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Homeschooling Thru High School
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Join us at our upcoming speaking engagements:

January 13, 2018: Family Homeschool Connections (Richmond, VA)—Diane Kummer

January 13, 2018: CHEC High School and Beyond (Castle Rock, CO)—Carol Becker

January 27, 2018: Forsyth Home Educators (Winston-Salem, NC)—Carol Becker

April 12-14, 2018: MACHE (Rochester, MN)—Diane Kummer

April 19-21, 2018: CAPE (Albuquerque, NM)—Diane Kummer

April 27-28, 2018: NCHEA (NE)—Carol Becker

Don’t miss our informative new e-books, now available from the HSLDA Store!

Develop a Plan for High School is the first in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers how to choose courses, assign high school credits, evaluate coursework, and improve time management for you and your high school student.

Simplify Your Recordkeeping and Transcript is the second in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers in-depth details on both recordkeeping and transcripts.

Recorded events

Not able to attend one of Carol or Diane’s high school events? HSLDA’s recorded event High School at Home: Turning Possibility into Reality features sessions on developing a high school plan, creating transcripts, charting a course for post-high school plans, and more—with lots of encouragement! Purchase it at the HSLDA Store.

HSLDA student art contest now accepting entries

Scholarships and Financial Aid: Covering the Basics

Dear Friends, April 6, 2017

The substantial costs of community colleges, four-year colleges, universities, and trade schools leave many parents wondering how they will be able to pay for their teens’ post–high school education. Many parents can’t afford college unless teens receive financial aid or scholarships. The extra boost those options provide can make all the difference in the world when aiming for an institution that specializes in your teen’s field of interest.

In this article, we’ll dicuss how to apply for financial aid, how to search out scholarships, and how to significantly involve your teen in the process.

Financial aid

We encourage families to take advantage of both federal Pell Grants and nonfederal financial aid. Both require that families submit yearly forms to qualify and retain financial aid until college graduation. This process begins the October before your teen or graduate goes off to college.

You begin the process of qualifying for federal aid when you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We recommend that you apply online rather than complete the paper application because the response time is much quicker (days versus weeks).  Also, the online version prompts you to answer every question, some you may have overlooked—a very helpful feature since any missing information will significantly delay processing the application.

Because the federal government offers online instructions via helpful videos, families do not need to pay a company for this service. Below are general guidelines for homeschooling families filling out the FAFSA.

  • The FAFSA may be filed as early as October 1st using information from the previous year’s federal income tax forms.
  • Question 26 on the form can confuse parents because it asks if your student is homeschooled, has a diploma, or has earned a high school equivalent certificate (GED, HiSET, or TASC). Students graduating with a homeschool diploma in compliance with their state’s homeschool law should choose “homeschooled” for this question. Using the “homeschooled” choice, you will not need to enter a private or public school code. Click here for more details.
  • Once you’ve submitted the online form, you will receive an email within five days (or a posted letter within 10 days) that gives you access to view a Student Aid Report (SAR) online. This report lists your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)—the amount that the federal government determines you should pay towards college costs based on the financial information you provided on the FAFSA.
  • You may choose up to 10 colleges (more can be added later) to receive your family’s EFC. Colleges use the EFC to determine the financial aid package of federal grants, work study, or loans it will offer your teen. Many colleges give out financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis—so apply early.
  • You reapply each year to continue your student’s eligibility to receive financial aid and do so by completing a FAFSA renewal form.

Students can also apply online for nonfederal aid from nearly 400 colleges, universities, and professional schools. To do this, families submit a CSS Financial Aid PROFILE®, which begins accepting new or renewal applications each October for the following school year. You can find PROFILE® instructions here. Students who qualified for an SAT fee waiver may also qualify for up to eight PROFILE® fee waivers.

Click here for more helpful financial aid information from the U.S. Department of Education.

Grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are free money given to students for higher education. Awards can be based on grade point averages (GPAs), test scores (ACT, SAT, or CLT), student’s heritage, community service, military service, competitions won, or other factors. Scholarships can be state-dependent, college-dependent, or offered through an independent organization.

State-dependent scholarships

Some states offer merit scholarships to in-state students who will attend in-state colleges or universities. Examples of these include Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship, Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship, Louisiana’s TOPS, and others. Often homeschooled students must submit ACT or SAT scores to qualify for these.

