Financial Aid for Non-Traditional Students: Three Great Tips
One of the challenges that can face adults who want to enter or return to college later in life is cost. Between kids, monthly bills, and other strains on your pocketbook, it can sometimes seem like being able to afford a higher education is off the table. But the good news is, there are lots of resources available to help non-traditional students manage the cost of college. Here are three great tips to consider.
1. Seek Out Scholarships
Scholarships are one of the most desirable forms of financial aid, and for good reason: They don't have to be repaid. Scholarships come in all different amounts, but any one of them can be a tremendous help for someone looking to reduce the cost of school.
There are scholarships available to students of all ages, so don't simply assume that because you are attending college later in life you can't be eligible to apply. In addition, some scholarships are specially set up for older individuals. In these cases, it can literally pay to be a non-traditional student! Some are based on a minimum age threshold, while others add in factors such as being a single mom or dad. This criteria means there could be a special scholarship out there just for people like you – so look around!
2. Ask Uncle Sam
Regardless of age, it's a good idea for all prospective and current college students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. Administered by the US Department of Education, this questionnaire is used to determine your eligibility for certain kinds of financial aid.
Forms of federal student aid include the Pell grant (which, like a scholarship, doesn't need to be repaid) and subsidized loans including the Perkins and Stafford loans. With a subsidized loan, the government covers the interest while you are in school. This advantage is great for a cash-strapped student, since you don't have to worry about interest accruing before you enter your repayment period.
Finally, when it comes to loans, make sure you are aware of any flexible repayment options available. You may be able to defer payments for a certain period of time after graduation, or even pause payments later down the line (known as forbearance). Just be aware that in some cases, interest may continue to accrue even while your payments are on hold.
3. Talk to Your Boss
Are you currently working? If so, talk to your company to find out if they offer any type of tuition assistance. Many large employers do, as ultimately it can be in the company's interests to develop and retain a more educated workforce. Tuition assistance from employers is one of the other little-known benefits of going back to school as a working adult.
As you can see, non-traditional students have many of the same – and in some cases, additional – opportunities for financial aid as younger students do. They key is to never assume that just because you're later in life you can't get help. It's out there – so go get it!
Written by Ashford University staff