Episode 59: The TRUTH about Types of Financial Aid for College

Overview: Hear the truth about all the types of financial aid for college as they apply to homeschoolers. How to get them and what to expect!

In this episode, I give you the real facts about types of financial aid for college as they apply to homeschoolers. I share stories from our personal experience preparing for college with five kids over the last 10 years. As always, I am transparent and honest about what to expect, because it doesn’t help you to be thinking one thing and find out very late that there is another thing altogether going on!

Discussion topics:

  1. Merit Scholarships
  2. Athletic Scholarships
  3. Scholarships for other activities
  4. Researching for random scholarships
  5. Grants, work/study, the FAFSA
  6. How to pay the difference

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Hear the truth about all the types of financial aid for college as they apply to homeschoolers. How to get them and what to expect!

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This episode is sponsored by CTCMath.

CTCMath provides online video tutorials that make learning math easy and effective by using a multi-sensory approach that is sure to grab and keep your child’s attention. Here is a great testimonial from Amber a mother of 8:

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Episode 59: The TRUTH About Financial Aid for College

Related Resources:

The Truth about How to Look Good on College Applications
Episode 12: How to Look Good on College Applications
How Your Teen Can Pay for College
Episode 69: Taking a Gap Year After High School
Nitro
FastWeb
Unigo
College Express
Scholarships.com
Episode 46: What to Look for in a College
Episode 44: The College Application Timeline
Episodes 41-43: The College Application Process w/ Pat Wesolowski
Episodes 18-20: Aiming for Top Tier Colleges as a Homeschooler w/ Heather Woodie
College Entrance Exam FAQs for Homeschoolers

TRANSCRIPT:

0 (0s):
You are listening to episode 59 of the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast. And so they would have earned these full rides based on test scores alone and not necessarily for all these other added things that these people tell you that you should do. Like padding the transcript with all sorts of stuff, making sure your kid has volunteer hours, has started their own business, won the national spelling bee, whatever it might be that they expect that you should, make sure your kid can put on their application or their transcript. It’s not a reality for most of us.

1 (49s):
Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people. So you can confidently competently and even contentedly provide the high school education that best fits your teen and your family and live to tell about it. I’m your host Ann Karako from annieandeverything.com. Hello everyone, and welcome. Today’s topic is financial aid for college. So yeah, this is a topic that I think there’s, just kind of a lot of unreasonable expectations out there.

1 (1m 36s):
So I’m hoping that today we can bring a little bit more down to reality, but even so, there are options and I don’t want anybody to think that college is not doable. There are lots of options out there. Let’s talk about all the different types of financial aid that are possible. And then we’ll go from there.

0 (2m 1s):
Let me tell you, to start that every single one of my five kids got some type of scholarship to go to school, nobody got a full ride. One of them did get a full-tuition, but that was for a junior college. So it’s not like that was a ton of tuition, but it was still full tuition. The others though, all got some kind of partial tuition scholarship, for homeschoolers. Probably the easiest, most direct way to get scholarships, is to get merit scholarships from the colleges themselves.

0 (2m 43s):
And that’s what all of my kids got. So what happens is when your kid applies to a college when the acceptance comes back, that’s when they also offer any type of merit scholarship that your kid is going to be offered. And merit scholarships are based on grades and test scores, like the ACT, SAT, or CLT, those test scores. And all of my kids were actually based on the test scores, almost exclusively like GPA was secondary, for sure. Now granted things are changing now, with COVID and lots of places becoming test-optional, things are changing.

0 (3m 31s):
So definitely do your research. A lot of colleges are very upfront about what they expect to have to see in order to give a scholarship. So do your research, and if it’s not on the college website, call up the financial aid office and ask them what they’re looking for. So that you can be prepared going in for how best to present your student at these places that are test-optional, that are not looking at the test scores to determine their scholarships. But all of my kids’ scholarships were based mostly on their test scores; their test scores weren’t all incredibly stellar. In fact, even the highest ones were still not ridiculously exceptional or anything. So it just really depends on the school and that’s a topic for an entirely different podcast episode.

