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Question: I am 23 and a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a B.A. in Communications. After a year of trouble finding an entry-level position due to the economy and my lack of an internship during college, I have decided that I want to go back and pursue a degree in my true passion (computer science).

After a meeting with college advisors I will be taking a general computer course at the community college in my town during the summer to make sure that I like the field, but I had a few questions in regard to how I should approach this decision. My parents took up the loans for 4 out of my 5 years in college so I currently owe $17,000 ($27,000 after interest) in college loans. My parents say they will not co-sign on another loan for me to go back to school.

Q1. I was wondering if there were any grants or financial aid available to someone who already has a degree? Due to me working a full-time job and being somewhat immature in college I only recieved a 2.69 GPA if that would be a factor.

Q2. As I currently work as a concierge for an assisted living facility part-time, would I still be required to list my parent's income applying for grants or scholarships? My current yearly income is a frail $12,000 year.

Q3. I ideally want to go to a university out of state to pursue my second degree. I hope to embrace a fresh change and focus on achieving the high GPA and internships that I should have during my last college stay. Would a mid-tier university take a chance on an individual that graduated college with a 2.69 GPA?

Q4. Overall, what are my options given my current situation? Due to the fact that I currently have been deferring only $17,000 worth of college loans, I am open to taking on 2-3 years of college debt to help my career. Most out-of-state college expenses are high, so any financial aid or grants would lessen the strain on my wallet upon graduation. I would like to enroll in a university for the Spring or Fall semesters (if Fall isn't an option due to most grants and aid already being given). I have done a bevvy of research on the topic and I can't seen to find anything concrete so I have no where left to turn as my school advisors aren't very helpful. Thank you for your time and I really appreciate your willingness to help people like myself. Any response would be very appreciated as the right information is hard to find. Thank you so much. - Marc

Answer: Marc, sounds like you have two main issues about going to graduate school – low GPA and cost. You should first decide which college or university you plan to attend. Due to your financial issues, you may want to think about attending an in-state school where the tuition is much less than out-of-state tuition. Financial aid is based on the cost of the school you want to attend – so the higher the tuition, the more aid you will receive, but remember that means more debt to pay off. I did my master’s degree at a good private university and worked at the school to earn free tuition. It was kind of a go-for job, but I was able to meet all the faculty, received a salary, great employee benefits and free tuition for up to two courses each semester. It is a great deal.

I would think you would need more mathematics and technology courses to enter a graduate program in computer science since you did not have an undergraduate degree in the same field. The more courses you take now and receive good grades the more likely you will be able to enter a graduate program. Usually, graduate schools look at your last 30-60 credits for the GPA for admission. As an adult student you will want to have an interview with the graduate admissions department and explain that you are now ready to take on the full responsibilities of further learning. Remember, computer science is generally an “engineering” focused degree. You may want to check into computer information systems, or similar areas. Computer security is also a growing field. The best site to search for scholarships or grants is Fastweb. - Faith

Question: I am 30, just currently got out of the military after five years of serving and have been trying to enroll in various colleges and universities in Arizona but don't seem to be having much luck. Before I entered active duty, I was a student who was paying his own way through school. After working 50+ hours a week paying for tuition and board, I saw that it wasn't working so I enlisted instead, hoping that when I got out the VA would pay for my tuition. This is, of course, now covered by the G.I. Bill, but I have a new problem. Unfortunately, my previous college GPA had become abysmally low (2.3), and the colleges I apply to are rejecting me. I had earned 97 credits in my previous university, and was hoping to transfer at least some of them. Am I out of luck here, or is there some way to get around the entrance requirements with my low GPA score? - Eric

Answer: Eric, I would suggest you contact the school you attended and see if there is any way you can complete your degree from their college. You are so close to graduating with so many credits from their school. They may work with you since you served in the military and are now ready to devote the time and effort necessary to be a good student. You might be able to do online or distance classes to complete your degree.

Contact the Registrar at that campus. If, after speaking with them, you do need to apply for admission at another school, ask the admission’s counselor what you would have to do to get into their school. Often times they recommend that you take community college courses (they will tell you the specific courses to take) and boost your GPA. They may also suggest that you take courses at their school on a special student status. They should not just tell you that you cannot be admitted, they should tell you what you need to do to get admitted. As an adult student, admission departments should understand that you have served in the military and have much more discipline after that experience to enter college with a more mature attitude. If necessary, talk directly to, or interview with the Director of Admissions to the school you would like to enter. - Faith


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