share with homeschoolers or are available on their websites. If the eligibility requirements indicate that a candidate must be a public or private school student, it never hurts to ask the sponsor if your homeschooled student may be eligible. In some cases, the scholarship sponsor did not intend to omit homeschoolers but simply did not think of the category! If you can provide the same type of information the sponsor requests from other students (perhaps a transcript, SAT/ACT test scores, community service hours), the sponsor may be more than willing to open the scholarship to homeschoolers.
Have you noticed the inordinate amount of information available for finding money? Yes, scholarships take time and effort to find, so we recommend you start early. The junior year of high school is not too soon to begin searching. You will want to include your teen in the process to help spread out the responsibilities. Here’s another opportunity to teach time management by helping your teens budget their time to search. Having that spreadsheet or notebook will come in handy to record all this information.
At some point, you’ll need to come together and review what you’ve compiled and decide to which scholarships your teen will apply. Don’t waste time on those for which your teen does not qualify. Then you’ll want to make note of the deadlines on a calendar along with additional information you need to gather and attach to the application. This “schedule of events” will keep everyone on track.
Your recordkeeping during high school will help to save time. For example, if your teen is interested in a community service scholarship, keeping good records of all the volunteering she does throughout high school as it occurs (hours, dates, skills attained, responsibilities given, and positions held) will rescue you from having to go back through your memory, drawers, and files to find the info many years later. These academic and extracurricular records may remind you of areas to search out additional scholarships. Though keeping records seems to be a chore, it truly is to your advantage.
We want to remind you again that you are not alone in this process. Seek out the wisdom of the Lord and ask Him to direct you to places and people that will provide sources of funding. He loves being involved in this part of your lives. Trust Him to open up His coffers and watch in awe as He acts on your behalf.
Come back in March to read how your state organization and support groups can help you homeschool and provide encouragement for the journey.
Busy searching for new sources to include on our website,
Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer
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