You're Never Too Old for School

by Arica-Ann Norzagaray
(El Dorado, AR, USA)

You’re Never too Old for School

To fellow student,
This is for the student of all ages. Whether you’re applying to college while still in high, school, my age at 26, or the older student beyond my years.

I didn't have the privilege to attend college after high school nor any knowledge about the help out there for someone who couldn't afford it. If I've known what I know now, I'm sure my life would be a whole lot different than what it is. This led me to join the United States Air Force, since I didn't want to end up like everyone else who couldn't afford college, and I honestly didn't know if college was right for me. While in Basic Training I had no intention of pursuing college, so I lost any benefits of the GI Bill or Post 9/11. While at my first duty station, I had a supervisor who actually sat me down, and talked about furthering my education/bettering my life. Now this was the first time anyone had really talked to me about college and the options I had. I can honestly say, the care she had for me about bettering myself, planted a seed in my brain which grew. The once young 18 year old self, who never thought would attend college, signed up for my very first class.

In the military they had TA (Tuition Assistance), which was exactly like FAFSA. I continued college utilizing TA until the end of my enlistment. Still wanting to continue my education without any school benefits and no more TA, I was scared. I was scared I was right back where I was 4 years ago. Being optimistic, I went to the local college I wanted to attend and with their help, I found out about FAFSA. I knew there was still hope. It didn't matter the amount I was granted because any help was better than none, and you don't need to attend an expensive college. There are many colleges where FAFSA can actually cover your whole year every year.

Today, I'm still furthering my education, in hope to one day become the doctor I want to be. I may not be able to always be a
full time student or get to attend every year because let’s face it, we all have bills to pay and families to take care of. It might take me longer than most to finish school but at least I haven't given up. I'm still doing research online, looking for grants and scholarships where I can. You'd be surprised some of the wacky scholarships that are out there and no one knows about them. One thing you should know, is not coming out of high school it's harder to find these scholarships because a lot of them are only offered to high school students. But they are out there; you have to keep digging and searching, don't give up.

There are two things you should take from my story. First, there are age markers we hit in our lives, where we change, and we don't want the same things we once did. Second, there are no excuses to not go to college or go back. You’re never too old, I've had people in my classes in their 50's starting their education and some finishing the one or two classes they had left for their degree. The scholarships, grants, and FAFSA are out there for YOU! Yes some people grew up worst than others, and like myself, I didn't always make the best decisions for my future but it's never too late. If it's something you want, do it, because if you want something bad enough it will happen. It's going to be hard but where there's a will, there's a way.

Read more College Financial Aid Advice from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Arica-Ann for some good advice - You're Never Too Old for School. The military has some great programs to help with college, and I encourage you to use them. Good luck to you.

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Scholarships and Grants for Adults Returning to College

by Sheri

My search for scholarships and grants to attend college has been exceptionally difficult because unlike 95% of students attending college I am not fresh out of high school. I am a 48 year old mother of 4 and grandmother of 6 who has decided due to the economy and other changes in my life to go back to school to get my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.

After a full career in customer service I am finally going to follow a long time dream of becoming a nurse. I have always strived to “Pay It Forward” in my career and participation in my community. With changes in our economy and loss in pay for my household I made the decision recently to go back to school and finally get my nursing degree I have always wanted.

I decided on National American University where I made an appointment with an admissions and financial aide counselor to get the ball rolling. I was very disappointed when I learned that I do not qualify for a PELL grant or any other form of federal assistance due to my husband and I make to much money. It is crazy to find out they only considered my income from last years tax return. They do not consider my debt level or the fact that my income has dropped by 75% in the last 5 years due to job changes and the economy’s spiraling downfall. I was told that it would be my responsibility to seek out other grants and scholarships and apply for them on my own.

I investigated the possibility of educational reimbursement through the hospital I work for and found out that it was discontinued. I utilized my organizational skills and put together a binder with tabs for each month of they year. I began researching the internet for scholarships and grants specific to adult women returning to college. What I found was limited but the more I searched the more I found. I filed them in my binder under the month that the scholarship application is due so that I will be able to focus my efforts on the ones that are due sooner while balancing my school work.

I also wrote a letter and mailed it to every person I know asking them for financial assistance and / or if they could not help me to please share with me anyone or any organization they know of that might be able to sponsor me. I have received some helpful ideas of possible local charities and foundations in my area who I am now contacting to inquire about scholarships. I have even written to the Jeff Probst talk show suggesting he conduct a story on adults returning to work. I know I cannot possibly be the only person who is struggling to find a way to pay for school. There are many websites that will help you search scholarships and grants. You enter your basic information such as the college you will be attending, your age, GPA, income level, community activities etc and these search engines will help you sort through that many scholarships to see which ones you may qualify for. You can also sign up to be notified by email when a new scholarship becomes available or if one you qualified for is due soon.

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Thank you Sheri for a great summary of some of the challenges in finding Scholarships and Grants for Adults Returning to College. Best of luck to you.

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