Making the decision to go back to college is never an easy one, especially for non-traditional students. High school seniors have a variety of resources at their fingertips. High school counselors help prep them for multiple aspects of the college experience from applications to essays, as well as one of the most vital steps of attending a U.S. university - applying for financial aid.
A useful first step is to go to the website fasfa.edu.gov to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also commonly referred to as FASFA.
The FASFA is the application you complete in order to determine your edibility for financial aid. This application must be filled out each academic year to calculate the amount given to you as you progress through your degree. It can be completed as early as October 1st every year.
A non-traditional student FASFA application is different from that of a student under the age of 24.
The eligibility for a student under 24 years old is based on their parent or guardians annual combined income. For those over 24, your financial aid eligibility is based on your own income, and you may also be eligible for additional funds that do not have to be repaid.
The FASFA application is completely digital and can be completed online. It also works directly with the IRS database, which makes it easier for you to input your annual income earnings.
FASFA is a completely free application, so if there is a fee associated with the application, then that is not the official government website.
Taking out student loans is a big stressor for students of all ages. FASFA gives nontraditional students an easy way to apply for financial aid awards based on their income.
Types of Aid Available
Grants are different from loans as you do not have to pay them back to the government after you graduate. Grants are given to students who fit the requirements. For most government funded grants, anyone who meets the requirements receives the grant money. You apply for these by filling out your FAFSA. One example of a federal grant is the Pell Grant.
Financial aid awards can include state and federal scholarships as well as scholarships funded by the college itself. The school uses your FAFSA application to determine what scholarships you are eligible for.
There are also often scholarships available from private companies and local organizations. Check the websites of local companies including your workplace and bank as well as local, state, and federal government’s websites. For example, Nevada has the Millennial Scholarship for all Nevadans who fit the requirements.
Differences for Non-Traditional Students
As non-traditional students, there might be unique scenarios that change your financial aid award status or amount. These situations range from a child going to college to a gaining a new dependent in your household. Some of these circumstances could result in additional rewards offered.
In the case of divorce, overwhelming medical bills, or loss of employment, it is important for you to contact the correct persona at your university to seek guidance. There are financial advisors at every university that can assist you in these life situations and will help you if there are any adjustments being made to your anticipated financial aid award amount.
If you're a non-traditional student, you may want to check out our rankings that we compiled specifically for people in your situation.