Advice on How to Fund Your Dream of College
Because of family issues and money, I didn’t graduate college until I was noticeably older than my classmates. I hope that no matter how long I had to wait I would have kept at it until I achieved my dream of that diploma.
In the ever-evolving landscape of the job market, the pursuit of higher education often becomes a crucial milestone for adults over 40. I see degrees as the default for so many great jobs on LinkedIn.
The idea of returning to college to enhance your skills, switch careers, or fulfill a lifelong dream is admirable, but it’s not without financial challenges. If you are thinking about going to college as an adult over forty, I encourage you to do it. And finding college grants for adults over 40 can help you turn your dreams into a (lower cost) reality.
Types of College Grants for Adults Over 40
A. Federal Grants
When exploring college grants for adults, start with federal options. Two primary federal grants offer financial assistance:
- Pell Grants: These grants are often the foundation of federal financial aid. They are awarded based on financial need, as determined by your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For adults over 40, Pell Grants can be a significant help in covering tuition costs.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): FSEOG is another federal program for students with exceptional financial need. While the availability of FSEOG funds depends on your college, it can be an additional lifeline for those over 40.
B. State Grants
Many states offer specific grant programs tailored to the needs of adult students:
- State-Specific Programs: These vary widely by state but often provide financial support to adults returning to college. Research your state’s education department for information on these opportunities. Do an internet search for your state name and “college grants”. Here in Virginia, the site is State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
- Workforce Development Grants: Some states offer grants to adults pursuing education in high-demand fields. These grants are a great fit for those looking to change careers or acquire new skills. Google for your state but in Virginia, this info is also on the State Council site. Be careful where you source this info because some sites make you create an account when all the information you need is available for free on a state website.
C. Institutional Grants
Colleges and universities also have their grant programs aimed at supporting adult learners:
- Scholarships for Returning Adult Students: Many institutions offer scholarships exclusively for adult students. These scholarships recognize your unique circumstances and aspirations. Search for this with the college or university you are interested in, and the term “scholarships for returning adult students”. For example, for Virginia Commonwealth University here’s what you need to know.
- Tuition Waivers: Some colleges provide tuition waivers, which can significantly reduce the cost of education for adults over 40. These waivers are often based on factors like income or employment status. The availability of this benefit varies and will depend on the college you plan on attending. Remember you can also get some fees like the application fee waived based on some factors like income.
Eligibility Criteria and Application Process
Before applying for college grants, it’s crucial to understand the eligibility criteria and the application process:
- Age and Prior Education Requirements While many grants are open to adults over 40, they may have specific age or prior education requirements. Ensure you meet these prerequisites before applying.
- FAFSA: The Gateway to Federal Grants For federal grants, completing the FAFSA is mandatory. It serves as the doorway to Pell Grants and FSEOG, so be sure to submit it in a timely manner.
- State and Institutional Grant Applications Each state and institution has its application process for grants. Be diligent in filling out the necessary forms and meeting deadlines.
- Navigating the Financial Aid Office The financial aid office at your chosen college can be a valuable resource. They can guide you through the grant application process and help you find additional sources of financial aid. Make them your best friend! This is time well spent in saving you money on tuition.
Tips and Resources for a Successful Grant Application
Securing a college grant often involves a competitive application process. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success:
- Craft a Compelling Personal Statement Your personal statement is your chance to convey your passion, determination, and goals. Craft a compelling narrative that showcases your commitment to education. You’ve lived life and probably had a lot of relevant experience. Show it off in your personal statement!
- Showcase Relevant Life and Work Experience Emphasize the unique experiences and skills you bring to the table as an adult student. Highlight how these can contribute to your success in the chosen field.
- Seek Guidance from Adult Student Support Services Many colleges have support services tailored to adult students. Reach out to them for guidance, advice, and assistance in navigating the grant application process. You don’t have to know everything to get through this. There are people who can help you at the college of your choice.
D. Explore Online Resources and Scholarships
Numerous online resources provide information on grants and scholarships for adult learners. Be proactive in your research to uncover additional opportunities.
Returning to college as an adult over 40 is a commendable goal, and college grants can make it a reality. By exploring the types of grants available, understanding eligibility and application processes, and applying with a well-crafted strategy, you can start on your educational adventure with financial support in hand.
Don’t let age hold you back from going to college as a student over forty. In my experience, the professors loved having non-traditional students in classes because we are all serious about learning and care about doing well because we are paying for it ourselves. The best college advice I got was that I was going to be four years older and I might as well be four years older with a college degree!