Let’s face it–the vast majority of scholarships are aimed at students who are still enrolled or were recently enrolled in some form of school. High school juniors and seniors, current undergraduate students, and people in grad school or nearing the doctoral level garner most of the attention of groups seeking to grant college aid to students. But what about those of us that haven’t been enrolled in school for some time? Colleges call this type of person a “returning student,” and scholarship-granting committees and private organizations that donate money for college tuition recognize their financial needs as well.
A returning student can be vaguely defined as anyone who is returning to school after a period of absence from the education system. This includes people who graduated high school five or six years ago and never applied for college aid because they never went to college as well as people who earned a bachelor’s degree some time ago, or maybe earned a few hours towards their bachelor’s degree but never quite finished it. Essentially, a “returning student” is exactly what it sounds like. A potential student returning to the educational system after any period of absence.
Why Do Returning Students Earn Scholarships?
There is a traditional path to college education that a majority of college students follow: they graduate high school, immediately enter a bachelor’s degree program, then either enter the workforce or head directly to grad school and maybe even post-graduate work.
But not everyone is able to follow that path. Any number of reasons exist for why some of us don’t graduate from high school and head to college straight away: financial difficulties, life circumstances, or even a lack of desire to go to college can put up a brick wall between you and traditional college funding. If you’re trying to head back to college after a hiatus or trying to go to college for the first time as a slightly older adult, you should be proud. Going to college is always a good move, affording you more career choices and (potentially) a larger salary and better quality of life. Scholarships for returning students exist to encourage people who have been out of school for a while to go back and finish their education or finally get that bachelor’s degree they’ve always wanted.
Benefits of Being a Returning Student
You may feel like you are at a disadvantage as an older, “non-traditional” student when it comes to college scholarship applications, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth. For starters, you have plenty of advantages over traditional scholarship applicants: high school seniors with little life or work experience. If you have taken a few college classes before, you may have a leg-up on the competition in terms of writing a scholarship essay. If your writing hasn’t improved since you were 17 or 18 years old, you’re in the minority. Time in the job market and just plain living life makes most of us better writers and better scholarship applicants.
Here’s an example of how being a non-traditional or returning student can be an advantage: if a particular scholarship asks you to write an essay about a significant event in your life or a problem you’ve had to overcome, no doubt you have a much more interesting answer than your average 17 and 18 year old high school student. Because a wide variety of college scholarships require writing some sort of essay along these lines, and very few scholarships are limited in terms of a student’s age, returning students can usually apply for the same type of college aid that high school juniors and seniors can apply for, only with more life and job experience under their belt.Scholarships for Returning Students
Besides the long list of college aid application you can make that are identical to the types of aid that traditional students can apply for, there are plenty of scholarships aimed specifically at returning students. Here is a selection of them, representative of the types of awards you’ll find for non-traditional students.
Offered by Executive Women International, the Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) award is available to adults who face some form of economic, social, or physical challenge and who are trying to improve their situation by expanding their education. A number of ASIST scholarship awards are available, through both local and national chapters of EWI–in 2011, EWI gave away more than $250,000 in ASIST scholarship funds, making it one of the largest returning student scholarship programs in the country.
You start on the path to earning this money by applying through your local EWI chapter, then winners are picked to compete at the national level for one of 12 $2,500 scholarships. To earn this money, you must have clearly-defined “career goals and objectives,” be 18 years old or older, and live within the boundaries of an existing EWI Chapter.
This is an example of a school district-specific award for returning students, tens of thousands of which are made available at the local level across the USA. To be eligible for this specific award, known as the Robert and Thelma Sargeant Past Graduate/Adult School District Resident Scholarship, you have to meet the following criteria:
– be a past graduate or current adult resident of the Fairlawn School District in Shelby County, Ohio
– be attending adult education, an accredited trade school, or pursuing a two-year or four-year degree at a college or university
You’d probably be surprised at the number and variety of scholarship awards available for non-traditional students similar to the Robert and Thelma Sargeant scholarship–no doubt the county or school district where you live has something similar, and if not, the universities or trade schools you are applying to probably do. Most colleges and universities want to support returning students, and if you are of an untraditional age or are attempting to enter college more than a few years past your graduation date, you may be surprised at the number of specialized cash-for-college offers you are eligible for.