Going back to school as an adult is an exciting decision, and there are certain considerations to keep in mind. Of course, the biggest of these factors is how to get the money to pay for tuition, room and board, and the other expenses that come with furthering your education. Thankfully, there are lots of options out there, whether you’re employed full time, a member of the military or looking for a career change.
Ask your workplace about benefits
If you’re currently employed, the best place to start planning your educational budget is at your workplace. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs to encourage and incentivize the continued education of employees. Talk to your human resources department about what your company offers and the rules of the program. Some companies may require that you work for them for a period of time before they’ll pay for your schooling, while others might be more concerned about maintaining a certain GPA.
If you’re currently on Active Duty, you may be eligible for tuition assistance through your branch of service. Each branch will have their own dollar limits, so confirm that you will be eligible for these benefits before signing up for classes.
Call the school’s financial aid office
One of the most important first steps is to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. Depending on your income and family size, you may be eligible for need-based loans and grants.
The next step is to call the financial aid office and find out what benefits you may qualify for, especially if you’re a member of the military. Many institutions have special programs, scholarships, grants and loans that can help reduce the cost of tuition. You should also make an appointment to talk with a financial aid counselor who can walk you through what you should apply for and what options are available.
Always mention your military status, whether you’re currently active duty or not — you never know what programs you may be eligible for.
Seek out scholarships
In addition to inquiring about financial aid, you should independently search for scholarships online. Sites like FastWeb offer scholarships that you might be eligible for, and apps like Scholly make applying for scholarships simple, no matter where you are based. Don’t hesitate to apply for any scholarship that fits your qualifications — you don’t want to pass up free money.
Contact the military
The G.I. Bill helps veterans further their educations and transition back to civilian life. Some of the benefits include full payment of tuition and fees, so you won’t need loans even if you’re attending school online. The Monthly Housing Allowance, or the MHA, can provide you with over $600/month to help out with your cost of living. Additionally, you may be able to get $1000 for books and supplies. Go to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to see your options.
Figuring out how to afford college as an adult can seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of resources that can help. Do your research and write down a plan. If you aren’t sure how to fit college into your current budget, you can contact your financial institution to talk to someone who can help figure out the day-to-day realities of paying for school. They can also advise you on how you can pay off your loans once you graduate.