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I am the mom of four high school graduates, all of who took a different path into or around college in a number of unique and different forms. I am also the mom of four kids I’m still homeschooling: two in high school, one in elementary school, and one a full-time special needs student in a traditional public school setting. Suffice it to say, there isn’t an over-abundance of money here to just write a nice check to the university of eight students’ choosing. You can probably hear the wry smile in that last sentence, no?
And that’s exactly what we’ve told our kids all along. We can’t write a check for their full tuition, but there are ways in which we can help them along the way, and obtaining college scholarships is just one of the means in which we might help.
I’m certain that you could do a Google search for “homeschoolers and college scholarship applications” and come up with a host of great ideas. Perhaps that’s even how you found this article. So let’s cut to the quick:
First and foremost, if you are reading this article before fall of your student’s junior year in high school, get them to study their head off for the PSAT. National Merit Scholars are chosen based on SAT scores, and if your child qualifies, the scholarship opportunities will grow exponentially.
We are a fan of College Prep Genius because it prepares students to test well across the spectrum, but we have also used Mr. D Math SAT and ACT prep courses and been very happy with the results.
If your student has already identified their top three choice schools, do extensive research into the available scholarships that each school offers. Some will be academic, of course, based upon GPA’s and standardized test scores, but others will be based on athletics, performing arts, and even community involvement. Make yourselves very familiar with the requirements to meet each scholarship because ultimately, if your student can get meet the prerequisite conditions, these school-based scholarships could dramatically reduce the cost of attending the university they desire to attend.
When it comes to applying, think outside of the box. There are hundreds of general scholarships based on essay entries, but the scholarships that may prove to be the most lucrative for your student are those that are available to a small pool of applicants. Is your student of Italian heritage? A beach lifeguard? Has she seen personal hardship? Has he had to work to support his family? There are scholarships designed specifically to aid students who fit a narrow or specific definition, and the opportunity to win one may be a more realistic proposition than the scholarships attracting tens of thousands of applicants. Simply search for the parameters that match your student, i.e., “Female hockey cheerleader in Canada scholarship”.
Teach your student to write a killer essay.
Keep within word counts. Juries are reading many essays and if your student can’t communicate clearly, concisely, and in a quickly compelling manner, their essay may hit the trash can by the end of the first paragraph.
Speaking of first paragraphs, make sure that the essay begins with a sentence that immediately garners the reader’s attention.
“My name is Amy Smith and I live in San Francisco” is not a compelling sentence unless Amy ties those facts to a dramatic story about surviving an earthquake or sky diving from the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you need examples of winning essays, check to see if the scholarship your student is applying for has a website where they post past winners‘ essays and read them.
The earlier your student jumps on the scholarship application wheel, the better. I require my junior highers to write and write and write some more, preparing them to nail college application and scholarship essays, but also fully realizing that excellent writers really set themselves up for success in all walks of life, whether they find themselves making a living by the written word, or simply requesting that their energy bill be lowered. There is no loss of time or effort when we focus on teaching our middle and high schoolers to write well.
If you find yourself in the position of parent-of-a-child-who-discovered-too-late-that-they-want-to-apply-to-college, don’t fret. There may be a delay in college entrance or a year needed to accumulate community college courses that can then be transferred, but there are also scholarships available to transfer students. There are also plenty of opportunities to earn scholarships through employers if you have a high school graduate who went straight into the workplace instead of to college.
As I tell my students (one of whom is that young man who is working and looking into the educational opportunities his hospital employer provides), nothing ventured, nothing gained. Otherwise, you’ll never know how that desired education could be funded unless you try, and you might be surprised beyond your wildest dreams. Prepare yourself, do the research, and go for it!
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