Money for Adult Learners
As an adult learner, you may not have access to some of the more traditional ways of paying for college such as scholarships for high school seniors or your parents. But don’t get discouraged, there are still many options to help you finance your education. Even if you’re already enrolled in college, it’s not too late to apply for financial aid and/or look for scholarships to help you stay in school and complete your degree. Most money for college comes from federal grants and loans, state grants, and aid directly from your own institution. While the bulk is need-based (meaning you have to demonstrate financial need), many students mistakenly think they won’t qualify so they don’t bother applying. It’s estimated that over 1.5 million college students pass up on federal Pell grants (money for the neediest students) each year simply because they don’t apply. And federal and in some cases, state aid is available even if you are only attending part-time. There also are thousands of private scholarships which you might be eligible for if you’re willing to invest a little time finding them and filling out the applications.
Where do I start?
The first step is to complete a federal FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The best source for learning more about this process is to visit Student Aid on the Web. This application requires a lot of financial information about you and your family. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may want to check with your institution’s financial aid office first for some advice on how to complete it. This office also can help you find other grant and scholarship opportunities. More recently, institutions themselves are offering targeted scholarships for the adult learner population, so don’t be afraid to ask. This is important! If you tried in the past and didn’t qualify but your family’s financial situation has changed since then, definitely try again. It’s also a good idea to check with your state’s higher education department about state programs since they may have different eligibility rules and also may have some special programs for non-traditional students like yourself.
Are there other scholarships for adults?
Yes, if you know where to look. The first place to visit is your employer. Some companies may be willing to pay for part of your coursework if you can demonstrate that it will benefit the company. The amounts may be small, but every little bit helps.
You also should check with your union or professional association. An example is the Union Plus Scholarship program. This program is open to union members and their families attending or planning to attend a college or university, community college, technical college or trade school.
Many national and regional organizations, and charitable foundations offer adult learner scholarships and grants. For example, the retail store Talbots has a foundation that awards scholarships each year to women who are returning to school to complete their first undergraduate degree.
Your local Chamber of Commerce may also know of local or national scholarships.
Have any other good leads?
Check out the links below for other scholarships for non-traditional students. This list is by no means exhaustive so you should also use a more comprehensive scholarship search engine available on the web.
Additionally, here are two trusted sources for finding scholarship funds:
Higher One also holds an annual scholarship contest every year– the One Scholarship. This scholarship is open to all students attending a Higher One college or university. Don’t miss your chance to apply! More information will be coming this spring.
Beware of Scammers!
Every year, hundreds of unwitting students fall victim to scholarship scams. First, know that you should never, ever pay for scholarship information. There are many businesses out there that are trying to run off with your hard-earned money so be careful. Also, definitely distrust scholarship services that promise or guarantee success. Check here for more important information on how to protect yourself from these swindling scoundrels.