Financial Help for Adult Learners

Scholarships and other financial aid options aren’t just for high school seniors. If you’re going (or returning) to college after a few years in the real world, here are some resources to help you finance your education.

Even if you’re already enrolled in college, it may not be 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 you might be eligible for if you’re willing to invest some time finding them and filling out the applications. Keep in mind that many private scholarships have very specific eligibility criteria, so be sure to read the requirements and review your application before submitting.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your search:


Complete the FASFA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid)

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to apply for federal aid. The application requires a lot of financial information about you and your family, so be prepared to spend some time gathering your documents.


Find out about other state and institutional aid

Be sure 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. Some colleges and universities offer targeted scholarships for the adult learner population, so don’t be afraid to ask.


Check with your employer

Some companies many provide scholarships or reimbursement for coursework that will increase your value to the company. The amounts may be small, but every little bit helps. Also check with your or your family’s union or professional association. For example, the Union Plus Scholarship provides scholarships to current and retired members of participating unions, their spouses and their dependent children planning to attend a college or university, community or technical college, or trade school.


Search for scholarships offered by national, regional or charitable organizations

To begin your search, use a scholarship search engine available online. Two good options ones are collegeboard.org and Fastweb.com.

Here are just a few examples of the types of scholarships available:

Keep in mind that no service can guarantee a scholarship and you should never pay for scholarship information. Every year, hundreds of unwitting students fall victim to scholarship scams, so if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Stephany M. Caballero

    Applying For Financial Aid is also very useful for part time students because you will qualify so don’t be afraid to apply.

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