If you’re a non-traditional student, it’s possible to get financial aid to continue your education. Depending on your eligibility, financial assistance in the form of grants, loans, or scholarships is available if you’re an older student. The key to getting financial help as a non-traditional student is knowing where to look.
Most non-traditional students assume that loans, grants, and scholarships are only for students finishing high school. But there’s as just as much help out there for older students as for younger ones. Getting financial assistance could help you get an associate’s degree or your first bachelor’s degree.
But knowing where to look to apply for financial aid can be challenging. In this article, you’ll find resources if you need financial help to pursue your education in later life.
What are Non-Traditional Students?
A non-traditional student is someone who doesn’t enter college straight after high school. They’re typically financially independent and over the age of 25. Additionally, non-traditional students may be parents, have a family, or are in a full-time job. Some older students may want to return to college to complete an unfinished bachelor’s degree.
There are several reasons why you may decide to attend college as an adult learner. It could be that you’re looking for new opportunities in a competitive job market. Or, to progress in your current career, you might need a college degree. Other non-traditional students attend college for the first time in their 30s or 40s to kickstart a new career.
If you’re planning to attend college as a non-traditional student, you’re not alone. According to statistics, there are 20 million college students in the US, and from them, 7.5 million are age 25 and over.
Federal Financial Aid for Non-Traditional Students
When looking for financial assistance as a “non-trad,” the first step is to find out your aid options. Fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) online form. Various types of Federal student aid are available for “traditional” and non-traditional students. Although there are eligibility requirements, very few are based on age.
Here are a few types of federal grants that you could be eligible for:
Federal Pell Grant
You could apply for a Federal Pell Grant if you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree. The amount of financial aid you receive is based on your financial need. Also, the cost of the degree program is taken into account.
Related reading: 5 things about FASFA you didn’t know.
Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
Like Pell Grants, these education opportunity grants are based on your financial need. FSEOG programs are awarded on a “first-come, first-served” basis. However, it’s vital to remember that they are only available through specific colleges.
If you are applying for college and are over 24 years old, you may qualify for a Stafford loan. You can get this federal financial aid if you’re continuing your education as an undergraduate or graduate older student. However, it’s important to remember that you must repay the loans in full.
Direct Plus Loan
Also called a Grad Plus loan, you can qualify for this financial assistance if you’re a graduate or professional student. You apply for the loan through the college you plan to attend. But you must fill out the FAFSA form first.
If you apply for a Stafford loan or Direct Plus loan, you should remember that you must repay the loan. It’s best to avoid borrowing more than your expected starting salary after you graduate.
Scholarships for Non-Traditional Students
Even if you qualify for federal financial assistance, it’s worth checking out if you can get a scholarship. Many colleges offer scholarships for students of all ages. Some colleges only offer specific scholarships to adult students.
Eligibility for being awarded a scholarship can depend on your life experience, previous education, intended college major, or current occupation. Depending on the college, scholarship amounts could range from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars in financial aid.
College Financial Assistance for Non-Traditional Students
Many colleges offer special financial aid programs to non-traditional students. Depending on the school, you might only get a grant for your first bachelor’s degree. Other colleges have grant programs for graduates based on their marital status, previous education, or veteran status.
Of course, it can be an uphill task searching for college-funded grant programs. But the effort is worth it if you qualify for the financial assistance to get the degree you want.
Other Types of Financial Aid for Non-Traditional Students
If you’re employed and are thinking about pursuing further education, then there are a few more options available for you.
- Financial aid for professionals — If you plan on quitting your job to get your degree, you should apply for a “professional judgment.” The college can submit information to supplement your FAFSA application to explain your ability to pay for education.
- Employer tuition assistance — In some cases, your employer can help finance your education if it’s necessary for your job. In these cases, you may have to agree to work with the company for an agreed number of years. You will also have to maintain a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA).
- Private organization funding — Another option open to non-traditional students is to get financial aid through private organizations. You can start your online search at the Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education for available scholarships.
Tips on Finding Financial Assistance for Non-Traditional Students
Enrolling in college as a non-traditional student can be the start of a new and lucrative career. To help you in your search for getting the necessary financial aid, here are three handy tips:
- Start early — The earlier you start, the faster you can find out what assistance is available. It’s best to complete your FAFSA application online to reduce the processing time.
- Reach out to the college — Make an appointment to speak to someone at the school’s financial aid office. There you can get the needed advice on how to get financial assistance as a non-traditional student.
- Apply for many scholarships — Surprising as it seems, there are many scholarships that no one applies for. So, it’s worth applying for as many scholarships as possible — who knows, you may be the only one who applied.
Financial Aid for Non-Traditional Students: The Bottom Line
There are plenty of resources where non-traditional students can find financial assistance. The first step is to complete the FAFSA online. Then, you will know what type of federal grants or loans you are eligible for. You can also look for colleges offering scholarships to reduce the cost of your education as an adult learner.financial aid non traditional students