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In pursuit of local/private scholarships


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I just got my FAFSA submitted and now am turning full attention to searching out various scholarship opportunities (from sources outside the university) to help boost dd's coffers. Any suggestions or ideas from those who have gone before me? As best as I can tell, it seems like it could get really crazy, confusing and distracting really quickly.


Any major do's or don't's I need to know about?

Edited by hillfarm
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First, one quick caveat:

Check the college policies on whether they allow "stacking" of "outside" scholarships (local/private sources). Many colleges do NOT "stack", but instead will deduct the amount of the outside scholarships from the total amount of scholarships that the school WOULD have otherwise awarded the student, so that the student will have no net gain in scholarship monies.

This can be especially bad as most "outside" scholarships are one-time awards, while many of the "inside" scholarships (those awarded through the college) are renewable (student can receive it again the next school year as long as the student maintains the requirements of GPA and credit load). So by accepting the one-time "outside" award, the student may lose out on scholarship monies that WOULD have been awarded by the college in the following years of college.

You might read this very recent thread that discusses the topic of is it worth it or not to search of "outside" scholarships: "How many decided NOT to apply for outside scholarships…" (because it would affect merit need based aid?)

That said, below is a "replay" of a post from the thread "Preparing for College, what scholarships/grants to apply for?" which walks you through the search for scholarships process. This thread is also linked in the big pinned thread ("Transcripts, Credits… Scholarships/Financial Aid… past threads linked here!") at the top of the High School board -- look in post #5 of that pinned thread for loads of VERY helpful linked past threads on financial aid, scholarships, etc.

BEST of luck in your scholarship search! Warmest regards, Lori D.


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. be sure to take the SAT or ACT
Your best bet for earning the highest scholarships is through a high test score. A high SAT/ACT score places the student in the top 5-10% of test scores of all incoming freshman. It can be worth $$$ to take a test prep course, or hire a tutor who specializes in test prep, and re-take the SAT or ACT if the student is very close to the cut-off score needed to jump into the next higher scholarship level from the school.

VERY ROUGHLY, and depending on the school and how competitive it is, a score of 33-36 (ACT) or 1450-1600 (SAT) is needed for large awards (up to full tuition), while a score of 29-32 (ACT) or 1300-1450 (SAT) often earns smaller awards (partial tuition). To know for where your student's score places your student within the incoming freshmen (and therefore, how competitive your student will be for scholarships at that school), compare for each individual university at College Data, or through the college statistics for the specific school at College Board's Big Future search engine (input specific college; click on college from the search list; click on "print complete college profile" to see all statistics).

f. take the PSAT/NMSQT in 11th grade and score in the 99%
Top scores on the PSAT test when taken in 11th grade can mean the student becomes a National Merit finalist. While the actual NM scholarship is small, many colleges offer BIG scholarships to NM finalist students.
List of National Merit Scholarship Schools
National Merit Scholarship Program Student Guide

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 • local 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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I wonder if we could get that list of scholarship tips pinned to the top of the college board.  It is a keeper for sure.  Thanks, Lori!


Well, it is in the pinned thread under scholarships, and I did note beside the title that it is a compilation of best WTMer tips :) … I've been actually thinking about this summer going through my 2 pinned threads and culling out the college ones and adding newer valuable threads and asking to have that pinned to the top of the college board. What do you think?


Then I could go through and update/add new threads specific to the high school topics to the 2 already pinned on the high school board. What with the changes to the PSAT and SAT, and other recent high school changes, it would be good to update those threads, too.

Edited by Lori D.
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  • 2 weeks later...

My biggest advice would be to hurry, LOL.  My dd has already applied to several outside scholarships with deadlines that started back in early December.  Most of the really big ones, like Elks MVS, Reagan Foundation, CocaCola, -deadlines are long past.  A few others that she will be applying for have deadlines in early March.  It always takes longer than you think, as most require letters of recommendation and you will have to contact those people to ask permission and then give them time to write the letter and submit it.  Also, I googled "____ county high school scholarships" (insert your county) and was able to find the page at our local high school with the scholarship info they give their students.  Our biggest help has come with merit aid directly from the school. She chose schools where her ACT score was at the top range of admitted students, and I think that helped.  And encourage your student to try something new! My dd is applying to be on the debate team, although she has never been on a debate team but has debated in class, because it offers a $2000 per year scholarship. 


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