Homeschooler’s Guide to College Scholarships

Homeschool Guide to College Scholarships

What is a scholarship and how can it help me?

College scholarships came into existence in the mid 1900’s  with an effort to help stem the costs of rising tuition. It’s incredible that a year at college costs an average of $25,000. Today, scholarships are what most students depend on to complete their college education. Nearly 3 million students in the United States are home schooled and with each year the number grows. As more home schoolers step into higher education, and face the inflated costs of college education- scholarships will provide a solution. On a positive note, home schoolers have the same advantages and scholarship initiatives available to them as do traditional schooled students. Almost every student will receive some type of financial aid.  Financial aid can come in many forms including Federal Pell Grants and state subsidized scholarships. Financial aid packages will also include federally subsidized student loans. But for most families, student loans and long term debt are just not appealing options. This is where need based, merit/athletic, and private scholarships help fill the gaps.

Need based scholarships are scholarships that are awarded based upon the family’s total income. Almost every state in America offers some type of need based financial aid for college students. Merit based and athletic scholarships consider a student’s academic or athletic abilities and will award scholarships if certain criteria are met. Finally, there is a third category that almost every college student will fit into  – but yet remains largely untapped. Privately funded scholarships, often referred to as student specific, career specific, or college specific, are everywhere and are offered for every situation or criteria imaginable. Scholarships of this type will often require an essay, a project, a task, involvement in service, and may be specific to certain courses of study. This type of scholarship targets specific individuals, specific ethnicities, and sometimes homeschoolers in particular.

Are homeschoolers eligible for scholarships?

Great news, homeschoolers are eligible for most types of scholarships that are available today. There are many different kinds of scholarships and these typically include:

Need Based Scholarships are scholarships open for all students including homeschooled schooled students and are federally subsidized programs. However, the state offered scholarships may have specific requirements for homeschoolers. Often, this will include proving themselves for a semester or a certain number of attempted credit hours. Familiarize yourself with your state’s financial aid guidelines. Also, the first step in finding out what financial aid you’re eligible to receive begins with filing a FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid).

Merit Based Scholarships are scholarships based on the student’s specific achievements. Merit Based scholarships sometimes come from the college a student attends or from privately sponsored scholarships.  The National Merit Scholarship program is friendly toward homeschooled students. Students must simply meet the criteria for the scholarship.  These awards are noted when your student receives their financial aid package, and occasionally will be presented as an enticement for student enrollment. In some situations students will have to make separate application to specific scholarships at their college or university. It always pays to be informed of what is available.

Athletic Scholarships are scholarships given to students based on their athletic performance. There are many routes to receiving this type of scholarship. But, most often this will involve a scout or representative from a college coming to view the student’s abilities first hand. The NCAA and NAIA have recently become more homeschool friendly and many homeschoolers have found this a great route for getting scholarship opportunities.

Student Specific Scholarships are scholarships aimed at a student’s specific qualities. This often includes minorities, women, ethnic affiliation, religion, people with specific backgrounds, location, or even military involvement.

Career Specific Scholarships are scholarships based on the degree, major, or field in which a student has chosen to study. The scholarship opportunities here are diverse yet, in a sense easy for specific students to demonstrate a clear passion as they write their essay.

Brand Scholarships and Creative Contest Scholarships are scholarships presented by a brand, local business, or large company.  This type of scholarship typically requires a creative project or essay to be written that can be used to create social or brand awareness. These scholarships are privately funded and can often be large.

Miscellaneous Scholarships exist that are often untapped. Did you know there are scholarships for people with two different colored eyes or those who can effectively create a duck call? There are scholarships that exist for almost every reason and purpose imaginable. If you haven’t found one that fits you yet… don’t give up!

Finally,  all scholarships are typically clear in their requirements, amount of scholarship, and scholarship deadline. The process for obtaining a scholarship is very straightforward and is often found in the scholarship description. Though most of the scholarships Let’s Homeschool High School has found are homeschool inclusive, students can easily find out if the scholarship is open to homeschoolers within the scholarship description.

How do I start the process of applying for Scholarships?

First, start the process with a bang –  take the ACT or SAT standardized test. Start this process early because the scores from these tests will make a big difference in your financial aid. Taking the test early in your sophomore or junior year will give you plenty of time to take it again until you achieve the scores you desire. State financial aid will typically depend on the score from one of these tests. Find out what your state requires in order for you to receive state subsidized financial aid and then make that your testing score goal!

Secondly, fill out the FAFSA. They have changed the opening date now to allow students to begin filing by October of the year prior to attending college. The FAFSA is used to determine the amount of grants and scholarships that students can receive from both the federal and state initiatives. The awards will be based on need for federal and need and merit for state opportunities.

Most colleges offer a financial calculator that will help you determine what the cost of your tuition will be. Take advantage of this and get a ballpark estimate of what your education will cost. This is super helpful in planning.

Ask a financial aid counselor if there are any scholarships that they suggest, or if there are any available from the university. Often, colleges will have advisors that are there specifically to help students find the scholarships they need.

Finally, scour the web and college scholarship directories to find listings of scholarships that are available to you. Apply. Apply. Apply. Start the process as early as possible. Students as young as 13 can apply to scholarships at FastWeb, that’s awesome! Any scholarship awards will simply wait for you until you need it.

Do you have any tips for submitting the Application?

Each scholarship will be unique. Yet, each scholarship will have clearly defined guidelines, instructions, and deadlines. When applying be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them precisely.  Complete the required task (form, essay, etc) and double check all information.

If an essay is required, take time to brush up on scholarship essay writing. Make sure that you start by organizing your thoughts with an outline that addresses each of the questions presented. Look into the company or organization offering the scholarship to determine what type of company they are and what they may be looking for in the essay. Begin far enough in advance that you have plenty of time to think of two or three solid points for an outline that will address the questions presented in the scholarship application. Make the essay stand out by answering each question with a personal example from your life that shows just how passionate you are about the topic. Finally, proof your essay. Start by reading it out loud to yourself. You’ll hear where sentences may not flow. Also, get another pair of eyes to look it over. This is very important. Find someone who knows their stuff and have them critique the essay. Once, you’ve gotten it polished, it should be ready to “stand out from the crowd!”

One final tip when applying for college scholarships, pay attention to the deadline. Make sure that your application is postmarked prior to the deadline date. Often scholarship committees will take late applications, but they are typically put at the bottom of the stack. So, get started early, be diligent, and stand out from the crowd with an awesome essay! You can do it!



Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]

September 12, 2017


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