0 (4m 20s):
In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve already done one about choosing the right school for your kid. I will look for that and link to it in the show notes. If you ever want to find the show notes for this episode, go to annieandeverything.com, click on podcast in the top menu and look for this episode, which is episode 59. And at the bottom of the page, you’ll see all the links for everything that’s related to what I’m talking about today. So choosing a school where your kids’ test scores are going to look good is half the battle in achieving a scholarship that’s based on test scores. So for instance, that full-tuition scholarship at the junior college was based on an ACT score of 26.

0 (5m 1s):
Which as you know, is not incredibly stellar, but at the junior college, it was a great score. And yes, the scholarship involved having an interview, writing an essay, but definitely worth it, right to have tuition paid for. So it just depends on where, which college you’re looking at as far as what they’re going to offer, but that’s going to be the most direct way for homeschoolers to get scholarships is through the college at the time of application. And so that’s a plug for getting those applications in as early as you possibly can so that they still have money left to offer to you.

0 (5m 42s):
So one of my kids applied in early September, right after this particular college’s application window opened up, she applied and within a week, she had an acceptance back with the highest scholarship that they had to offer. Now, my guess is long about December, January, February, somebody applying with the exact same credentials as my daughter would not have been offered that scholarship because now they’ve already offered it to a ton of kids. What if all those kids end up coming to the school? They’re not going to have that money left to give to everybody who applies.

0 (6m 23s):
They’re going to be able to accept the kid into the college, but not to give them that much money. So definitely when it comes to getting merit scholarships, apply as early as you can. And they’re pretty straightforward. You either get the test score or you do the research about what other things that the school is looking for, and you make sure that those things are part of what you’re submitting. And then you wait to see what the school has to say. Now, athletic scholarships are something that I have dealt with just with my last kid. And that is also a fairly cut and dried situation. Once you get to that point I should say.

0 (7m 4s):
So a huge part of getting an athletic scholarship is doing the networking that it takes to get your kid in front of the coaches. The coaches are the ones who are going to make the ultimate decision about that. Usually, the school has a formula that they’re working with as far as how much they’re going to offer athletes. And so, it’s not like the coach is going to say, oh, well, you know, this kid is worth $5,000 and this kid is worth $6,000. That’s not my impression of how it works. My impression of how it works is there’s this type of scholarship and perhaps this type of scholarship for sports kids.

0 (7m 44s):
And it’s not a matter of comparing who’s better than the other, although perhaps it is, I don’t know. And perhaps again, this is another thing where the earlier you get in, the better chances you have of getting more money, but early in your child’s athletic career is when they want to be getting themselves in front of coaches. Whether by going to camps at colleges, by sending emails, whenever they’re going to be at a tournament nearby, going on college visits, all of these things are going to get that kid in front of the coaches. It helps too if their own travel ball team coach has some college coaches that they are networking with to be able to recommend your kid.

0 (8m 33s):
That’s what happened with my daughter is that her travel team coach recommended her to a college coach, who then took a look at my daughter and said, yep, we’d like you on the team. And this is what our school does for athletes, and we were thrilled. So when I say early in their career, going to camps can happen as early as 9th or 10th grade, if not before, it all depends on how high you’re aiming. Again, this is a junior college that my daughter ended up at. This is the year of the 2021 grads where it’s basically impossible unless you’re an amazing athlete to get into an NCAA school because of all the changes that happened because of COVID.

0 (9m 19s):
So we weren’t aiming super high and you know what, most kids are not at that level. And that’s okay. Once again, I just want to say we’re an ordinary family. We are real people. We didn’t get a full athletic ride either, and I’m not sure that there is a ton of colleges out there that give them to your average ordinary athlete who wants to play in college. Usually, the athletes that want to play in college, are above average, don’t get me wrong. But you know, it’s not like we’re talking about division here. We’re just talking about the kid who wants to play in college to get a little bit more money to go to college. But also because they want the experience and they’re good enough to do it.

