Financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) are available to all students who hope to pursue post-secondary education at a college, university, or career school, regardless of age.
Adults who choose to go back to school after an extended break from studying face many challenges. From what program to pursue to choosing whether to attend full-time, part-time, or online, it is not a decision many take lightly.
One of the biggest hurdles adult learners or nontraditional students face is how to fund their education.
Who are Mature or Nontraditional Students?
Mature or nontraditional students are adults, aged 25 and older, who have decided to study at a post-secondary institution, be it a college, university, or career or trade school.
In contrast to traditional students — those who enroll in postsecondary immediately after high school — nontraditional students often have major work, family, and financial responsibilities that contend with their studies. Figuring out how to pay for all of life’s responsibilities along with their higher education can be tough to figure out.
What is FAFSA® and why should mature students apply?
The FAFSA® is an application used by most two- and four-year colleges, universities, and trade and career schools in the United States for awarding federal, state, and school-funded student aid.
Each year, students can submit a FAFSA® to access grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans that can help them pay for their education.
Are Nontraditional Students Eligible?
Yes! Nontraditional and mature students are eligible for all the same financial aid opportunities as traditional students. There are no age restrictions.
Any student, regardless of age, who meets the eligibility requirements, will have access to some form of financial aid.
How Much Are Nontraditional Students Entitled to?
The amount of financial aid available depends on the individual student. The FAFSA® uses a variety of data, including income and other financial assets, to determine how much money a student is expected to contribute to their education.
For students under the age of 24, their eligibility is most likely based on parental income. For those older than 24, eligibility for student loans, grants, and scholarships is determined based on their own income earnings from the previous tax year.
Important Information For Nontraditional Students
As a mature or nontraditional student, it’s important to know that award amounts are not set in stone. Certain life events that may cause a change in an applicant’s income level (e.g., divorce, a child attending postsecondary university, or losing a job) can affect how much financial aid you are eligible for. If you find yourself facing—or in the midst of—a major life event that could affect your income amount, it’s important to contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss what funding options are available to you.
Additionally, mature students who plan on leaving the workforce while attending school full-time are advised to contact the college financial aid office for a “professional judgment.” This review will adjust the income from prior tax year income to an estimated award year income, which should not reduce the amount of financial aid received.
Completing the FAFSA®
Whether you file directly with the FSA or through Frank’s super easy platform, there are four main steps:
- Prepare for the application by collecting all relevant information and documents that are required to complete the application.
- Check your FAFSA® deadline.
- Create an FSA ID.
- Complete the online application.
Once you have completed your application for financial aid, it is important to make contact with the admissions counselor at the school you wish to attend. The admission counselor can help further explain the different types of funding available and help you finance your future.
Choosing to go back to school after a hiatus from studying can be a difficult decision for most. It’s a challenge many nontraditional students agonize over. One thing nontraditional students should not struggle with is applying for financial aid. By spending a few minutes filling out and submitting the FAFSA®, you will have access to scholarships, grants, and funding that will help make your dream of furthering your education a reality.