Going Back to School?

Apply for Scholarships to Help Ease the Transition

Traditionally, high school graduates embark on higher education pursuits immediately following completion of secondary schooling.  This educational model is alive and well, but today the college student body is increasingly comprised of non-traditional students.  Several factors influence this trending demographic shift among university students.

Students displaced from higher education are returning to degree programs at all levels, to complete educational efforts previously put on hold.  Returning students emerge from diverse situations, each motivated by his or her own higher education dream.  These scenarios are typical among adult and returning students:

  • Parents leave college to devote themselves to child-rearing.  Commonly, single mothers and married parents return to college when family obligations once again allow it.
  • Advanced studies at the Master’s and Doctoral levels keep students in school longer, and more and more undergraduates are returning to school after earning Bachelor’s degrees.
  • Career-changers of all ages are returning to college, in response to employment trends that require re-tooling.
  • Established professionals return to college for continuing education, to stay current with licenses, and to stay abreast of emerging industry trends.

returning student scholarships

As  non-traditional, returning students are represented in greater numbers on campus, scholarship opportunities keep pace.  Use your student-status to land targeted financial aid, aimed at your situation.  Government programs, private initiatives and university-specific aid sources provide ample college financing avenues for returning students.

Campus financial aid administrators specialize in matching your college funding needs with the resources at hand.  Inquire at your school:

  • Are there any scholarships available that are specifically earmarked for returning students?
  • What special resources are available within your field of study?
  • Are general campus scholarships age-specific, or can you apply as a returning adult student?
  • When are scholarship application deadlines

Scholarships come from diverse organizations, so use your personal attributes and returning student standing to increase your access to aid.  Single fathers, mothers, volunteers and members of certain organizations enjoy access to special scholarships designed for returning students.

Scholarships For Members

Professional organizations, churches, advocacy groups and even labor unions initiate educational assistance for returning students.  You may be eligible for scholarships issued by your local chapter. For instance, members of AFL-CIO affiliated unions qualify for scholarships. Information is available at your state union office, or online at aflcio.org.  To date, scholarships have aided more than 2000 families, and disbursed over $3 million in aid.

United Methodist Church, through a special governing board called the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, grants annual education scholarships to students attending Methodist universities.

Members of the American Legion, are eligible for a scholarships sponsored by the organization. Even descendants of American Legion members qualify in some cases. Individual posts award their own brands of financial aid, so inquire about local opportunities for returning student assistance.

Gender-Based Scholarships for Returning Students

Gender and other personal characteristics open scholarship doors for returning students.  Opportunities like Executive Women International’s  Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) program are coordinated locally, by independent branches. View a more complete list of women’s scholarships here.

Jeanette Rankin Scholarship Fund honors the first female member elected to the United States Congress. The scholarship effort has helped more than 600 women to date, especially low income women over the age of 35 years.

Talbot’s Women’s Scholarships apply to women who graduated from high school prior to 2002. Successful applicants are returning students, over the age of 35 years.  A number of $10,000 scholarships are awarded annually, in addition to a $30,000 memorial award that honors Nancy Talbot. Candidates are evaluated based on academic history, leadership potential, participation in community projects, and work experience.  Financial need is a prerequisite for earning Talbot’s Scholarships.

Single parents capitalize on state initiatives like the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, which provides help with tuition and textbook expenses. In some instances, costs associated with travel and child care are also covered.

Scholarships From Employers and Community Sources

Employers support continuing education and provide scholarships and grants for staffers returning to school.  Individual corporate programs vary, but tuition for work-related education is often covered.  Business students, for example, qualify for employer-backed funding for pursuing MBA degrees.

Don’t discount your own workplace as a source of educational funding.  Even companies like Wal-Mart put-forth employee education plans.  The company’s WalMart Foundation administers the Higher Reach Scholarship, which helps returning students complete degree programs.

The best scholarship resources sometimes emerge from your own backyard. Use your local Chamber of Commerce to uncover financial aid opportunities hosted by local civic groups, and regional chapters of national organizations like Rotary International and the National Exchange Club.


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