0 (10m 1s):
So again, don’t expect that the way is going to be paved for your kid to get a full ride, either academically or athletically, unless they’re in that very top percentage. But if you’re like most of the world, all kind of a little bit more ordinary than that. Anyway, then don’t expect a full ride. So then you’re going to have to figure out how to pay for what’s left. And we’ll talk about that a little bit, but let me continue with the different types of financial aid that are possible. If your kid is into theater or music or other activities, e-sports is a thing now.

0 (10m 43s):
My son at the junior college actually got a little bit of money from e-sports. So those things as well, I’m going to say probably the best bet, is to do the networking. Communicate with the people who make those decisions, whether that be the director of the music department or the violin professor, or, there’s camp, there are music and theater camps as well, that are given over the summer at colleges. Get to those, get your kid in front of the people who are going to be making those decisions. Networking is huge when it comes to all the other types of scholarships out there.

0 (11m 26s):
A lot of people talk about researching for scholarships online and we’ve all heard those stories about, well, she made it a full-time job to research for scholarships, and she was able to pay for college in full. And that may be true. I think that’s, again, the exception rather than the rule; a couple of my kids tried it and for homeschoolers, we did not find a lot out there. Now maybe we were looking at the wrong places. Oh, and you know what? My daughter gave me a list, rats, let me see if I can find that really fast. Ack, at the moment I don’t know where that is. But I’ve texted her and I will edit that in here. As soon as I get it. I know that Nitro is one website where you can go to look for scholarships.

0 (12m 9s):
The only reason I know that is because she put my email address down and I’m getting emails from them all the time. But I know that there are others and she will text me back on that. So yeah, you can try looking for other types of scholarships. The thing that we found though, was that they were so often very specific. So like, your dad has to be an employee of this certain place, or you have to be a descendant of these people or you have to have this type of ethnic origin going on, or I don’t know, there’s just specifics often like your dad served on this ship in World War II.

0 (12m 51s):
I don’t know. I just made that one up, but very specific things. And if they weren’t that specific, they seem to be very geared towards public school kids, just the requirements and stuff seem to be very public school-oriented more than a homeschooler could actually qualify for. So we found it not possible to earn any scholarships, any other way far, be it for me to dissuade you from actually looking. However, so let me give you that list really quick that I asked my daughter for. So yeah, I mentioned Nitro. That’s a website to look at scholarships.

0 (13m 31s):
Fast web is another one, Unigo, U N I G O, College Express, and scholarships.com. And I will put all of those links into the show notes. So those are places to go looking for scholarships that you might not find anywhere else. And certainly, it’s worth a try, not going to tell anybody it’s not worth the try. We just never had any luck that way. If you listen to my last podcast episode, sometimes where your kid is working offers scholarships, so they could look there. We talked about jobs in the last episode.

0 (14m 12s):
And so if you haven’t heard that one, definitely go to the podcast page and look for it. But if your kid is working a job, have them ask there if there’s an option or possibility to apply for a scholarship from the place where they’re working. Just want to jump in here and say that this episode is sponsored by CTCMath. Looking for a great math program? CTCMath provides online video tutorials that make learning math easy and effective by using a multisensory approach, that is sure to grab and keep your child’s attention. Here’s a great testimonial from Amber, a mother of eight. As a homeschooling mother, I am both parent and teacher and absolutely thrilled with CTCMath.

0 (14m 53s):
CTCMath just happens to be one of those rare finds that I’ve continued to use with all my school-aged children for seven-plus years. Now I’ve truly loved seeing them enjoy this math firsthand. To see them grow in leaps and bounds in their mathematical journey has been such a gift to watch over the years. And I am forever grateful for the daily role CTCMath plays in our household. Thank you so much for all that you have done and are doing in providing such quality math lessons for my children. It means so much. CTCMath will help us in our little situation. My daughter could not get through algebra to save her life. And we tried two different curricula before we settled on CTC math and she was able to finish Algebra I with CTCMath and felt good about what she had learned.

0 (15m 44s):
And so it came to our rescue for sure. And I would recommend you take a look, it’s very straightforward, very easy to work with. Does all the grading for you? What’s not to love, right? So visit CTCMath.com today to start your free trial. Grants are another type of financial aid. Grants are based on the number that comes back after you fill out the FAFSA. And that is FAFSA, not fast FASFA. Which people say all the time, oh, we gotta fill out the FASFA. You have to fill out the FAFSA.

0 (16m 24s):
I don’t even know what it stands for. Federal. Nope. Federal the application financial application for federal student aid, I think is what it is. So here’s the point, grants are usually given based on the number that the FAFSA spits out after you have filled it out. So now everybody, whether you think you can earn a scholarship or not, everybody is expected to fill out the FAFSA. If their kid is going to be in college the next year, you can start filling out the FAFSA for the following fall as of October 1st. So for instance, on October 1st, 2020, you could start filling out the FAFSA for your kid, that would be going to college in the fall of 2021.

0 (17m 16s):
So we’ve done that and you have to fill out a FAFSA for each and every student that will be in college. So I have had the opportunity to fill out three FAFSAs in a given year. And yeah, that was a bummer. I mean, it’s somewhat repetitive and there’s this really cool thing where they can link to the IRS to pull in your tax information. So you don’t have to pull up your tax, look up your tax form yourself and find line 42 or whatever. But they are basically asking for all the details of your financial life and then at the end of this application, they spit out a number. Oh, and I forget the name of the number;

0 (17m 57s):
expected financial contribution, I think she says as she squeezes her eyes shut to try to remember. EFC is what I believe the number is called. And this is the dollar amount that you are expected to pay for your kids’ college education. And trust me, when I tell you, you’re not going to like the number you’re not going to like it. It’s not going to be a happy number. It’s always more than we can pay, but this is what, because you know what the federal government doesn’t take in, they do take into account how many people are in the home, but they’re not taking into account, any kind of credit card debt we might also be paying on or our car loan.

0 (18m 42s):
They’re not taking into account, how many boxes of cereal and gallons of milk do our kids eat each week, nor all of the other things that we’re paying for such as, maybe those travel team sports or those music lessons, or what have you, not to mention the homeschool curriculum that we have to buy. They’re not taking any of that into consideration. So that number that expected financial contribution number is higher than you want it to be. It always is. That’s the number that determines whether or not your kid is going to get a Pell Grant, which is a federal gift. A grant is a gift of money that does not need to be paid back, or maybe a grant from the college itself, but you just still have to fill out the FAFSA, even if you don’t like the number.

0 (19m 30s):
It also determines, the EFC number also determines whether or not your kid is going to be eligible for work-study, which is getting a job on campus. It’s federally funded. It’s only available to kids who qualify and they can earn spending money while they’re on campus. This is not money that goes towards tuition unless they save it up and pay it towards tuition the following semester. It is just money that they can use to spend or pay for books or whatever else they need to get. But it’s an opportunity to work while you’re going to school. And it’s an opportunity to work on campus, where it’s nice and easy to work. As opposed to having to have a car or whatever, to go work at the fast-food restaurant down the street, the FAFSA is necessary to be filled out each and every year.

0 (20m 18s):
And then it will determine whether your kid gets grants or work-study, but it does not reflect reality for many of us really. I mean, it’s the federal government, what are we expecting? Right. And let me just jump in here after the fact as I’m editing this episode, and I realized that I had neglected to say something about that EFC number that needs to be clearly noticed, and that is this. No college is under any obligation to give enough aid to get even down to that number. So not only is that number higher than you think it ought to be. You’re not actually usually ready to pay that much for your kid to go to college.

