For many adults, the word "scholarship" is somewhat of a tease. You know there are scholarships out there and you’ve heard stories of the vast amount of free dollars just waiting to be claimed. But when you try to find specific scholarships and apply to them, you feel lost. Where are all these scholarships? Even more frustrating is when you do come across a scholarship and find that more often than not, it’s for a 17-year-old high school student and not a 20-, 30-, 40- or 50-something student.
Having dreams of free scholarship dollars cruelly dashed by reality, most adults simply give up and look for other ways to pay. Don't let this happen to you. The reality is there are scholarships for adults. Adult student scholarships are not a myth, mirage or pipe dream. They are real, and you can find them. All you need to know is where to look and this guide will show you. Let's get started.
Before we start looking for scholarships, we need to acknowledge one important fact: The majority of resources, including books and web sites, are geared toward high school students. Therefore, if you use these resources (and you most definitely should), you will obviously find many more scholarships for teens than for adults.
Don't be discouraged.
When you start your scholarship search, expect that the easiest scholarships to find will be for teenagers. But this does not mean that there aren't any good scholarships for adults. It just means that you'll have to look harder and be more creative in where you search to unearth those awards for which you qualify. To find scholarships that you have the best chance of winning, you are going to need to do your own detective work. There are no shortcuts. But by doing some digging, you will be able to find more awards—opportunities that really fit your background and goals—that will dramatically increase your odds of winning.
As an adult, you'll find that there are two major types of scholarships—those that are designed for the adult student and those that include the adult student. The first are scholarships specifically earmarked for mature or returning students. There are a number of scholarships for "non-traditional" students. These have specific requirements that exclude "traditional" students, such as an age minimum or a prerequisite that applicants have taken a break from school to raise a family or work.
The second type of scholarships available to adult students includes those that are aimed at any student who is in college, regardless of whether they are "traditional" or "non-traditional." These scholarships are far more numerous and usually require that you are in a specific year of study such as a freshman in college or that you pursue a particular major. Scholarships that are open to college freshmen are also the ones that you'll apply to before you actually start school. Most of these scholarships let you apply before you actually begin so that you can use the money to pay for your first year in school. These scholarships typically don't have an age limit. This means that you are eligible to apply for them, but that you will be competing against traditional students as well as other adult students.
The scholarships in this second classification are the ones that most adults don't consider. But if you ignore these, you will be leaving a ton of money on the table. So unless a scholarship specifically says that you need to be a high school student to apply, then you should feel free to apply for any award that matches your interests and goals. Remember, a college freshman can be 17 years old or 70 years old.
When you are running errands in your town, begin to think about your community as a source of scholarship funds. Indeed, the very first place you should look for scholarships is in your own backyard. The majority of scholarship dollars are local dollars given by community groups, charities and foundations. Even when a large foundation decides to give away millions of dollars in scholarships, it will usually do so through its local organizations. This means that you should spend the bulk of your scholarship search looking at groups within your own city and state.
The down side of this approach is that there are very few resources that list scholarships such as these since they are local. This explains why many students ignore them, which brings us to the up side: Because the awards are harder to find, these scholarships will draw a lot less competition.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Learn how to go back to school without going broke. This is the only book that shows you how to find the best scholarships for adult students, get your employer to pay, have your student loans forgiven and much more.