Scholarships for Adults and Nontraditional Students

Paying for college is uniquely difficult for adults and nontraditional students. Find scholarships to help you cover the costs of college.

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by Chinh Ngo

Updated June 20, 2022

Edited by Cameren Boatner
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Scholarships for Adults and Nontraditional Students
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Commonly defined as students over the age of 24, adult students represent a diverse group of individuals from all social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. Learners who do not transition directly into college after graduating from high school are defined as "nontraditional students." Most adult students choose to go back to school to earn the credentials needed for career advancement in their current field or to enter a new line of work.

This guide provides in-depth information about scholarships and grants for adult and nontraditional students. Although colleges and universities dedicate a lot of their funding to scholarships for recent high school graduates, they also offer awards specifically for older students.

Also, there are no age restrictions when it comes to filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Benefits of Going Back to School

Going back to school can help you access higher salaries and more job opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that professionals with a bachelor's degree make about $26,000 more than those who only hold a high school diploma.

For a list of school options, check out these rankings of the best colleges for nontraditional students and working adults.

Returning to school can be difficult for adult students due to the distinct challenges they face. In addition to high college costs, nontraditional students often have mortgages to pay and families to support. Finding scholarships and grants can help cover the costs.

Scholarships for Adults and Nontraditional Learners

The following list contains scholarships for adult students. However, this list should only serve as a starting point — look into additional opportunities based on your background, achievements, and professional goals.

Alpha Sigma Lambda Scholarship

Who is eligible? Adult undergraduate learners attending a school with an active Alpha Sigma Lambda chapter can apply. Applicants must have completed at least 24 credits of coursework with a minimum 3.2 GPA.

Award amount: $3,000 or $2,500

Deadline: May

Apply for Scholarship

American Legion Auxiliary Nontraditional Student Scholarship

Who is eligible? This scholarship is open to members of the American Legion, Auxiliary, or Sons of The American Legion. Applicants need to attend a two-year or four-year school or be enrolled in a certified, trade, professional, or technical program.

Award amount: $2,000

Deadline: March

Apply for Scholarship

Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? ANTSHE offers four annual scholarships to nontraditional students. Applicants must be at least 23 years old and meet one additional requirement, such as having low-income status or military service experience.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

College JumpStart Scholarship

Who is eligible? This biannual award program supports traditional learners and adult students. Applicants submit an online form, providing some personal information and a 250-word statement of purpose responding to a designated prompt.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: October 17

Apply for Scholarship

HotelPlanner.com Graduate Technology Scholarship For Military Veterans

Who is eligible? HotelPlanner awards this scholarship to veterans along with their spouses and children. In addition to demonstrating financial need, applicants must submit a 500-word essay describing their interest in a technology-related career.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: August (summer cycle) and December (fall cycle)

Apply for Scholarship

Imagine America Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? The Adult Skills Education Program Award is open to older students attending one of 400 partnering career colleges. Candidates need to meet financial need requirements and complete the National Center for Competency Testing Educational Success Potential Assessment.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: December 31

Apply for Scholarship

Niche "No Essay" College Scholarship

Who is eligible? This award is available to traditional and nontraditional students who currently attend college or plan to enroll within the next 12 months. After creating an online profile, candidates can apply for this scholarship every month.

Award amount: $2,000

Deadline: Monthly

Apply for Scholarship

Osher Reentry Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? Funded by the Bernard Osher Foundation, this scholarship program supports older students with a cumulative gap in their undergraduate education of five or more years. Applicants need to demonstrate financial need and the willingness to participate in the workforce upon graduation.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Return 2 College Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? This program accepts applications from students currently enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as those who plan on enrolling within the next 12 months. Applicants must be at least 17 years old. They must submit an online form that includes a three-sentence essay explaining their reasons for getting a college degree.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: September 30

Apply for Scholarship

Royal Neighbors Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? This scholarship supports beneficial members of Royal Neighbors who are enrolled in two-year or four-year colleges or vocational/skilled trade programs. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 high school GPA. In lieu of academic transcripts, adult students who graduated high school over 10 year ago can submit details of their work history along with a professional reference.

Award amount: $500-$5,000 (depending on degree type)

Deadline: March 1

Apply for Scholarship

SuperCollege Scholarship

Who is eligible? This program accepts applications from traditional and adult students. Applicants must submit an online form that includes information about their target degree and career goals. SuperCollege draws the winner randomly.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: June 30

Apply for Scholarship

Scholarships for Women Adult Learners

Army Women's Foundation Scholarships

Who is eligible? Applicants must be women who are currently serving or have served in the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, or Army National Guard. Daughters of these women are also eligible. To qualify for the community college and certificate program scholarships, candidates need a minimum 2.5 GPA. The college/university and graduate program scholarships require applicants to have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Award amount: $1,000 for community college and certificate programs, $2,500 for undergraduate programs, and $3,000 for graduate programs

Deadline: January 21

Apply for Scholarship

Executive Women International Adult Students in Scholastic Transition Scholarship

Who is eligible? The ASIST award is available to adult students facing physical, economic, and/or social challenges. Candidates apply through one of the organization's local chapters. Requirements vary by chapter, but applicants generally need to demonstrate financial need and have clearly defined career goals.

