Financial Aid Options for Non-Traditional Students

Financial Aid Options for Non-Traditional Students

About 7.5 million non-traditional or adult students enrolled in college in 2020, as opposed to about 12.3 million traditional scholars, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Another report by PNPI shows that nearly half of non-traditional students who enroll in community colleges earn a degree, while only 15% complete a four-year college.

One of the biggest challenges they face is the cost of education. Many sophomores, particularly those with children, need financial assistance during their educational journey.

The latest college enrollment statistics show that 51% of non-traditional students are parents, while 42% live in poverty.

But that’s where financial aid comes in.

Read on to explore some of the top scholarships and grants for non-traditional sophomores, right after learning more about this particular student type.

Who Are Adult or Non-Traditional College Students?

Non-traditional or adult students are scholars who are 24 or older and are looking to enroll in college.

They are diverse post-secondary learners who either haven’t enrolled at any university or dropped out at some point. While finances are often the biggest obstacle, life can also get in the way and compel aspiring freshmen to put their education on hold.

Non-traditional students fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Graduates returning to college after a long hiatus: High-school graduates who delayed higher education due to lack of finances or any life-related reasons.
  • GED students: They have only a GED (Graduate Equivalency Degree or General Educational Diploma).
  • Financially independent students: Receive no financial assistance from parents or other family members.
  • Students working full-time: Those juggling a full-time job and education, as they work more than 35 hours per week.
  • Students with children or other dependents: These adult students raise children while in college and/or take care of their elderly family members.
  • Single-parent students: Rather self-explanatory.
  • Part-time students: Attending college on a part-time basis because of a full-time job, children, or other dependents.

12 Most Popular Grants for Non-Traditional Students

Grants are typically non-refundable financial aid that non-traditional students can receive based on their financial needs. Their educational performance isn’t an eligibility factor.

There are three types of college grants:

  • Federal Pell Grants: Available to undergraduates who need substantial financial assistance. They need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Education for Federal Student Aid) form to qualify.
  • State grants: Every U.S. state offers them. You can check out all state financial aid programs at NASFAA.
  • Private grants: Available from private, non-profit organizations and college institutions.

These are some of the top grants for non-traditional students.

  • CollegeAmerica Career Success Grants

CollegeAmerica’s financial aid options include the First Time College Grant, the Dependent Student Grant, and the Return to Learn Grant.

Eligible students are those who haven’t been in college, financially independent sophomores, and those with some education institution’s credits, respectively.

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: Varies

  • Alabama Student Assistance Program

The Alabama Student Assistance Program (ASAP) from Alabama Commission on Higher Education offers federal and state grants to undergraduate Alabama students. They must be attending an eligible Alabama college and showcase a substantial financial need.

Amount: Up to $5,000

Deadline: Varies

  • Adult Learner Grant

The Adult Learner Grant from Calumet College of St. Joseph is aimed at non-traditional students with two years of transferable college credit. They also must have professional work experience and a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.

Amount: Up to $5,000

Deadline: April 15

  • Career Development Grants

AAUW’s Career Development Grants are for women with a Bachelor’s degree in education, social sciences, or health and medical sciences. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who earned their last degree before June 30, 2013.

Amount: $2,000-$12,000

Deadline: November 15

  • General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant

The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant from the Air Force Aid Society is available to Air Force members looking to return to college and their dependents, including spouses.

Amount: Up to $4,000

Deadline: April 30

  • Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (AzLEAP)

Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education’s AzLEAP grant is available to Arizona-based undergraduate adult students who have completed at least half of their postsecondary education.

Amount: Up to $2,500

Deadline: Varies

  • Live Your Dream Awards

Soroptimist’s Live Your Dream Awards is a grant for female undergraduates who have dependents and are enrolled in a vocational program. They can use it to offset any higher education costs.

Amount: Up to $16,000

Deadline: November 15

  • Student Incentive Grant

The Student Incentive Grant from the New Mexico Higher Education Department is available to New Mexico undergraduates at tribal colleges or public colleges and universities.

Amount: Up to $2,500

Deadline: Varies

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

The U.S. Department of Education offers the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant to undergraduates with the highest financial need.

Amount: Up to $4,000

Deadline: Varies

  • Tennessee Reconnect Grant

The Tennessee Reconnect Grant from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation is aimed at financially independent, part-time students without a college degree.

Amount: Up to $5,775

Deadline: September 1 (fall) and February 1 (spring and summer)

  • Oregon Opportunity Grant

The Oregon Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion is Oregon’s largest state grant, awarded to 40,000 students annually, who must be enrolled at least half time in a participating college.

Amount: Varies (the 2021-2022 limit is $4,000)

Deadline: Varies

  • Iowa Tuition Grant

The Iowa Tuition Grant from the Iowa College Student Aid Commission is available to full-time undergraduates at private four-year colleges and universities in Iowa. Part-time students can apply for a lower amount.

Amount: Up to $6,200

Deadline: July 1

20 Best Scholarships for Non-Traditional Students

Now that we’ve covered grants, let’s explore some of the best scholarships you can get as an adult student.

