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5 Ways to Get More Scholarship Money

You’ve heard parents say their kids all got scholarships, and you wonder, “Wow, are all of their kids just amazing, or do they know some sort of magic formula for college admission and scholarship awards?”  Here’s some good news:  your homeschooler will probably get a scholarship, too.  But it may not be exactly what you’re expecting…

Scholarships are awesome; they’re essentially free money.  Who doesn’t want free money, right?  The full ride scholarship (covering the full cost of college) is everyone’s dream. Because college is so expensive, getting the entire education paid for is truly an amazing gift. 

The Chances of Getting a Full Ride

Unfortunately, the chance of getting a full ride is extremely small.  Unless your child is incredibly gifted athletically or within the top 1% academically, he or she will probably not get a full ride scholarship.  There are 80,000 valedictorians and salutatorians each year.  Thousands of students get perfect scores on the ACT and SAT, and hundreds of thousands earn a perfect 4.0 GPA (due to over inflated GPAs) [Washington Post]. In fact, only  0.1% of students (1 in 1000) get an academic full ride scholarship [prepscholar]

As for athletics, even if your child is the best athlete in the city and does receive a scholarship, many only cover a portion of the cost of college (unless your teen plays one of the mainstream sports like football or basketball) [Washington Post].  Bottom line:  it’s very difficult to get a full ride scholarship.  So most likely, those other parents who told you their kids got scholarships were not talking about full ride scholarships.

The Good News About Scholarships

But take heart!  Don’t give up yet.  The rest of the stats are actually quite positive!  In fact, 82% of students receive some form of free financial aid (money you do not have to repay – usually grants or scholarships) according to market research done by Sallie Mae [“How Americans Pay for College, 2019”].  That means your child is more likely to get a scholarship than not (free money!).  So, while those other parents should absolutely be proud of their children, they should not make it seem like they have accomplished something that you can’t attain. 

There is no secret formula to getting tons of scholarship money.  In the end, colleges and universities are businesses; like all businesses, they have operating expenses they must cover.  Therefore, they cannot afford to give all students a free education.  In fact, all colleges expect that the primary responsibility to pay for college falls on the student and parents [Springer, Rieder, & Vining Morgan, (2017).  Admission Matters (4th ed.).  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass].

 An average of 43% of college costs are covered by either the parents’ or student’s income and savings.  Approximately 31% of the cost is covered by free financial aid and the other 26% is covered by loans (either parents or students) [SallieMae]

More Good News About Scholarships

The encouraging news here is that roughly a third of the cost is covered by free money!  So, with an average kid (by definition, most of them are), you can expect to get about one third of college for free.  There’s a really good chance you’ll be one of those parents telling people that your kid got a scholarship.

Now let’s talk details.  There are different forms of free money.  Grants are usually free money given by the federal government based on the families’ need.  Filling out the FAFSA is the first step toward getting need-based money.  You can get an idea of how much you might receive by clicking the “Estimate Your Aid” button and using the FAFSA4caster tool. https://studentaid.gov/h/understand-aid

Scholarships are usually given out by the universities, state, or local communities and businesses.  These are given based on merit (because of academics, special interests, leadership etc.).  This is where hard work pays off. 

Five Ways Your Teen Can Get More Scholarship Money

1.  Apply to as many scholarships as possible.  It’s simply a numbers game. 

2.  Perform as well as possible in school, getting the highest grades possible.

3.   Take as many higher level classes as possible.

3.  Show leadership skills by being active in community service activities, team sports, etc. 

4.  Get great letters of recommendation from coaches, pastors, and especially from those who know your child as an academic student.

5.  Finally, your child should apply to schools where will he/she will be in the top 25% of the incoming class (in addition to your child’s dream school, if that’s different). 

Finding Scholarships

An incredible variety of scholarships are available, ranging from those for duck calling [scholarships.com], being  vegan, being tall, being a rural student, to those for being left handed [collegescholarships.org] and many, many more. There are even scholarships specifically for homeschool students [collegescholarships.org].

 Free websites can be very helpful in finding scholarships for which your teen may be eligible (some listed below).  You should never have to pay for help finding scholarships.  If you are, then it’s probably a scam.  There IS NO SECRET METHOD to getting a scholarship. 

The Reality of Debt

The fact of the matter is, even with a partial scholarship, time is still money.   More and more students are taking longer to finish their 4-year degrees.  Families planning to pay for 4 years can end up with 50% more debt than expected when it stretches to 6 years – as it does for 59% of students [National Center for Education Statistics].  Why are they taking so long to finish their undergraduate degrees?  One major reason is that 80% of students change their major at least once [Local News 8].  These changes can mean that classes they have already taken no longer count toward their major, and additional classes are required.  So even though the majority of students are receiving some scholarship money, the student debt still adds up.  The average student debt for graduates in 2020 is close to $30,000 [My Credit Summit]

What’s really disappointing is that once they graduate and enter the workforce, only 13% of people are truly engaged at work, enjoying what they do.  Most are disappointed, stuck in career fields they don’t enjoy [Gallup].  Then, they spend their careers moving from job to job, trying to find something that motivates and inspires them, something they can feel good about doing. The problem is, they still have no idea what that might be. 

The Solution

The best way to minimize college debt and maximize career satisfaction is to have a clear, well vetted career plan before you start paying for college classes.  The best thing your teen can do is spend time now to identify personal interests, strengths, and talents as well as what type of career field will fit them.  This will pay huge dividends down the road as they will spend less time in college and have higher career satisfaction later. 

Choosing a college and planning how you will pay for it is important, but your teen’s first priority should be figuring out which career path will be a great fit.  Many students head off to college thinking they have it all figured out, only to find out that their chosen path is not what they expected.  This leads to regret – either while in college, or after they get a degree and enter the workforce.  Don’t assume that because many teens “know” what they want to do in the future, they are immune to changing their minds later. 

The more time teens invest into figuring out which careers will be a good fit, the more satisfied they will be with their choices. 

We created the career exploration resources at Homeschool 4 Real Life to help your teen figure this out before they start paying for college.  In addition to helping your teen choose a career, we provide details about choosing a college and applying to college.  We also outline many different methods of paying for college.  Whether your teen is just starting to look into careers or has been thinking about it for a while, the career exploration course at h4rl.com will give them an edge in planning for a great future.  Come join us; we can’t wait to meet you!

Websites where you can begin searching hundreds of scholarships:

Scholarship.com

Collegescholarships.org

Scholarships for homeschool students

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