Award amount: $2,000-$10,000

Deadline: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund

Who is eligible? The Rankin Foundation offers two awards to female adult students. The Emerge Scholarship is open to applicants who are at least 25 years old, while the Jeannette Rankin Scholarship accepts applications from women ages 35 or older.

Award amount: $2,000 per year for up to five years (contingent on academic performance)

Deadline: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Awards

Who is eligible? This program supports mothers with minor children pursuing their first vocational/associate/bachelor's/master's/doctoral/professional degree. Applicants also need to demonstrate low-income status based on the number of people in their household.

Award amount: Up to $5,000

Deadline: August 1

Apply for Scholarship

Society of Women Engineers Scholarship

Who is eligible? SWE awards a variety of scholarships to women pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees with the intent of working as engineers. To qualify for reentry and nontraditional scholarships, students must be out of school for at least two years prior to the beginning of their current course of study.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: May 2 for freshman applicants and February 15 for sophomores or above

Apply for Scholarship

Grants for Adult Learners and Nontraditional Students

Like scholarships, grants are awards that you do not need to repay. By filling out the FAFSA, you can qualify for a variety of grant funding based on your financial need. You can also apply for grants through state government agencies, community organizations, and professional associations.

Federal Pell Grants

Individuals who fill out the FAFSA may qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. This money is allocated for undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's, master's, or professional degree.

State Grants

Every U.S. state provides grants based on factors like financial need, military service, tribal affiliation, and career.

Private Grants

Private grants come from nonprofit organizations or professional or industry-specific associations, like the Air Force Aid Society. The following list includes grants for adult students. Like the scholarships above, these grant programs each come with their own application requirements.

AAUW Career Development Grants

Who is eligible? This program supports female bachelor's degree-holders pursuing advanced credentials for the first time. AAUW prioritizes women of color who are working in nontraditional fields. The grant committee holistically evaluates each candidate based on criteria like the quality of their written proposal and their potential for professional success.

Award amount: $2,000-$12,000

Deadline: November 15

Apply for Grant

Program for Continuing Education

Who is eligible? The P.E.O. Sisterhood offers this grant to women living in the U.S. or Canada as citizens/legal permanent residents. The award goes toward tuition, helping students complete a certificate or degree they need for employment. Applicants must receive a recommendation from their local P.E.O. chapter.

Award amount: Up to $3,000

Deadline: Varies based on chapter recommendation

Apply for Grant

Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards

Who is eligible? This program is open to women who provide primary financial support for themselves and their dependents. Applicants should be currently enrolled in or have been accepted to a vocational/skills training or undergraduate program. They also need to demonstrate financial need.

Award amount: Up to $16,000

Deadline: November 15

Apply for Grant

Frequently Asked Questions About Adult and Nontraditional Student Scholarships

What are adult learners and nontraditional students?

Adult students are people over 24 years old who are attending college for the first time or returning to school after a long hiatus. Nontraditional students are individuals who do not enroll in a campus-based college program immediately after graduating from high school. They include adult students and online learners.

Can adults get college scholarships?

Yes. Adult students can access many of the same financial resources as traditional learners, including federal aid, state grants, private scholarships, and university awards.

Is there an age limit on scholarships?

The FAFSA does not have an age limit. Many scholarships filter applicants by characteristics like race/ethnicity, degree major, and career goals rather than age.

How do adults pay for college?

Depending on their financial situation, adult students can pay for college out of pocket by using savings or other personal resources. However, more often than not, they need some form of external support. Opportunities include scholarships, grants, and -- as a last resort -- loans.

Is it too late to go back to school?

Anyone can build a better career for themselves by going back to school. With the flexibility of night/weekend classes and asynchronous online education, older students can earn their degrees while meeting professional and family obligations.

Additional Resources For Adult Learners

College for Adults

This website provides comprehensive resources for adult students, helping them apply to college, find scholarships, and strengthen key academic skills. The website provides tools for career exploration and planning.

Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education

ANTSHE supports adult students and postsecondary educators through research, policy advocacy, and community-building. This nonprofit also funds a variety of scholarships and academic awards.

Distance Education Accrediting Commission

In addition to accrediting online colleges, DEAC helps nontraditional students find the right school, apply for financial aid, and earn transfer credits. The organization's student center also provides resources specifically for active military members and veterans.

GoCollege

GoCollege was founded in 1997 as one of the first websites dedicated to assisting students with college application and financial aid. This comprehensive site provides resources and guides specifically for adult students.