Top Scholarships for Adult Undergraduates

These three are the best financial aid options for non-traditional undergraduate students.

  • Kazimour Scholarships for Undergraduate Students

The Kazimour Scholarships for Undergraduate Students from the Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) are for full-time undergraduates at a four-year college or university who showcase an excellent academic achievement.

Amount: Minimum $500

Deadline: February 15

  • Founder’s Scholarship

Another excellent ANTSHE scholarship, the Founder’s Scholarship, is for non-traditional undergraduates with a high financial need and outstanding academic achievements.

Amount: Up to full tuition

Deadline: February 15

  • Lily and Catello Sorrentino Memorial Scholarship

The Rhode Island Foundation’s Lily and Catello Sorrentino Memorial Scholarship is for undergraduates over 25 who demonstrate financial need and attend a Rhode Island college.

Amount: Up to $1,500

Deadline: April 26

Most Sought-After Scholarship for Adult Graduates

There are fewer scholarships for adult graduates, and this one’s the most popular.

  • The Chamberlain Family Graduate Scholarship

Coming from Colorado State University, the need-based Chamberlain Family Graduate Scholarship is tailored to non-traditional graduates at the College of Health and Human Sciences with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 1

Best Scholarships for Specific Majors

The following scholarships can help if you want to pursue a specific major.

  • Margaret B. Hanson Memorial Scholarship

Colorado State University’s Margaret B. Hanson Memorial Scholarship is for first-time undergraduates at the College of Health and Human Sciences who major in Human Development & Family Studies.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 1

  • Rodney and Patricia Westveer Scholarship

The Rodney and Patricia Westveer Scholarship from Calvin College is for women over 30 who have children, a GPA of at least 2.50, and are pursuing any major. It’s also for minorities with an education major.

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: February 1

  • Ragsdale-Johnson Scholarship

The need-based Ragsdale-Johnson Scholarship from the University of Arkansas is available to non-traditional students at the College of Engineering and the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: November 1

  • L. Sophia Fairchild Academic Scholarship

The University of North Texas offers the L. Sophia Fairchild Academic Scholarship to adult students who major in various social sciences, including psychology and gerontology.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15

  • Betty Barrick Non-Traditional Student Scholarship

The Betty Barrick Non-Traditional Student Scholarship from the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts Auxiliary provides financial assistance to those who major in Agriculture and Natural Resources and Conservation.

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Varies

Most Popular Scholarships for Women

Female adults can receive some quite favorable scholarships. Here are some of the best.

  • Judy Wendland-Young College Scholarship

The University of California Berkeley offers a substantial award to freshwomen over 35 through the Judy Wendland-Young College Scholarship.

Amount: Up to $20,000

Deadline: March 31

  • Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) Scholarship

Executive Women International’s ASIST Scholarship provides financial assistance to women struggling with physical, social, or economic issues.

Amount: Up to $10,000

Deadline: April 1

  • Ethel H. Moll Scholarship

Ohio University’s need-based Ethel H. Moll Scholarship is available to all non-traditional female students with a 3.0 GPA attending a college on the Athens campus.

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: January 15

  • Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship

The Jeannette Rankin Foundation offers the JRF Scholarship to low-income women over 35 pursuing a Bachelor’s or Associate degree in vocational or technical education.

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: February 26

  • Return to Learning Scholarship

The American Association of University Women offers the Return to Learning Scholarship to women returning to college to complete an undergraduate or Master’s program.

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: April 1

  • Arizona BPW Foundation Scholarship

The Arizona Business and Professional Women’s Foundation Scholarship provides financial assistance to women returning to a community college in Arizona.

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: Varies

Great Scholarships for Single-Parent Students

Single-parents can benefit greatly from the following scholarships.

  • Frank Kennedy Vernoy Scholarship

The Frank Kennedy Vernoy Scholarship is available to single parents attending Westminster College and having at least a 3.0 GPA.

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Varies

  • Stanwood Democrats/Delores Haglund Jones Memorial Scholarship

This Stanwood-Camano Area Foundation’s scholarship is available to low-income, 21 or older Stanwood and Lincoln high-school graduates.

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: July 12

  • Arkansas Single Parent Scholarships

The Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund offers several scholarships to single parents with a GED or high-school diploma and at least a 2.0 GPA.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

  • Platt Cline Scholar Award

The Northern Arizona University’s Platt Cline Scholar Award is for part-time non-traditional students, including single parents, with at least a 3.0 GPA.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 15

  • Ann and Peter Ziegler Scholarship

Central New Mexico Community College offers the Ann and Peter Ziegler Scholarship to single mothers majoring in Liberal Arts, having at least a 3.0 GPA, and transferring to a four-year college to study at least part-time.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: September 28

Useful Additional Resources for Adult Students

If you’re a non-traditional student, these resources will provide you with valuable information on college life, juggling work and college, being a single-parent student, finding the best financial aid, and more.


Non-traditional students have numerous financial aid options, each with its own eligibility requirements, amounts, and deadlines. To find the best fit for your needs, research the available options thoroughly and contact your desired college to gather all the necessary details. If you'll face any struggle to gather all the necessary information, contact a professional from reliable ghostwriting services and make your life easier.

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