According to research from the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, 40% of the current undergraduate students at US colleges and universities are nontraditional. These students do not fit into the 18 to 24 year old demographic of people who go to college directly after high school. Luckily, there are a number of scholarships for nontraditional students available!
Jump ahead to:
- How to win scholarships for nontraditional students
- Resources for nontraditional students
- Tips for nontraditional students
- Frequently asked questions
- Other scholarship categories to explore
Many nontraditional students are working and are trying to juggle both school and a job. For information on eligibility, the award amount, and application links, for all of the scholarships for nontraditional students keep reading!
As a nontraditional student, your path to higher education probably looks different than the paths of younger students. You may have had to put college on hold due to family commitments, work obligations, or unforeseen circumstances. That’s okay! Your “nontraditional” journey is part of what makes you unique and sets you apart from other applicants.
Scholarship committees oftentimes read thousands of applications, so don’t be afraid to be different! Just remember to frame your story in a positive and productive manner, emphasizing what you’ve learned from your past, why you’re pursuing education, and what you aim to accomplish with your degree.
If you need help with your scholarship essay, you’re in luck! We have a variety of guides for writing strong scholarship essays and applications. That includes writing 250 word essays, 500 word essays, writing essays about yourself, or starting or finishing your essays. We also have a guide on how to write a winning scholarship essay.
If you’re attending school later in life, you shouldn’t feel alone on your journey! There are many resources and organizations dedicated to supporting nontraditional students on their path to higher education. Here are a couple that are worth checking out:
Created by the U.S. Department of Education, this handy checklist is meant to support students who have never been to college (or started but never finished). If you need advice on things like career direction, picking a school, and securing financial aid, this is a great place to start!
College for Adults is an excellent resource for adults who are attending college for the first time. Here you’ll find tips on career planning, college selection, the application process, financial aid, and how to prepare for college-level courses.
Returning to school (or going for the first time) as an adult can feel daunting, but we’re here to help! Here are some tips to help you succeed as a nontraditional student:
Find a program that works for you
As a nontraditional student, you may have other responsibilities to juggle such as family obligations and work commitments. That’s why it’s important to find a program that accommodates your schedule and lifestyle. Hybrid and online programs are both great for learners managing a busy schedule. There are also schools that offer open-entry and early-exit courses, which allow students to complete lessons at their own pace.
Tap into your support network
One of the best things you can do as a student is to take advantage of the resources and services available at your school. These include your teachers/professors, the financial aid office, tutoring and mentoring services, counseling/health services, career services, and even child care services. Be sure to learn about how your school can support you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!
Don’t forget about local scholarships
During your scholarship search, be sure to keep an eye out for awards offered in your local community and home state. There’s less competition for these scholarships, which means you’re more likely to win! To get started, check out our guide on how to win local scholarships!
Can nontraditional students get scholarships?
Yes! There are a number of scholarships for nontraditional students, many of which are in this post! We also recommend that nontraditional students and adult learners complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid so that they can qualify for need-based financial aid. You can also try out our free scholarship search tool, which custom-matches you to vetted scholarship opportunities.
Will I qualify for scholarships and financial aid if I am a part-time student?
It depends on the scholarship and on the specific college or university. Different scholarship organizations and colleges will have different requirements about the number of credit hours that you need to qualify for scholarships. You should also know that some scholarships and financial aid programs also have an academic requirement that says you must maintain a specific GPA to remain eligible.
If I am a nontraditional student, will I need to submit SAT or ACT scores?
Some colleges will require all students to submit the SAT or ACT. However, there are a growing number of colleges that are test-optional and do not require any sort of testing for students. Some graduate programs, such as MBA programs, may also waive testing requirements for students with a certain amount of relevant work experience.
Also see: Advice for low test takers
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