Streamline the Process
Applying for multiple scholarships can be overwhelming, but if you take steps to get organized, you can streamline the process. Here are some suggestions, whether applying for homeschool scholarships or college scholarships that are open to everyone.
At the Beginning
- Spend a few hours scanning scholarship sites (and there are many). We relied primarily on fastweb.com and finaid.com.
- Bookmark the scholarships that you think fit you well, keeping a record of deadline dates.
- Consider whether your SAT and/or ACT scores can be improved. Most students can improve them by studying and taking the test a second time. We recommend the Princeton Review study books, but there are many choices. If the practice tests show improvement, schedule and retake the test.
- For scholarship applications you won’t need to provide course descriptions (although that may be something you need for college applications) but you will need a current high school transcript. Some scholarship committees also request you provide a list of the courses you’ll be taking during your senior year. Be sure to have your parent sign and date the transcript.
Records of Activities, Employment and Voluntary Service
All scholarships ask for this information, in various ways. Some want it by calendar year; some want it by school year. It will be to your advantage to compile this information ahead of time, including the number of hours, by month and year. That way, you can extrapolate it into any form. If you don’t do this in the beginning, that’s okay, but you’ll find yourself reinventing the wheel, over and over.
Letters of Recommendation
- You will need letters of recommendation. Some students have a difficult time asking people, sometimes over and over, to write letters for them. Our advice is to ask five to seven people in the very beginning, requesting they keep the letters in their computer so that as new scholarships arise, they can be modified. It’s recommended that letters be addressed to specific scholarship committees. On the other hand, having each person print off an additional “To Whom it May Concern” letter that can be copied and mailed on the spur of the moment can be a life saver for last minute applications.
- Who should you ask? Often scholarships specify who has to write the letters. In general, if you have chosen a pastor, an employer (or volunteer service supervisor), a youth leader (such as a scoutmaster or youth pastor), and a teacher, you will have it covered. The teacher is the difficult one for homeschool students, as most scholarships specify the letter can’t be from a relative. In this situation, if you are not in a co-op, you may want to choose another homeschool parent or family friend who has knowledge of your activities. They may be able to assume the role of your “guidance counselor.” If you’re applying for religious scholarships, it would be a good idea to ask for letters from two church leaders, perhaps a pastor and a youth director.
These letters are an important part of the process, especially for homeschool scholarships. Several things should be considered when choosing who to ask. Of utmost importance is the person’s writing skills. We were surprised to find that one of our family member’s most outstanding letters came from the person who had known him for the shortest period of time, and who knew the least about him. She was an excellent writer, and put the things she did know into a cohesive, impressive letter.
On the other hand it’s important that the person know you well enough to include specific accomplishments and characteristics. If you aren’t sure this is the case, you may want to provide them with a list of activities they can draw from. Most important of all, choose someone who knows your character, and who will speak well of it.
During the Process
Create four large folders, and label them Favorite Scholarships, Pending Scholarships, Scholarships Lost and Scholarships Won.
Favorite Scholarships Folder
Place scholarship information and applications that you found while doing your initial search of the Web into this folder. Add local scholarships to the folder as you hear about them. Write the deadline date on the top of each one, and keep them in order.
Pending Scholarships Folder
After you have sent in your application, place a copy of it (and all related materials) into this folder. Either staple the packet together, or place it in a small folder of its own. Write the following information on the front: the notify date (when they will notify winners) and the method of notification. You need to be aware of how they will notify you. Sometimes it will by by U.S. mail, sometimes by email and occasionally by a phone call. This is important, especially if it is by email. If you don’t check your mailbox regularly, or have so much of it that a scholarship notification could be overlooked, you may miss the notification. Often, if you make it to the semi-final level, the committee will send instructions as to additional requirements. If they are sitting in your email box, unread, it will be your loss.
Scholarships Lost Folder
When creating this folder, it’s important to realize, right from the start, that this will end up being the largest folder. No matter how qualified you are, competition is tough. It’s especially difficult this year, as the housing market crisis and the economic situation in general has driven more students into the scholarship search. Those from families who could not previously qualify for need-based scholarships now can. Friends of ours who ended up with an almost full-ride still went through stages of depression as the rejection letters piled up.
Why even have this folder? Why not just throw the applications away and try to forget about them? You could, but may regret it if you do. You will likely use information from these scholarship applications for future ones. As soon as you get a rejection letter, move the application from the pending folder to the scholarships lost folder.
Scholarships Won Folder
This will likely be your smallest folder. It’s an important one, because once you have won a scholarship, there are still things that have to be done before you start college. You don’t want to forget about these! Each scholarship will have a method whereby you actually receive the money. For most of them, you will need to send in a form or letter a few weeks before college begins.
At the End
Whether you receive one or many scholarships, the process will likely have been worth it. Even if you didn’t win any cash, you likely have improved your skills at essay writing, clarified some of your goals, and possibly made new connections with people.
Thank your supporters
It’s important to thank those who supported you through the process, whether they referred scholarships to you, wrote letters of recommendations, or offered advice. You should let them know about any scholarships you received, so they can also enjoy the fruit of their efforts.
Share your experience
You’ve probably learned a lot through your experience, about what things worked and what didn’t. Don’t let this new knowledge go to waste. Share it with upcoming high school students and graduates in the homeschool community. Let them know which applications were friendly to homeschoolers, and which ones might not be worth the trouble. You can do this through your own homeschool group or acquaintances, or through emailing this Web site. Your comments will be posted on the Share Your Experiences page.