Back to School: Funding Your Dream
by Donna Kiser
First, realize you have a dream and that you desire
to reach it. You would think this was the easy part...
however for some, myself included, this can be the most
difficult point to reach when you are 40 something years
You may have considered going back to school when
it dawned on you that your middle management corporate
career was really a dead end position, but you still
trudged onward. After all, its what you know.
You may have given school deeper thought when you began
to dread getting up every morning. Unfortunately, there
are millions that feel that way, and in our society,
we continue on because we feel we're supposed to.
You'll make that final decision when you discover that
what youre doing with the 40+ hours of your life
each week is useless. When a new day no longer excites
you and youre not eager to perform your daily
functions, youll make the leap to change those
daily functions. When your children are grown, raising
families of their own, you'll suddenly experience that
middle age enlightenment of how precious each moment
is and how ridiculous it is to waste even one.
Once that point is reached, youll begin to look
at what really excites you, what you love to do, and
youll realize what your dreams have been all along.
Once you realize your path, then you will have the desire
to attain it, because desire is where the ability lies.
If its truly the path you want to follow, then
you will find, as I did, the challenge of how to do
it as exciting as doing it. After a few semesters into
the pursuit of your dream, youll not regret the
day you walked out of the office and onto the campus.
So you know what your dream is and now youre
going for it. Good! Funding it, regardless of the field,
can be both overwhelming and exhilarating. There are
plenty of grants available, both federal and local,
and you should definitely apply for all and any, beginning
with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA),
which is accessible
online. Your prior year's tax return and adjusted
gross income will be required for these applications.
Although the Federal FAFSA is the primary application,
your state and your university may require that you
submit an additional form (for example, many colleges
require the CSS
Be aware that if you do not have dependents and have
a history of a good income, you may be ineligible for
many need-based grants. The important thing is not to
get discouraged - there are many other opportunities
out there for funding. Too, after a semester or two
of side jobs and a re-invented lifestyle, youll
be eligible for additional grants. Possibly a small
local grant for older women returning to school and
the low-interest Federal Stafford loan are enough to
allow part-time status, which gets the foot in the door
of the college where more financial
aid opportunities exist.
One in particular that has served several purposes,
and one highly recommended, is Americorps.
It provides a small monthly stipend, a $1,200-$1,500
scholarship, and a sense of fulfillment.
is a national organization that serves a wide range
of community areas utilizing varied talents and skills,
which is something youve spent all
these years acquiring. Use them! Whatever area of expertise
or passion, they have a volunteer position that will
help you meet your goals while contributing to your
community. You may choose working with seniors, and
for 20 hours weekly, they may place you at an adult
day care where you might lead a writing workshop and
a reading group
all perfectly coinciding with your
dream. You feed your passion, get paid to do it, fund
your continuing education in it and enrich the lives
of others. What better way to spend 20 hours of your