By Daniel Gerger, President, Adult Education Advocates.
If you are an adult student considering returning to college this summer or next fall, you will want to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The biggest mistake a nontraditional student can make is to miss the FAFSA deadline, or to skip applying at all because you assume you will not be eligible for assistance because you are employed full time. This form is necessary not just for federal aid, but also for state aid and many school-based scholarships and grants.
If you are in the process of gathering all of your information for your 2013 tax returns, then you also have all of the documents necessary to complete your FAFSA. The deadline for the FAFSA for the 2014-15 academic year is June 30. Corrections or updates to the form can be submitted until September , so even if you do not have all of the information available, you can fill out the form now and update it later. The FASFA application will generate a report that estimates how much you can expect to contribute to your studies. It will be mailed to your home, and to any schools that you indicate you want to have receive the form when you apply.
Grants, scholarships and loans are available to adult and part-time students. The federal Department of Education provides funding for more than $42 billion in grants and $115 billion in federal student loans each year, and there is no age limit for these programs. Almost everyone is eligible for some type of federal student aid. Also, applying for federal aid is free, and there is no credit check applied to many federal student loans. It costs nothing itself to fill out the FAFSA. An online application can be found at www.fafsa.gov.
States and colleges have different deadlines for their aid programs than the federal deadline, even though they all generally rely on the FAFSA to determine eligibility for aid. Information on all state deadlines can be found athttp://www.fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htm.
Applying for financial aid is just the first step in making a plan for funding a return to college. There are many other ways that lifelong learners can save on college costs. Transferring in previous credits or getting credit for life experience are among the top ways adult students can use their past to advance their education. Spending time filling out the FAFSA, however, is another important step that shouldn’t be skipped.
If you are an adult and want to learn more about ways to pay for college including scholarships, loans and grants visit us at Adult Education Advocates.
Daniel Gerger is the President of Adult Education Advocates, an organization that helps adults make the transition back to college.