Higher education is expensive, whether you’re a first-time, incoming freshman or an adult returning to college after years of working full-time. As you consider your funding options, don’t overlook grants and scholarships for returning students.
Let’s explore the top 10 grants and scholarships for adults returning to college.
Grants to go back to school
Ready to return to school? Continuing your education can provide the credentials you need to take your career to the next level or completely switch career tracks.
Whatever your reasons for returning to college as a non-traditional student, avoid paying more than you have to. Grants are a form of financial aid that you don’t have to pay back. Whenever possible, seek out grant funding to cover your educational expenses.
Here’s a closer look at the grants that can help to fund your back-to-school endeavors.
1. Federal Pell Grant
The Federal Pell Grant is a popular grant funding source for undergraduates, including adult students who haven’t earned a degree yet. Any undergraduate with demonstrated financial need is eligible for this grant, regardless of age. In most cases, aside from financial need, the main criteria is that you can’t have previously earned a baccalaureate degree.
You’ll be considered for a Pell Grant when you submit a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The amount you can receive changes from year to year, but in the 2022-23 school year, the maximum award amount was $6,895. The exact amount you receive is based on the cost of attendance at your school, expected family contribution (EFC) and other factors.
2. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
You are considered for the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program when you fill out your FAFSA. The college you’re attending determines the amount of grant funding that you qualify for. It’s possible to qualify for an award of $100 to $4,000 per year.
It pays off to apply for FSEOG early. Each school has a limited amount of funding for its students. Once funds run out for the academic year, you won’t have the opportunity to take advantage of this grant.
Your school might also have its own FSEOG deadline. Call your financial aid office to find out if it has a deadline to apply for this grant.
3. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, known as TEACH Grants, helps you pay for school whether you’re an undergraduate, graduate student or in a post-baccalaureate program. It’s available for students who are planning to become teachers in low-income areas or a high-demand subject matter. If you receive the grant, you’ll need to complete four years of teaching at a qualified institution.
To qualify, you must be enrolled in a school that participates in the TEACH Grant program. Additionally, there are academic requirements involved. In general, you must also maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25.
Undergoing TEACH Grant counseling is required to receive funding. Through this requirement, you’ll gain a better understanding of the terms and conditions that are associated with the grant. Counseling is a requirement for each year that you receive the grant.
Although the requirements are more rigorous than other federal grants, you can receive up to $4,000 per year in grant money. If you don’t meet the service requirements, then you’re required to repay the loan with interest.
4. State-specific grant programs
Many states offer grant programs for adults returning to the classroom. Here are two examples of state-specific options:
- Indiana’s Adult Student Grant. Indiana’s You Can. Go Back. initiative offers adult grants to go back to school which cover up to $2,000 in educational expenses. You’ll need to fill out the FAFSA and a separate Adult Student Grant application.
- First Generation Matching Grant (FGMG). As a first-generation student Florida resident, you might qualify for the full FGMG amount of your education expenses. To qualify for FGMG, you must attend a Florida state university or Florida public community college. Other eligibility requirements apply.
If you aren’t a resident of Florida or Indiana, your state likely offers grant opportunities for its residents who are returning to school. You can easily access these state grants through the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
Scholarships for adults returning to college
Grants aren’t the only form of financial aid that you don’t have to pay back as a returning student. Scholarships also offer the opportunity to pay for college without taking out student loans.
Here are a few scholarship options designed to help professionals return to school.
5. College JumpStart Scholarship
The College JumpStart Scholarship is ready to help you pay for your higher education journey. All college students can choose to apply. With that, non-traditional students could win the prize of $1,000 that can be used to cover educational expenses.
6. Unigo $10K Scholarship
As a student at any accredited U.S institution, you can apply for this $10,000 scholarship. The Unigo $10K Scholarship is available to high school students and adult students regardless of where you are in your educational journey. The application requires a short written response of 250 words or less.
7. Imagine America Scholarship
If you are a non-traditional student over the age of 21 and plan on attending a for-profit trade school that partners with the Imagine America Foundation, you can apply for the Imagine America Scholarship.
As an adult learner with little to no secondary education, this scholarship is designed to help you succeed. You have the opportunity to win a $1,000 scholarship to help fund your educational aspirations.
8. Adult Students in Scholastic Transition Scholarship
Executive Women International is an organization that provides a scholarship opportunity for adult students facing challenges while seeking to pursue educational opportunities. Various scholarships are awarded each year with awards ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.
To apply, you’ll need to live within the boundaries of a particular chapter of the organization. If you meet that requirement, reach out to the chapter to complete the application process.
9. The Working Parent College Scholarship Award Program
The Working Parent College Scholarship Award program is offered through job-applications.com. You’re eligible to apply if you’re a full-time or part-time student. You must also be a parent and work at least 12 hours each week.
The application requires a short essay that responds to a prompt that asks applicants to consider how they balance parenthood with student responsibilities.
If selected, you’ll receive a $1,000 scholarship to help cover tuition and other educational expenses.
10. AAUW Career Development Grants
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers a wide range of grant opportunities to women. Specifically, the organization offers a grant that’s designed to help women advance their careers, change careers or re-enter the workforce.
If you received your bachelor’s degree more than eight years ago, you might also be eligible to apply. The award amount ranges between $2,000 to $20,000. The funds can be used to pay for a master’s degree, second bachelor’s, certification program, or vocational education.
If you’re a woman pursuing a non-traditional career path, this might be a great option for you.
Loans that Turn Into Grants
If you plan to work in the public sector, then much of the direct federal loans that you borrow for school could turn into indirect grants.
For example, let’s say you pursue a master’s in social work and that you leave school with $100,000 in student loans total.
If you earn about $30,000 to $40,000 per year, you might have to pay about $100 a month on an income-driven repayment plan.
In total over 10 years of IDR payments, you might pay back about $10,000. The other $90,000 of loans? They essentially turned into a grant.
While this method of financing your education is not as good as a grant, knowing the inner workings of the student loan system can relieve a lot of your stress and take away the anxiety of feeling like you need to pay for your education through scholarships and grants or else you can’t pursue your dreams. If you need help figuring out the finances of your graduate degree, check out our pre-debt consult service.
The bottom line
There are many scholarship funds and college grants that can provide you with financial assistance. These can help you to go back to school and make your education more affordable. As you explore your options, consider the requirements of each grant or scholarship carefully. Look at the grant amount (check if need-based) and look at the specific scholarship program when looking for ways to pay for your college degree.
Although there are many legitimate grants and scholarships for adults returning to college, grant and scholarship scams exist. Never apply to a grant or scholarship that requires an application or processing fee, and be wary of programs that have little to no information about the organization and how recipients are selected.
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