Keys to success for state-dependent scholarships include academic achievement, college entrance test scores, and adherence to deadlines. Each state has its own qualifications for the eligibility of homeschooled students. If you’re an HSLDA member, you can contact our legal department with questions about your state’s scholarship application process.

College-dependent scholarships

College-dependent scholarships are often sponsored by alumni through donations or fundraisers. At some colleges, teens apply separately from the college application form. At other colleges, all scholarships are awarded as part of the complete financial aid package, so no additional application is required. Each college has its own policy on freshmen scholarships and on how a gap year or community college credits could affect student eligibility. Ask your teen to investigate opportunities and restrictions on a college’s financial aid section by first visiting its website and then continue researching when your family tours a college campus. The college’s financial aid office is your best source of information. Again, deadlines are important, so begin to gather college-specific information early in your teen’s junior or senior year of high school.

For these kinds of scholarships, keys to success are high test scores (ACT, SAT, or CLT ), academic achievement (AP, dual enrollment, honors), and extracurricular activities. Students who score well on the CLT may also be eligible for special scholarships available at selected colleges.

Independent scholarships

There are many independent sources of scholarship money, which students can use at any college. The most well-known is the National Merit Scholarship, which uses PSAT/NMSQT test scores as the first step towards qualification.

Other opportunities include competitions with money awarded to winners and top finalists. Each one has different qualifications, rules, and deadlines. Competitions can consist of original essays, videos, speeches, artwork, performances, or other projects.

HSLDA offers four scholarship competitions every year in art, poetry, essay, and photography. Here is a list of independent scholarship organizations who have contacted HSLDA to encourage homeschooled students to apply. Many foundations, civic groups, local businesses, large companies, places of employment, or community organizations also offer scholarship opportunities.

HSLDA’s charitable arm, Home School Foundation (HSF), annually sponsors a $2,000 scholarship for three commendable students (ages 13–19) who have selflessly served their communities. Click here to get more information about HSF’s Servant Leadership Award and read about the service projects of past winners.

Most independent scholarships are one-time gifts. Check to see if students can resubmit the following year. Some scholarships are only available to high school seniors. Other scholarships are open to all high school students, and this makes 10th–11th grades good years to compete for these awards. You want to devise a reasonable plan of attack that fits into your already full academic program.

Many public high schools include lists of local scholarhips on their websites. Some schools also offer a college financial aid seminar that is open to the public. As an example, see this page from a high school in Maryland (under “Scholarships and Financial Aid Opporutunities”).

Specialized scholarships

With the internet, the myriad of college and scholarship possibilities can seem overwhelming, so we encourage you to enlist your teen’s help in the process because he or she has an inherent interest in the outcome. There are a host of specialized scholarships available to enrolled college students with specified majors. Most importantly, the College Board stresses that you should never have to pay for scholarship information—so if a site asks for payment for this service, don’t use it. Each scholarship sponsor sets the eligibility requirements, deadlines, and application format. So enlist your teen to try out various scholarship search engines, resource books, and online articles.

Here are several resources that provide a starting place to explore scholarships: The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2017, the College Board’s Scholarship Handbook 2017, and Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants, and Prizes.

To help focus on viable scholarship opportunities, your teen can develop a spreadsheet that lists the organization, prize money, contest, deadlines, and college major stipulations (if any). If a site doesn’t state that homeschooled students can apply, don’t assume they cannot. Instead, contact the organization directly because many will accept homeschooled students if you ask. For example, U.S. News and World Report’s Path to College Scholarship originally indicated that only public and private school students were eligible. After being contacted by HSLDA, it revised this requirement to include homeschooled students.

Supporting documentation

Check to see if extra documentation is required beyond a high school transcript. This could include course descriptions, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. Smaller scholarship organizations may not need this additional documentation. 

Closing thoughts

During high school, encourage your teen to search out scholarship opportunities and follow through by applying for some. Your student’s efforts can make a real difference in defraying college costs. You are providing your student with a great high school education, and she can use her skills and abilities to help pay for college.

Take courage because the process looks more difficult than it actually is.

If you know of any scholarships or competitions that you want to share with other homeschooling families, please send us your suggestions ( ), and we will add them to HSLDA’s scholarship/contest page.

Join us next month as we discuss options for providing high school science courses to your teens.

Cheering for you and your teen as you pursue sources of post-high school funding,

Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants