Starting college is a coming-of-age moment and a very exciting time in a homeschooled student’s life. It’s a time to decide what you want to gain from an education and a chance to take charge of where you want to go with your life.
However, as exhilarating a time as this is for a homeschooler, it still requires a lot of planning: what you want to study, what school is right for you, how you will pay for the enormous investment that is college — it’s a lot to consider.
It may be a little nerve wracking applying for college but keep in mind that plenty of colleges actively seek out homeschoolers; just make sure to study for your SAT/ACT tests as they tend to look more closely at those scores than transcripts compared to traditional students.
Choosing the Right College for Your Budget
Before you take steps to budget for the school you’ll attend, you need to pick the school that will satisfy what you want from a college experience. It may be difficult to choose your college after your homeschool years but luckily, there are some key factors that will help you decide what school to attend and how much money to save.
Hopefully as you finish up homeschool, you have an idea of what subjects interest you and what field you want to pursue, although it’s okay if you don’t. Many students start college simply getting their required courses out of the way and hone in on what they want to study by taking some intro courses that fulfil elective credits — but make sure you don’t do this for too long or you could end up with credits you don’t need, which is costly. If you do have an idea of the field you want to study, choosing the right school will be a bit easier.
Most universities have program specialties, or subjects in which they offer higher degrees than others. Not all schools offer degrees for all subjects, especially if your interests lie somewhere off the beaten track. Pick a school that you know offers the degree you want, and read reviews and rankings of the school to decide if it seems like a good fit for you — but make sure to note that more prestigious schools will have higher tuition costs. There’s also the option of online schools that offer the opportunity to get your degree from home, which tends to be more affordable.
How Homeschooled Teens can Pay for College
Another factor that will help you pick the right school to attend is your options for paying tuition. If you have an unlimited college fund or tons of scholarships, paying for school isn’t something you’ll have to factor into your school choice. However, if your college fund is limited or you only received a couple of small scholarships, your budget will be a factor in what schools you’ll be able to attend.
Filing your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a good start in finding out how you’ll pay for school. Make sure that as you’re filling this out, you check the box that indicates ‘homeschooled’ rather than ‘high school diploma’ when it asks for your high school completion status. The FAFSA will determine your eligibility for scholarships and grants that, unlike loans, don’t need to be paid back.
This is also the first step before you or your parents can apply for some student loans, like the Direct Unsubsidized Loan or Parent PLUS Loan. In addition to Direct Unsubsidized and Direct PLUS Loans, there are also Direct Subsidized and private student loans. These all offer different payment options and should be explored carefully as they all come with different repayment plans.
It’s a great idea to regularly check for scholarships even a year before you start college. This can give you time to qualify for various scholarships that want specific experience as part of their eligibility requirements. There are hundreds of scholarships for just about anything. Look for scholarships directed to homeschooled students; any scholarships you receive will be yours to spend however you like, so they’re a good opportunity to fund any college experience you may want to participate in.
There’s a lot to consider when applying to college. The school you decide to attend will define the culture you’re surrounded by while you’re there, as well as the quality of education you receive. It will also determine how much you’ll end up paying for your degree; and although there are options like grants and scholarships for homeschoolers to pay for tuition, the price tag for a degree pushes a lot of students toward loan options. Explore your options with heed and make decisions that will work best for you.