Applying to college and figuring out how to pay for it is a rite of passage for high school seniors.
But what about students who have been out of school for a while? There’s no guidance counselor to show you the way, your parents may not be around to help you through the FAFSA, and Rodney Dangerfield is nowhere to be found to ensure you’re not the oldest person in all your classes.
But there are scholarships to make going back to school as an adult easier on your budget.
They have various requirements — some are for vocational school, while others can go toward any degree — but all show an appreciation for making an investment in your education. Here’s what you need to know.
Who’s Considered an ‘Adult Student’?
While eligibility requirements will vary depending on the scholarship, an adult student (or “nontraditional student”) is generally anyone beyond the age of a high school senior. This might be someone who took a break between high school and college, or someone in the workforce looking to return to school. It might also be a single parent, a later-in-life learner, or a graduate student looking for financial relief from their accumulating student loans. In other words, “adult student” can mean a lot of things.
The key thing to hone in on for these scholarships is whatever makes your application stand out and to make sure that you have the qualifications to apply for the specific scholarship. Some of them are for women exclusively and others are for specific majors.
What could make your application stand out could be your status as a single parent, or it might be that you want to go back to school to further your career in a specific industry— like hospitality or engineering. It might also be that you can demonstrate financial need, which many scholarships will ask about.
Whenever searching for scholarships, you should also consider what kind of degree you’re hoping to get, since some scholarships may be specifically for undergraduate or graduate degrees, while others are for those attending a vocational school.
By focusing on what makes you unique, you’ll be able to find the scholarships that are looking to reward adult students just like you.
16 College Scholarships Available for Adult Students
One tip before you read through these opportunities: Fill out the FAFSA! There’s no age limit to receive federal financial aid, including Pell Grants, which you don’t have to pay back after graduation.
The FAFSA doesn’t just help you get financial aid from your school. Some financial-need-based scholarship applications require information from your FAFSA, as well.
Once you sign and submit your aid application, check out these scholarships for adult students:
1. AfterCollege Succurro Scholarship
Enter to win this $500 scholarship by completing a free profile at AfterCollege.
To qualify, you must be enrolled in an accredited, degree-seeking program (anything from your associates to an undergraduate or a graduate degree qualifies) with at least a 2.5 GPA. Applicants must fill out a quick form and submit a short (200-word), “resume-style” personal statement highlighting their goals.
The deadline to apply is Dec. 31, 2022.
2. Alpha Sigma Lambda Scholarships
Alpha Sigma Lambda (ASL), the honor society for nontraditional students, offers scholarships of varying amounts. Applicants don’t need to be members of their school’s ASL chapter, but they must attend a school with an active chapter and submit their applications to a chapter councilor for review.
You must be enrolled in an associate’s or bachelor’s program and have completed 24 semester hours of coursework with at least a 3.2 GPA.
This scholarship requires a personal statement and a faculty recommendation, and applicants must demonstrate financial need.
For the 2022-23 academic year, ASL will offer (6) $3000 and fifteen (15) $2500 scholarships. The deadline for councilors to submit applications is May 13.
3. College JumpStart Scholarship
The College JumpStart Scholarship is open to nontraditional students and provides a $1,000 scholarship to a student “committed to using education to better [their] life and that of [their] family and/or community.”
Applicants must submit a 250-word personal statement based on one of a handful of required prompts. You must be a U.S. citizen (or legal resident) enrolled in a two- or four-year college or a vocational school, or have plans to enroll in the next 12 months.
The spring deadline to apply is April 15, 2023.
4. Courage to Grow Scholarship
Any college student with at least a 2.5 GPA may apply for this $500 scholarship that recognizes one winner at the end of each month. Applicants must explain why they deserve the scholarship in 250 words or less. The award is sent directly to the winner’s school.
Some previous winners listed on the site mentioned they applied several times before being selected.
5. Dr. Angela Grant Memorial Scholarship
Cancer survivors or students with family members affected by cancer may apply for a scholarship worth up to $5,000.
Applicants must write an essay outlining their personal achievements and career goals, and give two personal references. Undergraduate and graduate students may apply between Jan. 1 and May 1.
