Scholarships for Your Non-Traditional Situation

Going for the First Time or Coming Back?

Non-traditional students fall outside of the preconceived norms for college-bound students. General wisdom has it that high school graduates who wish to pursue a college education do so directly after graduation, completing a seamless transition into post-secondary education. But there are many paths to higher education, and they do not all conform to the same map. Many students choose to postpone college, or move directly into the workforce bypassing a university education altogether. It is only later that they decide to pursue a higher education, either to improve their professional opportunities, or to expand their general knowledge. Still other students may have had their college careers interrupted, either by growing families or financial difficulties, and only later return to complete what they had started.

Many non-traditional, or returning, students can feel left out of the scholarship equation. However, there are many scholarships and grants dedicated to helping the non-traditional student achieve his or her educational goals. These scholarships are funded by a variety of sources, including corporations, professional associations and colleges and universities. Non-traditional students, and returning students looking to finish an interrupted education, can find many lucrative scholarship opportunities specifically designed for their situation.

non-traditional student scholarships

General Scholarships for Non-traditional Students

More and more adult students are heading to college. The demands of a competitive marketplace have made a college education vital to advancement in many professions. These scholarships are supported by professional associations, universities and advocacy groups.

The following examples of non-traditional scholarship opportunities will give both new, and returning, students an idea of what is available to those college-bound students who fit a different mold.

  • The American Legion Auxiliary Non-traditional Student Scholarship – An annual award of $1000 is available to members of the American Legion, the AL Auxiliary or the Sons of The American Legion. The scholarship is open to adult students who are headed to college for the first time, or are returning to complete an interrupted education. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited vocational school, or a two-year or four-year college.
  • The Walmart Associate Scholarship – Supported by the national retail chain, this scholarship provides encouragement and financial aid for Walmart employees who are looking to return to college to improve their career opportunities. The scholarship is open to all employees with a high school diploma or GED. Award amounts range from $500 to $1500 per degree course. Eligibility is determined by financial need.
  • The Association for Non-traditional Students in Higher Education – ANTSHE is dedicated to the support and encouragement of adult students who are pursuing their degrees in higher education. The association administers three scholarship programs, the Marius “Gabe” Degabriel Scholarship, the Kazimour Scholarship and the Contributors Scholarship. Award amounts vary, depending on course of studies, academic achievement and financial need.
  • The Osher Reentry Scholarship Program – The Bernard Osher Foundation provides scholarships for returning students whose college education has been interrupted for a minimum of five years. Applicants must be between the ages of 25 – 50, and must be attending a cooperating college or university. Award amounts vary, and are determined by financial need.
  • The Adult Students in Scholastic Transition Scholarship – The ASIST program is supported by Executive Women International, and is available to all adult learners who are returning to college for educational training to improve their career opportunities. Applicants may be single parents, displaced homemakers, or individuals entering the workforce for the first time. 150 scholarships are awarded annually, ranging from $1000 – $2500.

Scholarships for Single Parents

Single parents account for a large proportion of non-traditional students. In an effort to improve life for themselves and their children, single parents often return to college for specific educational training that will make them more valuable in a crowded workforce. Completing a college education gives single parents greater career opportunities, and consequently provides a more stable and secure home life for their families.

Many professional associations, corporations and local governments sponsor scholarships for single parents who are heading to college as a way to improve the future prospects of their families.

  • The George Snow Scholarship Fund provides scholarships for single parents who are returning to college to complete courses that will move them forward in the workplace. These are regional scholarships available to students in the Palm Beach and Broward counties of Florida. Award amounts vary, depending on the student’s status, and the availability of funds. Students must be enrolled at a cooperating state college or university.
  • The Denny’s Single Parent Student Scholarship is designed to support the college ambitions of Denny’s employees with an Hispanic background. The scholarship is open to all employees of the food chain, regardless of age, who are single a parents. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited college or university, and must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA. Award amounts range from $500 to $1500.
  • The Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship provides scholarship assistance to single parents attending college in the state of Arkansas. Award amounts are determined by financial need.

Scholarships for Women

A large percentage of so-called non-traditional students are women. Many women put their college careers on hold, choosing the much more difficult task of raising a family. Often, as children grow and family conditions change, women make the decision to return to college. They may be preparing to enter the workforce for the first time, or are eager to advance their career through additional education and training. Many scholarships specifically target both traditional, and non-traditional, female students. These scholarship programs may be sponsored by professional associations, corporations or women’s advocacy groups.single parent scholarships

The following examples will provide a brief overview of what may be available to non-traditional female students.

  • The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program provides encouragement and financial support for survivors of spousal abuse. The object of the scholarship is to help survivors of abuse obtain the education they need to secure employment, independence and self sufficiency. Scholarships may be applied to state supported community universities, vocational schools or private colleges. Award amounts vary according to financial need.
  • The Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund is dedicated to low income women 35 years of age,  or older, who are working to secure meaningful careers and break the cycle of poverty. Named in honor of the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress, the scholarship helps low income women attain their educational goals. Award amounts vary, are based on financial need.
  • The Linda Lael Miller Scholarship for Women is aimed at female students aged 25 years or older. The purpose of the scholarship is to help women obtain the education they need to succeed in a male dominated competitive marketplace. Special attention is given to single parents, survivors of domestic violence and students with disabilities. $10,000 in annual scholarship awards are divided between the successful applicants.
  •  Talbots Women’s Scholarship Fund  provides scholarships for women who are returning to college to secure a professional degree. Applicants must have graduated high school, or earned their GED, no less than 10 years previous to applying for the award. Six $10,000, and 60 $1000, scholarships are awarded annually.
  • Possible Woman Foundation International supports five annual scholarships for women who are returning to school after an extended absence, with the intent of starting a new career or advancing in their current profession. Award amounts are supported by private donations, and are determined financial need, and by the availability of funds.

These are only a few of the available scholarship programs designed to encourage and support the non-traditional student. As more and more adults are returning to college to improve their career opportunities, so more and more financial aid programs are being designed to address their needs. Non-traditional students are encouraged to contact the financial aid offices at the college of their choice for information on further scholarship programs which may be supported by their own college, university or technical school.

Non-traditional students looking to fund their college education are also encouraged to consult our section on Grants for Non-traditional Students for more sources of financial aid.


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