Top Sources for College Scholarships

There are many different strategies that families use to pay for college.

And as a parent of a college grad, I know we all need every bit of help that we can get.  For sure.

Of course the best way is to somehow qualify for a full ride from the college itself.  But as you know, these monies are getting smaller and smaller and harder for individual families to qualify for.

When our daughter was headed to college we used a variety of ways to find scholarship money for our daughter.  But most of the help came directly from the college itself, in the form of Merit Aid.

Did you know that most of the college scholarship money comes directly from the colleges?


The highest number of scholarships are awarded by the colleges and they are based on:

- ACT or SAT scores or sometimes alternate tests
- and GPA.

Colleges will look at test scores and the GPA on your teen's homeschool transcript.  That is where we got the most help for our teen.

If your student's test scores do not reflect their true abilities, consider re-testing and doing more SAT or ACT prep.  We did that and it made a big difference in getting scholarship offers.

Lessa Scherrer from College Inside Track recommends:

"Apply to colleges where your test scores and GPA are in the top 25% of the admitted class so you will get merit money." 

This approach recommended by Lessa, a certified college counselor, can be key to getting a scholarship from the college itself.

Did you know that most colleges ask you to do the FAFSA when applying for their merit aid?


The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and it is recommend that you do the FAFSA even if you do not qualify for financial assistance.

Most colleges require their prospective students to have the FAFSA on file, as they pull names from that for merit aid.  It comes out in October each year.  So when your student is a senior in high school, be sure to do this form.

Tips for Doing the FAFSA:

- Use information from your tax return the year before or connect your tax return to the FAFSA.

Directions for that are on the FAFSA form.

- Write down your user id and password for future reference.

-To see what kinds of questions are included, go to the FAFSA4caster.

-  Do the FAFSA as early as possible.

 Another top source for college scholarships is the National Merit Scholarship Program


You probably have heard of the National Merit Scholarship Program.  To qualify, your teen needs to take the PSAT in the fall of junior year.  Awards are based on their test scores on that.

The next place to find college scholarships are in local, state, or national outside scholarships programs.


Other scholarships do not have as much money available as the first two options that we discussed.   They also tend to be smaller and only last one year.  But they can still be a help.

 Search for local or state scholarships in your area, as the number of applicants will be smaller.   Local scholarships can be a better source as less applicants will be involved.  State scholarships are better sources than national ones for the same reason.

The more that the scholarship requires of the applicant, the higher chance of winning one. 

There are many smaller scholarships that require writing a speech or giving an essay, such as those offered by :

- SAR - Youth Contests and Awards -

- DAR - National Scholarships -

- VFW - Youth Scholarships -

These are just a few scholarships to give you an idea.


This is by far not an extensive list, but here are our favorite places for outside scholarships:

1. has a Search Directory of over 3 million dollars in scholarships.

2.  FastWeb is another large popular site.

3.  The College Board has a Scholarship Search section, including over 6 billion in scholarship money.

4.  The College Board also has a new program called Opportunity Scholarships

5.  24 Great Scholarships for Homeschooled Students

One last idea for money saving ---  Have you thought of focusing on commuter colleges that are nearby?

Another way to go is to apply to local colleges which are in commuting distance from home.  We did that and it saved us 50% in college costs.  I have also heard that many students in the dorms now have jobs outside of campus, so the dorm life may not be as rich as it used to be.

College funding is a big hurdle for all, but the rewards of a good college education for our teens make it all so worth it.  What would you add to this list?

My book on college is below.  Second edition will be released soon.

What reviewers are saying about it:

"For parents new to homeschooling, this book is full of ideas, examples, and helpful advice. 

Since homeschooling is about having choices, we like that the author highlights how her family made their decisions and sorted through their options every year. 

I would recommend this book to any homeschool student and parent."  Lit Pick 

It includes 12 high school planning printables, ready for download, plus an editable transcript form, the kind the colleges are used to seeing.

Lots more high school posts are on Pinterest here: Homeschooling High School Pinterest Board.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is mom to her now college grad, whom she homeschooled from preK.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh school & college and wrote the book - Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.   She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting

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  1. Aaah - a sigh of relief! Thank you, Betsy, for sharing one of the most important pieces of a college search - the financial one.


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