If you’re a homeschooler, applying for scholarships may seem overwhelming. Most kids have a school counselor to help with that process, and you may feel all alone. But no need to worry! Applying for scholarships is a simple process that you’ll be able to master with the help of these tips and instructions. You’ll learn about the materials you need to apply, different types of scholarships out there, and how to get through the application process smoothly and easily. You’ll also find a list of great scholarship websites to help start your search. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know what to expect, feel more confident, and start winning scholarships in no time. Let’s get started!
Gathering your application materials
There are two things you may need when applying for scholarships (and college): standardized test scores and your transcript. (When you put in the time to get both, you’ll be feeding two birds with one scone!)
Most students take the SAT or ACT during high school. Many colleges require standardized test scores, and plenty of scholarships do as well. The National Merit Scholarship, for example, uses PSAT scores to allow admission into their program. In addition, some scholarship websites can help you find scholarships based on your test scores. Without them, you may be at a disadvantage in finding scholarships and applying to colleges.
A transcript is a list of all the classes you’ve taken, usually with a short description. For homeschoolers, a transcript can be especially important because it proves you really did go to school—just at home! Keep a list of your classes and extracurriculars so you’ll remember them all when you’re ready to make your transcript.
Related: College-Prep Homeschooling: Creating Transcripts
3 types of scholarships
The three main types of scholarships are need based, merit based, and private. Each type is awarded for different things and different amounts.
Need-based scholarships are a type of financial aid that’s awarded based primarily on your family’s income. But even middle-class kids can get financial aid for college—almost everyone can. To apply for these scholarships, you’ll have to fill out the FAFSA, which you can file starting October 1 the year before you plan to attend college.
Merit scholarships are based on your grades. These are the scholarships colleges give you that are calculated from your test scores and GPA. Most scholarship money comes from merit aid because they can pay out a lot! And you don’t have to be any kind of genius to earn these awards. Colleges will calculate your merit scholarships automatically when you apply with your test scores and GPA, and they’ll be presented in your financial aid award letter if you’re accepted. Some colleges and universities offer special awards for homeschool students, such as Bryan University’s Homeschool Grant.
Private scholarships are the ones you apply for through scholarship websites or contests. They can be any amount of money and are awarded to anyone based on certain criteria, since they are offered by private, unaffiliated donors (hence the name). You can apply for as many private scholarships as you want, but there’s a lot of competition, so the more you apply, the higher your chances of winning.
Private scholarships offer a lot of opportunities because they can be open-ended or very specific. Some are open to everyone, like the Niche $2,000 No-Essay Scholarship. Others have specific criteria to narrow the possible applicants. There are scholarships for those with experience in agricultural work or international travel. There are opportunities for students majoring in Ancient Greek. There are scholarships just for New Yorkers, activists, and Indian Americans. You can find awards for cat people, dog people, or those allergic to pets. Don’t worry if you can’t apply to the Vegan Scholarship; there’s probably a Meat Lovers Scholarship out there for you. And yes, there are scholarships for homeschool students!
Related: 4 Steps to Designing a Path to Scholarship Success
The scholarship application process
Homeschool students can receive any or all of these types of scholarships, and the more time you put into your applications, the more money you could win. You should apply for as many private scholarships as you can, and you should begin applying several years before college. The easiest way to do this is to create an account on a scholarship website. You’ll put in some information about yourself and the website will curate a list of scholarships that you’re eligible for.
When you find a scholarship that looks promising, how do you apply? That depends on the scholarship. For some, you just have to put in your name and contact info; for others, you may need to write an essay or attach another type of submission (for example, a piece of art). Make sure you follow the instructions: If there’s a writing prompt, stay on topic! If you need an art portfolio, only submit your best work!
Reading the scholarship eligibility requirements is also important. There are awards just for homeschool students, and there are many more that are available to both homeschoolers and students from public and private high schools. If you’re not sure you’re eligible, don’t be afraid to contact the scholarship provider before you take the time to apply.
3 great scholarship websites
There are lots of great scholarship websites out there. However, these are three of the best, in my opinion:
If you’re here, maybe you already know about CollegeXpress. But maybe you don’t—and you need to! When you create a free CollegeXpress account, you can put in your information and interests and they’ll recommend colleges and scholarships just for you. You’ll be automatically entered to win their $10,000 scholarship contest when you complete registration. Not only that, but they have hundreds of articles (like this one) that will tell you everything you need to know about applying to, paying for, and attending college.
Bold is a website similar to CollegeXpress, but it places more emphasis on designing your profile so that private scholarship donors will look at it and want to give you money. At Bold, you put together a great profile page complete with your interests, volunteer and work experience, and a headshot. When you apply to scholarships, donors can visit your profile while they’re considering you for the award.
Unigo is all about recommending you to scholarships. They’ll create a For You page with hundreds of scholarships that you may be eligible for. It’s a great site to find both obscure and mainstream scholarships.
Related: The Best Scholarship Search Sites, Books, and More
Start applying now!
Now that you know all about scholarships and how to apply to them as a homeschooler, it’s time to put that knowledge to use. Search for scholarships that are open to everyone but also awards that are specifically for homeschoolers. CollegeXpress, Bold, and Unigo are great starting points, but don’t stop there—there are many more online resources! Remember, there’s no need to stress about the scholarship search and application process. You know what to do; now all you need is to do it. Best of luck!
Looking for easy-to-enter scholarships to start your search? Check out all our mini scholarship contests—there’s a new one every month!