When it comes to paying for college, scholarships are the way to go. But many homeschoolers (and their parents) worry that there may not be as many opportunities out there for them, largely because they didn’t follow the traditional educational path.
However, there are a lot of opportunities for homeschoolers. Not every scholarship considers a public or private school education a requirement, and some may not even look at how your student completed their education.
If your child is hoping to land some money for college, here are seven amazing scholarship tips for homeschoolers.
1. Get a Transcript
When it comes to scholarship tips for homeschoolers, you can’t neglect the need for a professional transcript. This document shows that your student has the academic credentials to get into college, and some scholarships require them too.
Precisely how a transcript needs to be created may vary by state. However, it’s wise to have course descriptions and accurate records that back up any grades your child earned, especially if you are creating a GPA.
Sometimes, the easiest way to proceed is to review the standard high school curriculum in your state. Usually, you’ll find descriptions that outline what must be covered to meet graduation requirements, so you can use those as a starting point.
The main thing is you want to make the transcripts as professional as possible.
2. Make Standardized Tests a Priority
Many merit scholarships factor standardized test scores into their decision-making process. National Merit Scholars are chosen based on their PSAT scores, making this junior year test a must-do for all homeschoolers.
The SAT and ACT can also help your child land scholarships, so getting a high score can open a lot of doors.
One of the biggest scholarship tips for homeschoolers is to invest time and energy into studying for these tests. In some cases, getting a tutor may even be a wise choice.
There are a lot of computer programs that can increase your student’s comfort level with the test, and practice tests are widely available, often for free. **Article on how to prep for ACT/SAT
Typically, students should shoot for schools where their scores are in the top 25% to increase chances of merit aid. This could mean your student has to look at schools that are lower on their list, or maybe not even on their list. But believe us – 4 years at a decent school versus the dream school can mean 20 years of freedom from loans!
3. Become Well-Rounded
Scholarships aren’t always about academics and test scores. Some look for service-minded individuals who give back to their communities. Others seek out stellar athletes, musicians, or artists. You may even find scholarships that want their applicants to have job experiences in specific sectors, and certain employers provide scholarships to their workers.
When it comes to scholarship tips for homeschoolers, being well-rounded can be a big one. Spending time volunteering, participating in a local sports league, holding a part-time job, and any other experience can help them stand out as exceptional people, making it easier to land scholarships.
Plus, every organization they connect with may offer internal scholarships or other forms of educational support, like reimbursement programs. Ultimately, if your child wants to graduate debt-free, all of these options are worth exploring.
4. Seek Out Essay-Based Scholarships
The vast majority of scholarships involve essays, but some give essays more weight than others. If your student seeks out these opportunities, a non-traditional school record won’t be as big of a factor.
Plus, your child may stand out from the crowd. Why? Because their education was non-traditional!
Homeschoolers can have an advantage when it comes to providing a unique perspective to various topics and may have faced challenges that public and private school students don’t encounter.
When it comes to scholarship tips for homeschoolers, leveraging their homeschool experience in their essays can make a big difference. Scholarship committees look for individuals who have something new to say, so highlighting how the experience shaped them can make your student a zebra in a field of horses.
If you want to learn more about how your child can write a winning essay, check out our article: How to Write Winning Scholarship Essays
5. Look for Homeschooler Scholarships
Some organizations offer scholarships that require applicants to be homeschoolers. Since there are far fewer homeschoolers than traditional students, this can be quite a boon.
Usually, you can find out about these options by doing an online search. The other requirements can vary dramatically, so your child will need to review the criteria before applying.
For example, some focus on homeschoolers with volunteer experience. Others look for homeschool athletes or performers. Additional opportunities may hone in on need, academics, or any other point they feel matches their values.
6. Complete the FAFSA ASAP
Most need-based scholarships focus on your child’s FAFSA results. If you have a financial need, then your child could qualify, regardless of whether they were homeschooled or not.
Ultimately, one of many scholarship tips for homeschoolers that also apply to any other college-bound student, is to complete the FAFSA as early as possible. Most need-based scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, so getting in line quickly is essential.
The results of your student’s FAFSA may also open them up to other financial aid opportunities that aren’t student loans. For example, the Pell Grant is awarded depending on your family’s situation, and work-study programs use the FAFSA to determine who is eligible.
Ultimately, the FAFSA is a powerful process for scholarships and much more, so make sure your student completes it as early as possible.
7. Look to Your “Communities”
Families generally are parts of larger communities. For example, your employer is one community in your network; a religious organization may be another.
Many businesses and non-profits offer scholarships to those who belong to that particular community. Usually, there is less competition for these awards, making them smart scholarships for your child to target.
This is an opportunity we recommend to all our students and often receive push back from homeschoolers because they believe they had to attend the local high school to be eligible.
Many local scholarships are based on the county or city you live in, not necessarily the high school your student attend. This could be an opportunity for homeschooled students to apply. Plus, since you and your student have a connection to these organizations, landing a scholarship may be easier, but that isn’t a guarantee. However, no scholarship is a sure thing, and they definitely won’t receive the award if they don’t try.
Bonus Scholarship Tips for Homeschoolers
Before completing any scholarship application, it’s important to read the fine print. While most scholarships don’t exclude homeschoolers, some of them do, so your child needs to make sure that they are allowed to apply. Otherwise, they could spend valuable time and energy on an application that isn’t going to yield results.
It’s also important for homeschoolers to not assume that they are at a disadvantage. No one qualifies for every scholarship that is available, so nearly every student is in the same boat. Your child will meet the requirements for a wide range of scholarship opportunities, so being diligent and dedicated to the process is a must.
Our biggest suggestion is this: when in doubt, reach out.
Scholarship committees are normal people just like you and me. If you’re unsure whether or not your student can apply, especially for local dollars with less competition, have your student contact the committee and ask. I once did this and it resulted in $4,000 per school year!
If you and your student would like to learn more about how to find scholarships that can help pay for college, sign up for our free college scholarship webinar! We cover how to spot the scams so you can make sure your student is applying to scholarships that are actually worth their time. Join the next free training here: www.thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar.