College Scholarships

by Jolene

I was wondering if homeschoolers qualify for college scholarships? We've started a college fund, but with the rising cost of education, we worry about not being able to save enough. What more can we do?

Reply by Diane:

Dear Jolene,

I agree, the cost of higher education makes acquiring a degree very costly. But there are ways to save money. And it's never too early to start, as you have so wisely done!

Almost all financial aid for college students is handled by the institution they attend. Most schools require that parents submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA. This federal aid is based on the information the parents submitted to the IRS. So, before you can apply, the parents' tax return must be completed. The amount granted will be the same no matter what school the child attends. One word of advice, if your child has a lot of money saved up, purchase something with it (like a vehicle if she'll be commuting) because any cash she has in her accounts will limit her aid. We found that out the hard way!

College scholarship opportunities are everywhere, from the internet to the bulletin board at the grocery store. Put your radar out, you'll find them. This site is most widely known: FastWeb. There are numerous others, most are good. Avoid those that charge you, there are plenty of free ones out there.

Be selective, even though it looks like free money. Writing essays takes time, don't throw something together, willie-nillie, just because you want a free ride. You'll be wasting your time and theirs. You may also want to look at the number of applicants applying. Being one of thirty applicants gives you a better chance for a $1000 scholarship than one in two thousand applicants. Also, apply for college scholarships that fit your personality and strengths, you'll have a much better chance of getting accepted.

Make sure you fill the application out neatly and completely. Many an application is tossed for not following these very simple guidelines.

Speaking of essays, they can make a mediocre application really shine. So, put all of your effort into this. Write, wait a day, and then make changes. You'll be surprised how much you can improve your essay when you return to it a short time later. Check out some winning essays and then rewrite it again!

Letters of Recommendation are wonderful opportunities to present additional positive information about the student. These should come from someone other than a parent. Choose a couple of different people you know from different backgrounds (pastor, employer, 4-H leader). Ask them to comment on your character, motivation, and maturity.

All this work could pay off big. If you qualify for a $1000 scholarship, that comes out to $100/hr if you put 10 hours into it. And remember, you can use the same essay (or versions of it) over and over again.

In summary, the whole key to success is preparing early. The money is out there, in fact, each year college scholarships go unused! So, keep looking!

(Another way to save money on school is to take CLEP exams. You not only save money, but time as well!)

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