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How to Pay for College as an Adult Student

Posted By marybabysteps on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:04PM

One of the most common questions I'm asked by moms going back to school is how to pay for it. It's a fact that financial reasons are often one of the main motivators for women to return to a formal learning environment, so it it makes sense that they will most likely need a way to pay for the cost of education.There are many sources of funding for adult students, but a good deal of time and effort will likely be required to locate and apply for the money. Here's a list to get you started.

Photo Credit AMagill

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid

The FAFSA is the best place to start in your search for college money. It's the application requried in order to receive government student loans. While some of you may be a little worried about getting into debt to pay for college, federal loans are a secure and readily available form of paying for your education. By filling out your FAFSA, you will also be informed whether you qualify for government grants, which is money you don't have to pay back. Be careful, always go to the officlal FAFSA website, as there are sites out there that will charge you to prepare the application. The FAFSA is a pretty straight forward document that you can complete yourself online. You will need your tax records from the previous year, and it's best to start early. The deadline for turning in the FAFSA is June 30, 2011, but state grant deadlines may vary.


Fastweb is a scholarship matching service. You can search for scholarship based on criteria that applies to you. Emails will be sent to your inbox when new matches enter the Fastweb database. I remember trying this myself as a student and not having much success, but I do know that it is a trustworthy site and seems worth looking into for leads on potential scholarships.


I recently came across this site in a magazine article. SuperCollege.com is another scholarship database that allows you to search by specific criteria. The site also offers informational articles on admissions and other relevant topics, as well as Q & A with higher education experts. You can sign up for their newsletter for weekly updates on scholarships and admissions. This seems like a very thorough site.

Project Working Mom

Project Working Mom is an amazing partnership with eLearners that gives deserving working adults $5 million dollars in scholarships to go to school online. This organization has already changed the lives of many. I had the opportunity to speak with one of its first recipients and was very moved by her experience. The scholarships are for online partner institutions only. The site offers a tremendous wealth of information to support winners of the grants as well as any adults returning to college.

Back to College

Back to College is a site featuring tons of information on going to school for adult learners. I met the staff of Back to College at a conference and can vouch for the quality of information you'll find here. That's why I have no problem recommending the Guide to Scholarship for Re-Entry Students that is found through their site though I haven't personally read it. The guide costs  $39.95 and seems to be filled with tons of ways for adult students to locate money for education. Back to College also has an extensive list of places to find college scholarships that is worth checking out.

I know there is a lot more information on scholarships, grants and financial aid for adult students, but hopefully, this list will get you started. You may also want to check out the book, 501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College: Going Back to School Without Going Broke. Two other fantastic sources I know of that offer private scholarships for women are Soroptomist International and the American Association of University Women.



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