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Preparing for College, what scholarships/grants to apply for?

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The most easily available merit scholarships are from the colleges themselves. Many (though certainly not all) provide some merit scholarships.


The college scholarships are also the easiest to apply for -- while some colleges have separate scholarship applications, many colleges simply consider all applicants as applying for merit scholarships.

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Compilation of Tips from WTMers!

The largest amount of "free money" (scholarships and grants) comes from the college/university itself. To access this financial aid:

a. fill out the FAFSA online = http://www.fafsa.ed.gov
Colleges base financial aid packages (loans, grants and scholarships) on family financial information provided in the FAFSA form. (See this article on the Sources of Financial Aid. Not filling out the FAFSA may mean the student will not be considered for many scholarships.

b. if you have not yet applied to a college, put in applications to school(s) of interest
Colleges don't offer financial aid packages until they know you are interested in attending.

c. apply for scholarships directly through the school
Look on the school's website for the list of what they give out. Follow links to freshman scholarships, first-time college student scholarships, special needs, etc. -- whatever you are eligible for. If the school has one, use their online application for "one-time-apply-to-all".

d. some college programs/departments have more $$ to give than others
Knowing your intended major can help you more easily find scholarships. Especially science, engineering, medical and technical fields, green jobs research, and computer-based degree programs often have more monies and internships to award. Be sure to look specifically at the department through which you will be getting a degree for lists of specific scholarships. Also, if there are different majors that will get you to the same point, consider which path might be paved with more money. Sometimes, more than one department offers the same pre-requisite classes — go for the department that has more monies to offer.

e. if not graduated from high school yet, be sure to take the SAT or ACT
High test scores bring in scholarship offers.

Theses are scholarships NOT from the school -- from organizations, the community, etc.

a. assess your strengths
Determine what factors will most likely help you earn a scholarship, and then focus your efforts in looking for scholarships with those requirements:
- academic merit (high SAT/ACT test scores; high GPA; high AP test scores; nat'l honor society)
- performance (special ability in sports, the arts, science, tech, etc.)
- volunteering (meets community service/volunteer hours criteria for many scholarships)
- extracurriculars (some extracurricular organizations offer scholarships)
- connections (member of org., church, family profession, military)
- innate qualities (race, ethnicity, gender, ancestry, disability, cancer survivor, etc.)
- low income (family earns less than $40K/year; first generation college student)

b. "project" scholarships often go unawarded
Scholarships requiring a physical project (poster, video) usually have very few applicants, especially for an unusual or very specific topic. Also, scholarships requiring extensive community service hours are great for students who are already putting in many hours.


a. local monies
- parents' employers, parents' work unions, 
clubs of parents/relatives
- fraternal organizations (Elks, Moose, American Legion, etc.), corporate scholarships
- local banks / credit unions, local utility companies, local businesses, ocal minority/ethnic groups
- local contests
- service organizations (Rotary Club, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.)
- church / youth group, student leadership group, junior military group involvement (Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadet, etc.)
- scouting, Awanas, local theater/arts group, local sports clubs/leagues,  4-H

b. local high school scholarship lists
Do a web search for local high school scholarship lists. Try: "name of school, your city, state" and then the words "guidance", OR, "counseling", OR, "college prep", OR, "scholarship list". If there is no website availability, go in person to the high school guidance office near you and ask if you may have a copy of the scholarship offerings. During the spring, check every week for new listings.

c. ask to apply as a homeschooler
Many of the scholarships on lists from local high school students will say "students of ______ school district". Directly contact the organization offering the scholarship or running the competition and ask if homeschoolers are eligible to apply.

d. scholarships JUST for homeschoolers:
- Homeschool Buyers Co-op list 
- Kimball Memorial Scholarship 
- Homeschool Scholarships
- Eclectic Homeschool Online: Homeschool Scholarships
- College Scholarships website: Homeschool Students Scholarships

e. check out the "big book of scholarships"
Many public libraries have big books of scholarships that are updated annually. (Example: Kaplan Scholarships: Billions of Dollars of Free Money for College, by Gail Schlachter.) Pay special attention to those with very specific requirements (ex: "children of Polish longshoremen", or, "children of retired military living in North Dakota").

f. search scholarship listings on websites
Pros: based on the criteria you input, you get a list that matches qualifications. Cons: most are national awards, which drastically reduces your odds of winning. It also puts you on direct mail ad lists. Consider setting up a second email address just for scholarship search and avoid entering phone/postal address.
- FastWeb, list of scholarships by... year in high school, high school seniors, college freshmen, veterans, bilingual, Hispanic, African-American

- Scholarships 4 Students
- HSLDA: National Competitions and Scholarships (list with links)

CAVEAT: avoid scholarship scams!
NEVER pay money to get money. Beware of seminars you PAY to attend that promise $$ and are a sales pitch in disguise. Beware of "billions in unclaimed money every year" myths; if you have to PAY for info, it's probably a scam. (see article "Scholarship Scams" at FinAid website)

Some medical and science/tech/engineering companies will pay for some or all of tuition in exchange for you committing to work for them during and/or after graduation for a specified period of time.

SMART Scholarships are for students in STEM fields who, upon college graduation, work for the U.S. Department of Defense as civilian research scientists or engineers in exchange for the tuition monies. The scholarships are awarded to students at many different schools.

Some hospitals or big companies offer tuition reimbursement programs. (NOTE: many require you to PAY BACK the tuition IF you leave before a specified period of time.) Examples: Bank of America, Citigroup, UPS, FedEx IBM, Home Depot, Best Buy, Circuit City.


a. be an "interesting" student to match small colleges and their scholarships
Find a college that is a good fit for your student, and awards scholarships for more than just AP classes or top SAT/ACT scores. Students who took on interesting projects or experiences can earn scholarships. Research small colleges and find out what they value:
- College Data website: find out how much merit aid a college gives out
- College Xpress website: list of colleges that "go the extra mile to make it financially possible to attend

b. be a "big-fish-in-a-small-pond student" to land scholarships
Consider a school that is of a slightly lower caliber where your good/above-average scores will now be considered "stellar". Your scores boost the college's statistics — and they award more scholarships. Read college profiles. Find schools where your student is above the crowd. (About.com: college profiles (including how they award financial aid), listed alphabetically)


- Fin Aid = very helpful website of articles on financial aid, scholarships, etc
- Homeschool Success: High School Planning for College Admissions Success: articles on "Scholarships"
- The Home Scholar, Lee Binz: "Getting the BIG Scholarships"
- Kaplan Scholarships: Billions of Dollars of Free Money for College, by Gail Schlachter
- Peterson's Scholarships, Grants & Prizes 2013

- The Insiders Guide to a Free Ride: Winning $500,000 of Scholarships by Marvis Burns
- How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay by Gen and Kelly Tanabe

Edited by Lori D.
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You can't top Lori D's list! All I will add is to say that it is a very time-consuming process and you should focus on the ones that your dd has the best chance of receiving. It would be a full-time job applying to all of them and you want your dd to be able to have a life and do her regular schoolwork too.

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  • 3 years later...

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