by Dan Rosenfield
Homeschool families, like everyone else, are often surprised by the wide range and availability of college scholarships for their students. The big difference for homeschoolers, however, is that they often have to be more proactive in seeking out and applying for the scholarships for which they are most likely to be competitive.
Here are ten steps that can help students find and qualify for one or more scholarships that can significantly put a dent in their college costs.
1. Make appointments to meet with area high school college and scholarship counselors to discuss colleges which have offered their graduates generous scholarship and financial aid packages, and a list of scholarships offered by local businesses and organizations. Ask to be added to the counselors’ mailing list so you will learn of scheduled college visits, college fairs, and scholarship opportunities.
2. Put together a list of at least 7-8 colleges of interest to you and review the scholarship pages of their websites to identify scholarships for which you might be a competitive candidate. Then, see if you can meet with admissions representatives from those colleges when they visit local high schools and/or attend college fairs in your area.
3. Make a list of the places your family members are employed, the organizations to which they belong, and their church affiliations. Then check the websites of those places in search of “affinity” scholarships. Many church affiliated colleges offer generous scholarships to all students who are members of their religion.
4. Check some of the many free scholarship search sites that match students with appropriate scholarships. On <https://www.college-scholarships.com/scholarship-information/free-scholarship-searches/> you will find links to about 70 such sites. As you find scholarships for which you are eligible, create a spreadsheet which includes deadlines.
5. Participate in athletics and/or other co-curricular activities of interest to you either through your school system or homeschool association. Also, do some volunteer work at an organization with a mission about which you are excited.
6. Put together a “brag sheet” which highlights your academic achievements, volunteer or public service work, standardized test scores (if good), employment experience, and special interests or career goals. Have copies available for every college representative you meet or follow up your meetings with a thank you email and the brag sheet attached.
7. Use the search engines. You can look for “fine arts scholarships”, “scholarships for gamers”, “scholarships for homeschoolers”, “scholarships for Methodists”, “two year college scholarships”, “Christian college scholarships”, etc.
8. Subscribe to a few of the many free online scholarship newsletters, especially those that feature new and/or unique scholarships. There are also some great Facebook groups for college-bound students that include good scholarship and financial aid information.
9. Look for colleges and universities that meet your full financial need or at least most of it (as determined by the FAFSA), complete the FAFSA online (so corrections are faster/easier if needed), and submit it as soon as possible. Do not be intimidated; the FAFSA is far less difficult than folks think, and if you have a question, call the financial aid office at one of the colleges on your list. They will be glad to help.
10. Verify what you hear from folks who are not admissions/financial aid professionals. There is a lot off erroneous information about scholarships and financial aid out there, and folks miss out on opportunities every year by listening to and believing it. Verify, verify, verify.
Early in his career, Dan taught, counseled, and coached in public and private secondary schools. Later, he moved into higher education, where he held positions as a director of admissions, dean of admissions, and dean of enrollment management.