6. HotelPlanner.com Scholarship
Military vets and their family pursuing a degree related to technology may apply for one of these $1,000 scholarships from HotelPlanner.com. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay describing how their military experience sparked their interest in technology, what they plan to achieve with their degree and their financial need.
The fall deadline is Dec. 15 and the summer deadline is Aug. 15.
7. Executive Women International ASIST Scholarship
Executive Women International (EWI) offers the Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) scholarship to women and men looking to improve their economic outlook through education. Applicants must apply through their school’s chapter. Qualified applicants move to a national round where EWI awards 13 scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.
The application period opens each January.
EWI gives preference to applicants facing economic, social, or physical challenges.
8. Imagine America Adult College Grants
Adult students attending or enrolled in an eligible Adult Skills Education Program (ASEP) can apply for a $1,000 award from the Imagine America Foundation.
Interested students must complete the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) Student Success Assessment before submitting their application.
9. Niche “No Essay” Sweepstakes Scholarship
Set up a free Niche account to enter this monthly sweepstakes with a $2,000 cash prize. This scholarship is open to all high school seniors, college, or graduate students who plan to enroll within the next 12 months. The scholarship can be used to cover any education related expenses including tuition, books, or even housing.
New winners are selected every month and there’s no limit to how many months you can apply throughout the year!
10. Return 2 College Scholarship Program
Anyone 17 and up who is starting college in the next year or is already enrolled can apply for this $1,000 scholarship.
You must submit a three-sentence essay that explains why you are getting your degree. If three sentences doesn’t seem like enough, no worries — you can submit up to 12 entries to more fully explain your academic goals. Awardees can use the scholarship toward any level degree.
The next deadline is January 31.
11. ‘Scholarship Detective’ Launch Scholarship
If you explain how you’d use this scholarship money in less than 140 characters, you can apply for one of two $1,000 scholarships — the deadline is Dec. 31.
12. SuperCollege Scholarship
Any student pursuing higher education or planning to start may enter this annual random drawing for $1,000 — only incomplete applications will be disqualified. The winner may use the money for tuition, books or any other education-related expense.
The deadline for the next scholarship is Dec. 31.
You have your own tuition to worry about, but do you also have college-bound kids? Here’s how to help them pay for college without sinking your own financial ship.
13. Unigo $10K Scholarship
If you’re enrolled in college, you can apply for this $10,000 award. Applicants must write a 250-word essay on the following topic: Would you rather be smart, funny or rich…and why?
The deadline is Dec. 31.
Visit Unigo for a list of the website’s other scholarships. There’s something for everyone, and the essay requirements are usually brief!
14. Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship
This highly competitive scholarship awards up to $55,000 per year (for up to three years) to winning students who attend (or plan to attend) a two or four-year college to earn their undergraduate degree. While there’s no age limit, this scholarship is generally meant for students in community colleges who are transferring to accredited colleges in order to complete a bachelor’s degree.
The application requires you to complete several short essays, provide recommendations, and include details on your college goals and current financial situation, and gives priority to those with real financial need.
The next deadline to apply is January 12.
Scholarships for Women Only
Here are three scholarships available to adult women.
15. Jeannette Rankin National Scholar Grant
Low-income women and nonbinary students ages 35 and older who are working on a technical or vocational education, an associate degree or their first bachelor’s degree are invited to apply for this scholarship fund.
The next deadline to apply is February 17..
16. PEO Program for Continuing Education Scholarship
PEO offers a maximum $3,000 grant to a woman in the United States or Canada whose educational journey has been interrupted.
The need-based grant is open to any woman who has had at least 24 consecutive months as a non-student sometime in her adult life and is within 18 consecutive months of completing her degree.
Applicants must do an interview at the chapter level to qualify. Contact your local chapter to apply.
17. Society of Women Engineers Scholarship
Women-identifying students studying full-time for their bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering, technology, or computer science may apply for various scholarships from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
Nontraditional students and re-entering students who have been out of school for a minimum of two years prior to the beginning of the current course of study can apply. The scholarship is available to full- and part-time students entering any year, including graduate school.
Sophomores through graduate students typically apply between December and February, while first-year students apply between February and March.
Lisa Rowan, Larissa Runkle, Tiffany Wendeln Connors, and Jacquelyn Pica contributed to this post.