0 (21m 2s):
Also, the colleges are not going to give you enough aid to get down to that number. So actually most likely you will have to find ways to come up with more money than that. EFC says this is the reality of the situation. And so many people out there are not telling you these things. But my main point right now is that the EFC number only determines federal grants and the opportunity to do work-study. It does not determine anything else. It is merely a number on the screen.

0 (21m 46s):
So please do not be expecting the college to give you enough scholarships or other free aid to get down to that number. There’s going to be a big difference between what they give and what you’re expected to pay. And I just remembered, I do have to take that back in part, there are some colleges that will do that. They state that from the front end. Vanderbilt is one that I know used to do that. They may have changed their policy, where they would say, whatever number is spitting out on the EFC, we will give your kid enough money so that the EFC is all you have to pay.

0 (22m 28s):
And there must be others out there that are like that, but most are not. So if you need that, go look for those schools and apply to them. But as you know, Vanderbilt, for instance, is a really high-tier school. So I don’t know if that sort of thing is offered at your more average run-of-the-mill real school where most of us will be applying. This is hard to swallow, but it is reality. And you know me, I’m always transparent with y’all. I’m not going to sugarcoat things. So just wanted to make sure that this was clear because I don’t think it was super clear in the original recording. So let’s get back to that now. So here’s the thing, again, harking back to last week’s or last episode, which wasn’t last week, but two weeks ago about your kid getting a job.

0 (23m 17s):
If they work hard at their job and they put all their money away, they can sock a bit away towards their college. The reality of college expenses is that unless they’re going to a junior college or to community college, they might not be able to pay much more than something towards the first semester, but still, every bit helps. And so by diligence and work and saving a ton, your kid can put together several thousands of dollars over a high school job that would go towards some college. So there’s that not to mention the parents doing the same;

0 (24m 1s):
saving, saving, saving. And here’s the deal, another reason to apply early to colleges is so that you can make your decision early so that you have as much of a year as you can get, in order to start saving up for what you know you’re going to have to spend. If you haven’t started saving up already, I’m going to do a no comment on that one. So yeah. How do you pay for what’s left? So, you know what, in the case of my oldest three, we did take out parent plus loans, which are federal loans that parents can take out. All they do is look at your credit score and they’ll give you pretty much as much money as you want to have.

0 (24m 43s):
That’s good and bad. It helps pay for college, but then you do have to pay it back afterward. And so we have a hefty amount over three girls. We have a hefty amount that we are paying back right now. So we’re not doing that again. So number four got himself, a full-tuition scholarship, and then he paid for his room and board. And then the next year he became an RA, so his room and board were paid for as well. Again, this was a junior college and that’s another way to pay for college costs is to have your kid become an RA if they want to, if it’s possible. Oftentimes that pays for room and board. They can’t do it as a freshman though. So then number five and she made her college decision in October, she just graduated.

0 (25m 31s):
Now we’re in May, right? So she made her decision several months ago. It’s given us time after the scholarship money, she got a merit scholarship, she got a softball scholarship. Now there’s X amount left, right? That we have to, but it’s given us time to get that saved up and we’re going to be doing it fine this time so that there will be no debt for numbers four or five. And that is a nice place to be. And I kind of wish we had worked harder at it before, but it is completely different when all the kids are still in the house, you still have a lot of money going out. It’s very difficult to save then. So, when the first one went to college, we still had four left that we were doing things on a daily basis;

0 (26m 14s):
eating, shoes, activities, curriculum. It was very difficult to save anything. Now with number five, we have a lot less expenses, and it’s easier to save. And also by that time, you’re making more money too, right? Because you’re that much farther down your career path. All of this is extremely normal people. This is all extremely normal. I mean, of course, the best thing to do would be to start a college plan early when your kid is young, you’re saving, saving, saving, saving so that you have several tens of thousands of dollars ready. By the time they’re headed to college. Because as I said, the FAFSA is not going to be a number, you like.

