Three Wishes College Strategies: Prepared for College. Empowered for Life. ™

Homeschool Your Way to More Money for College

By Nancy Paul, CEO of Three Wishes College Strategies,” target=”_blank”>

Merit scholarships are the misunderstood solution to lowering college costs and empowering our students with validation for their accomplishments. Awarded for all types of achievements, merit scholarships celebrate our kids’ talents and uniqueness.

Many of the activities that homeschooled students pursue position them for more merit aid – money for college based on achievement.7658295334_dfd5ab3107_o

Students in all financial situations can win merit scholarships. Unlike loans, scholarships never have to be paid back. The power of merit aid is that students win money for college based on their own efforts.

Universities, organizations, businesses and individuals reward students for their commitment, passion, academics, community service, leadership, challenges, gifts, heritage, and so much more in an effort to further the organization’s mission or strengthen the college’s rankings.

As college debt passes $1.3 trillion and college costs skyrocket 1120% since 1978 with no end in sight, more families are seeking solutions for the high price of college.

When my eldest daughter, Rebecca, was a high school senior, I embarked on the daunting task of unraveling the merit scholarship process so we could pay less for college. We don’t qualify for need-based aid, but with three daughters in three years, we certainly wanted to explore our options for lowering college costs. Loans were out of the question.

After 100 hours of research, late nights and frustration, I found $150,000 in private merit aid that fit Rebecca’s achievements. We were off to the races! With 2.2 million private merit scholarships, finding ones that fit was no small feat.

That was the beginning of my quest to master how to leverage student achievements to give our children “skin in the game” and make their college dreams – and our dreams for them – come true without sacrificing our financial health.

After all, “Getting into college is one thing. Paying for it is another.”

Most college advisors focus only on the admissions side. I dreaded the thought of Rebecca being admitted to her top choice, pricey college, Northwestern, and our deciding we couldn’t – or didn’t want to – pay for it. That school does not offer any merit aid. None. Neither do any of the Ivies.

My three daughters were awarded $600,000 in merit scholarships. The money is awesome. The non-financial benefits are priceless.

Your student does not have to be a scholar or an Olympic athlete to win merit scholarships and become empowered by using achievements to lower the cost of college.

Sadly, however, too many families wait until it’s too late to fully capitalize on their student’s achievements. We simply don’t know what we don’t know.

Well-meaning, goal-oriented parents spend time and resources on the admissions side of college and miss out on a virtually limitless pool of money for college that never has to be paid back.

Studies show that students who help pay for college in one way or another do better in college. They are more invested in their education – literally!

Admittedly, I ventured into the world of merit scholarships for the financial benefits, but the non-monetary rewards can be even more valuable. I’ve seen, through my daughters, and then my clients, the powerful ripple effect of our students being recognized for their achievements and the tide of gains in self-confidence, responsibility, internships, networking opportunities, jobs, recognition from colleges, and life skills that provide a foundation for the “real world.”

Before students can win merit aid or leverage their achievements in other ways to lower college costs, they must lay the foundation to qualify (and deserve) money for college. No one owes our kids money for college. Instead, they must do specific things so that scholarship providers want to support them in their educational goals.

To most dramatically cut college costs with your student’s achievements:

• Help them pursue local and national private merit scholarships, as well as merit aid from colleges

• Add schools to the college list that will likely offer merit aid or be less expensive for any number of other reasons

• Apply for private merit aid starting in 4th grade

Academics and standardize test scores are the best route to winning larger, renewable merit scholarships from colleges. Meanwhile, it’s your student’s myriad of other interests, passions, talents, goals and challenges that will land the most private merit aid.

Bottom line: The same commitment and values that most homeschooled families share will give your student an abundance of benefits and advantages as they become:

Prepared for college. Empowered for life. ™

Nancy Paul is CEO of Three Wishes College Strategies in Westlake Village, CA, She consults with families nationwide to leverage their students’ achievements to get into more colleges, pay less, and empower their students with “skin in the game.” Her first book, The Little Book about Scholarships, became a best seller in August 2014. Nancy is also a frequent speaker, scholarship judge for a top university, coach, and advisor.