Once you have made the life altering decision to go back to study, whether full or part time, your next question is bound to be how on earth am I going to afford this? Back to school grants may save your bacon but there is no guarantee that you will be able to secure financial aid of this type.
The field is very competitive – as more people choose to return to school the number of grants and the pool of funds dwindles compared with the number of students in need. That doesn’t mean you should give up but be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into your applications for back to school grants.
All students should complete a FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid), which enables you to apply for the Pell Grant and FSEOG (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant) both of which are awarded on the basis of financial need.
The information you provide on your FAFSA is summarised onto a document called the Student Aid Report (SAR) and includes a calculation of your family’s expected contribution towards your education. It is this number that will determine your eligibility for Federal student aid. Federal aid is the type relied upon by the majority of students and importantly for adults like you who are seeking back to school grants; it is financial aid that has no age restrictions.
If you have previously attended school, the Osher Re-entry Scholarship may be for you. This award offers $2500US to students returning to study after five years who want to complete the degree they started. There are other funds available specifically for adults returning to study and the financial aid counsellors at your school should be able to help you find out which of these back to school grants match your situation.
Get creative too – there are some unusual grants and scholarships available for students who meet certain criteria. The AARP Foundation’s Women’s Scholarship Program is just one example. It is well funded by Walmart and the Bank of America and targets women with limited financial resources and particularly older women who are looking for back to school grants.
Adults have the distinct advantage of having life experience and strong community ties. Some of the groups you are a member of (like your church or Rotary group) or the local branches of larger companies that you deal with regularly may well be approachable for financial aid. After all the worst case scenario is that they say no and without asking the question you would never know if someone might have said yes! So be brave and take that chance.
That first step is always hard but if you have already made the decision to go back to school, well, that first step is already behind you! You owe it to yourself to do everything you can to find a way to make your dream of a higher education come true and back to school grants will at least take some of the worry out of the new path you have taken.
There are several ways to finance returning to higher education and back to school grants will get you on your way without burying you in debt.