0 (26m 56s):
Even if you have no savings, even if you are poor, it’s still not going to be a number you like. So you might as well save it all up and not have to go into debt. And you know what? Merit scholarships and athletic scholarships are not based on your finances. So if you have a lot saved up, your kid will still get merit scholarships, the full amount that anybody else would get. They don’t look at your financials, determine what kind of merit scholarship or athletic scholarship your kid could get. I feel like it was different when I was a teenager, because everybody always said, oh, your dad makes too much money to get scholarships. Well, I just wonder, I really wonder, but that’s a whole different situation.

0 (27m 40s):
I had some family issues going on when I was a teen and so we didn’t really think to look for merit scholarships at that point. Nobody offered me one when I applied to their college. It’s different now. Now your kid applies, they submit their test scores, they submit their transcript with their GPA and they apply. And then the college will tell you from the front end, what merit scholarships that they qualify for. I do just want to circle back to that whole idea of full rides. There are so many people out there who talk about, if you do this, that, and the other thing, you can get it full ride for your kid for school, just like my kid did.

0 (28m 24s):
And I’m here to say that for most of us, that’s not reality. I wish it were. But for most of it, it’s not the thing that I’ve noticed about these people that are claiming that, is that their kids were super duper smart kids. And so they would have earned these full rides based on test scores alone. And not necessarily for all these other added things that these people tell you that you should do; like padding the transcript with all sorts of stuff, making sure your kid has volunteer hours, has started their own business, won the national spelling bee, whatever it might be that they expect that you should make sure your kid can put on their application or their transcript.

0 (29m 11s):
It’s not a reality for most of us. Most of us are, again, more ordinary than that. Most of us are not going to have kids that earn full rides to school, many might and more power to you. And I’m not saying to give up before you start, but we all know our kids. So I just hate for anybody to feel let down, or like they failed, that they weren’t a successful homeschool mom because their kid didn’t get a full ride. And they had thought that they would because they did all the things that everybody told them that they quote-unquote should do in reality. It hasn’t worked that way for me at all. My kids are not super-duper smart.

0 (29m 52s):
My kids are good college material, but they’re not super-duper smart. I think it is the ones that get the insanely high test scores, that are the ones that are going to get the full rides, or the ones that have the amazing athletic talent or some other talent. Those of us with the kids that are more, not run of the mill, but just not that insanely exceptional. We’re going to have some leftovers to pay. So plan ahead and Hey, if your kid does end up getting the full ride and you don’t have to spend that money, then all the better, right. Go on a vacation or something instead, just be careful of what your expectations are, is what I’m trying to say, go into it with your eyes wide open.

0 (30m 40s):
I have seen posts in the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School Facebook group, which I founded, I’ve seen moms who have been like, but wait, we didn’t think we were going to have to pay this much. And we don’t think we can come up with it. And now my kid can’t go to their dream school. So you know what, the dream school idea might not be reality. The dream school is often the expensive one because it looks great and it sure does, but choose the school where your kid is going to look good, and that’s where they will get the most money. And again, there’s another podcast episode about that.

0 (31m 23s):
If you have any questions definitely come to the show notes and ask them in the comments there. Again, go to annieandeverything.com, click on podcasts, in the top menu, and then look for episode 59. And you will find the show notes and the place where you can put a question or a comment. I hope this has been helpful to you today. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. So I hope that has not been the case, but I do want everybody to have reasonable expectations and to not feel like failures by burdening themselves, with expectations that are not doable. And with this list of shoulds that they think are going to help them get to this unrealistic expectation.

0 (32m 5s):
When in actuality, it’s really not. So again, encouragement guys, you can do this. You can totally get your kid into college, and you totally can get scholarships but do have a plan for how you’re going to pay for the rest. Alrighty. So yeah, this is the last podcast in May. Hey, I’m not exactly positive what June’s topics are going to be yet so come back and find out in a couple of weeks, see you then.

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