Will This be the Year You Return to College?

Will This be the Year You Return to College?
  • Opening Intro -

    When older adults return to college, they're often labeled as "non-traditional students."

    That means these individuals do not fit into the usual 18-24-year-old age category that describes the traditional college student, although not necessarily the "average" college student these days.

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Indeed, the National Center for Education Statistics notes that the number of college students aged 25 and above has increased at a faster rate than younger students. Clearly, a number of your peers may have already decided to return to college.

Career advancement, a change in careers, and personal growth are among the reasons why some people choose to return to college. Will you join the ranks of returning students this year? If so, the following are some financial considerations to weigh as you consider your academic options.

Apply for College Scholarships

Not every college scholarship targets new high school graduates. Many scholarships look at other requirements including your field of study, ethnicity and even your personal experience. You should acquaint yourself with the opportunities out there and begin your scholarship search immediately. You’re bound to find more than one scholarship that fits your plans.

Why are scholarships so important? Well, just like grants they are awards that are not paid back. Whatever scholarships you qualify for and are awarded will lower your college “sticker price” accordingly. For instance, if your college costs are $20,000 per year, a $10,000 scholarship cuts your cost in half even before other financial aid considerations are taken.

Fill Out a FAFSA

Every college student should fill out a Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) a federal form that will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). For younger students, that means taking into consideration what their parents earn. But, for older students FAFSA may be based largely on what you earn.

If you are a dependent student, you must report your personal information and your parent’s information. However, if you are an independent student, they you will report your information and, if married, your spouse’s information. The US Department of Education provides questions to help you determine your dependency status. Take the survey to determine your status.

Explore Your Aid Options

College scholarships and your FAFSA are important contributors for reducing your higher education costs. They are not the only methods, however, The Federal Pell Grant can reduce your costs by up to $5,645 per year for the 2013-2014 academic year. The maximum amount is adjusted annually.

The amount of grant money you receive is based on several factors including your financial need, the cost of attending college, your enrollment status (full-time or part-time), and your plans to attend college of the full academic year or less. Pell grants are awarded for up to 12 semesters or the equivalent of six years.

Financial Considerations

Finally, if you are short on cash and still need money to cover your college costs after all financial aid options are taken, you have loan opportunities to consider as well. Both federal and private student loans are available, financing tools that should be considered with care.

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Categories: Featured, Finance