Despite the well-worn platitude about old dogs and new tricks, learning is a lifelong endeavor. Institutions of higher education across the country are seeing record numbers of nontraditional students. Many of them are seeking a degree as a means of career development; others see further education as a personal achievement or a way to explore personal interests. However, many potential students are put off by the additional challenges they face in finding a means to pay for an education. Many people don’t understand just what is Financial Aid?
A popular myth suggests that few, if any, financial aid options exist for older students, and that the process of obtaining aid is difficult or overly complicated. But here’s the good news: like most popular myths, these claims are just plain wrong. There’s help out there, and Point can help you find it. Seeking financial aid can be a daunting task for anyone, so here are some ideas to make it a bit easier for adult learners.
You’re not alone — many nontraditional students are seeking, and getting, financial aid. In fact, nontraditional students represent the majority of Pell Grant (a major source of federal financial aid) recipients! Nearly 41% of students age 24-29 and 32% age 30 and above who return for a bachelor’s degree receive Pell Grants. Many other people in your situation have received assistance, and you can, too.
Research Your Options
When looking for financial aid, most people start with aid from the federal government. However, aid can come in many forms. Scholarships, private grants, and other types of extra funding from both local and national sources abound. Georgia residents who do not file a FAFSA, for instance, can apply for the HOPE Scholarship/Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant.
You also may belong to a population eligible for special aid, like the U.S. military. With a little digging, you may be able to find options that will help you start your educational adventure in addition to or instead of government assistance.
How Does Financial Aid Work?
If you’re applying for federal aid, you’ll need to learn whether you’re eligible. To start this process, take a few basic steps:
1. Get Organized
Like any complicated procedure, the financial aid process will go a little more easily if you’re not scrambling for details as you progress through each step. Get some file folders, put them in a central location where they won’t be disturbed, and start a notebook in which you collect every document that comes your way. Down the line, you’ll be grateful for the clarity this process creates.
2. Gather Documents
You’ll kick off this venture by gathering some information. Find your:
- Social Security number
- Alien Registration number (if applicable)
- Federal Tax Return, W-2s, and other records of earnings
- Bank statements and investment records (if applicable)
- Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
3. Become Familiar with Federal Student Aid
At this step in the process, it’s time to learn about your choices. Many people don’t understand the differences in types of student aid. They usually know that federal aid exists, but in what form? Are they eligible? These can be mysterious questions.
There are three major types of federal aid:
- Grants—Student aid funds that do not have to be repaid.
- Work-study—Money earned through a job on or near campus while attending school.
- Loans—Borrowed money that must be repaid with interest.
4. Contact Point’s Financial Aid Office
We can talk to you about federal aid and help you determine whether you’re eligible. We’ll probably recommend that you apply for a Pell Grant, a federal grant that does not have to be repaid. Then we’ll walk you through the next few steps.
5. Fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
In order to do this, you will need to create a Personal Identification Number. You’ll need the FAFSA in order to apply for any federal aid, and possibly for other grants and scholarships.
*Note: Be careful with this step. Some types of state or private grants are only available to you if you have NOT filled out a FAFSA. Be sure to discuss your options with the Financial Aid Office before you proceed.
6. Remember the Specifics
When you get to Step 6 on the FAFSA, remember this number: 001547. It’s Point’s Title IV code, which insures your application is released to us.
7. Stay in Contact
As you wait to find out whether you’ve received government aid, and how much, continue to stay in contact with us about any questions. We know that applying for aid is hard, and we’re here to help ease that burden. A little help goes a long way. If you’re considering going back to school and have hit a financial roadblock, remember that many resources exist to help you succeed, and reach out to talk to us.
Visit our Contact Us Page For More Information.