Homemade Scholarships

You’re doing everything right. Good grades, extracurricular on point, solid test scores. Now let’s hope for a scholarship so we can afford college. Right? NO!!! If you’re waiting and hoping for a college to offer your teen a scholarship, you’re too late. In this post, you’ll learn how to be proactive and make your own scholarships!

What is a scholarship? A scholarship is a financial award of some amount that is applied to your teen’s bill. In most propaganda, scholarships are considered “the best way” to afford college, and “the only way” for most families to get their kids through college without debt.

I hope you feel the uncertainty creeping in, because hoping that your teen’s hard work might result in a way to pay for college is a disaster. By the time you find out whether or not your teen’s college is being funded by a scholarship, you’re too late. What if they don’t get the scholarships you’re hoping for? What if they only cover a little of the cost? Most people bite the bullet and go ahead and borrow the rest. I hate that as a plan for your family because it’s not a plan! It’s a reaction.

Being proactive in this process is the key. Let me share this story sent to me by the “M Family” which demonstrates beautifully how a parent can take control over the process and charge ahead with certainty.

“Using Jennifer’s 6 layers of curriculum approach I planned out my son’s 9th grade curriculum. By the end of 9th grade he had successfully passed 4 CLEP exams. By the end of 10th grade he had completed another 3. Free community college dual enrollment was available to him starting in 11th grade so those CLEP exams he had taken came in as 32 credits at the local community college. He took dual enrollment classes and two more CLEP exams while in 11th and by the end of 11th grade had more than enough credits to complete the AA. So, I graduated him from my homeschool at the end of 11th grade while he simultaneously earned his AA and we watched with pride as his community college graduation ceremony became his high school graduation ceremony in our eyes too.

The “M Family” can do it and so can you!

Reduce Credits: You’re Still a Freshman

Earning even 1 college credit in high school puts your teen ahead! All teens can accumulate some amount of college credit in high school at a significantly reduced cost. In a typical 4-year college degree, your teen must pass about 40 college classes. All teens who earn college credit in high school still apply as a first time incoming freshman. After enrollment, however, their credits will be adjusted and their student rank will adjust accordingly.

If your high school teen earnsthenAFTER admitted they’ll become a
30 college creditsSophmore
60 college creditsJunior
90 college creditsSenior
Apply as a freshman

Room & Board

For each year that your teen is NOT living on campus (because of college credit brought in from high school) they save the full cost of room and board. The average cost of room and board at a public in state college is about $12,000. Using that example, each year NOT spent on campus is worth $12,000!!

“Our daughter completed the first two years of a four-year degree while still in high school. Ohio College Credit Plus (Ohio’s dual enrollment program) paid for some of the university classes and helped us get a reduced rate on many others. We were also able to spread the reduced cost of the first two years of college over her last three years of high school. We targeted her college classes to meet the university degree requirements as well as high school graduation requirements. With dual enrollment and scholarships, we reduced the cost of her degree dramatically and she is on track to graduate from a private university with no student loans!” -Leigh R. HS4CC Parent in Ohio

Homemade Scholarships

Every class completed in high school is a homemade scholarship.

  • Complete a class using free dual enrollment in high school: $0
  • Complete a class using a CLEP exam: $0
  • Complete a class using out of state reduced tuition dual enrollment in high school: $75-$150
If your target college’s tuition isthenEach
“homemade scholarship”
is worth
$15,000 per year$1,500
$18,000 per year$1,800
$22,000 per year$2,200
$29,000 per year$2,900
$35,000 per year$3,500
Colleges calculate tuition based on 30 credits per year

“Taking dual enrollment classes put me on a wonderful path to graduate college in much less time than four years.  I have saved approximately $40,000 by taking community college classes. I have always prioritized saving money because I desperately want to get at least one master’s degree.” -Adeline, HS4CC student in Ohio

Sample High School Plan

FALLcollege creditSPRINGcollege credit
10th Grade CLEP US History I310th Grade CLEP US History II3
11th Grade Dual Enrollment or CLEP American Literature311th Grade Dual Enrollment or CLEP American Government3
12th Grade Dual Enrollment or CLEP English Composition312th Grade Dual Enrollment or CLEP College Algebra3
College credit earned: 18 credits /Projected cost to complete: $0-$500

In the above sample plan, this parent created 6 “homemade scholarships” by using CLEP and dual enrollment courses. This proactive advanced planning allows the parent to predict the savings (aka “homemade scholarship”) ahead of time! When the student brings these credits into their target college, they’ve already calculated their expected savings.

If this student’s target college charges $22,500 per year for tuition, the completed credits above shaves a full semester off of their program! That is a direct savings of $11,250 in tuition alone! This family knew going in that their advanced planning would save them $11,250.

The more aggressive the plan, the more you can save. Most public state colleges allow at least 60 credits in transfer. This is set up to facilitate using a local community college for the “first 2 years” but your teen doesn’t have to wait until after high school to earn those credits. They can start in high school.

Articulation Agreements

When your community college has a written transfer agreement with your state’s 4-year colleges, these agreements map out the process that allows you to plan classes and credits with confidence. You don’t have to “guess” whether or not a class or credit will transfer because it’s all clearly spelled out. Take advantage of articulation agreements if you have the chance!

“..he used the articulation agreement in our state to transfer 70 credits into one of our public state universities and what would have been his 12th grade year became his junior year at the university. He enrolled as an online student and continued living at home. He was able to take a lighter class load and still complete his bachelor’s degree in 2 years making our total cost at the university (including book fees) under $8,000 not counting a $500 grant he received.

Stretching Your Award

There is no reason to guess, wonder, or hope for a scholarship. While I’d love for your teen to get a full ride scholarship, the reality is that most of us who earn a scholarship will only receive a little help toward a very expensive degree. If you reimagine your approach, you can guarantee a homemade scholarship will bring their goal post closer before they even start.

  • Don’t think of scholarships as something you pursue in high school- your teen can apply for scholarships every year that they are in college!
  • Freshman scholarships are still on the table as long as the college credit they earned was during high school and not after.
  • College savings can be used to fund the last 2 years instead of the first when credit is cheap and easy to come by.
  • Pell Grants are based on financial need and max out at $6,495 per year.
  • Scholarships tagged “first dollar” mean you get them even when your account balance is already zero. This can result in an overage (cash back) to use for other things.
  • Scholarships tagged “last dollar” only cover costs until your account balance is zero (no cash back).


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Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

3 thoughts on “Homemade Scholarships

  1. Great post! My oldest son earned $30K in scholarships to use at a technical school. My middle son, who is 15, has 18 CLEP credits and 3 hrs Dual Credit. He is hoping to earned 3 more hour via CLEP next week and another 8 hours in the Spring by taking the Chemistry CLEP making him just shy of a college Sophomore in high school. Your website, book and encouraging emails have been such a help to us!

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