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Stephanie LyncheskScholarship Dollars for Returning Students

The money is there. Financial aid administrators tell you how to find it

By Stephanie Lyncheski

Finding the right scholarship is not easy. It can be a tedious, confusing and downright frustrating job. However, the rewards can be great. Here, some “scholarship pros” offer advice on the nuts and bolts on finding money for returning students.

“The most important thing is to file any financial forms early,” suggests Maryann Gelato at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Also, contact the financial aid office of the school to find out about any scholarships the university offers.”

Will Limban, Assistant Director of Admissions at The Art Institute of Phoenix, says that there are many scholarships waiting to be claimed. “There are some specifically geared toward women, there are some for those that have been at other schools. We hear of different scholarships and loan opportunities all the time.”

Alice Olson, Director of Continuing Education at Sarah Lawrence College, brings 13 years of expertise and this advice to the table. “It's not as easy as some might lead you to believe. I think there is a great myth that tens of thousands of scholarship dollars go unspent each year because no one applied for them. It's true that there are lots of scholarships out there, but the criteria for eligibility are generally very closely defined and reach only a tiny universe of applicants.” She continues with the positive side of scholarship searching, “The fact that it's difficult shouldn't stop students from trying. I have had students succeed in finding a fund, making an application, and getting as much as $2000, renewable for up to three years.” That's quite a payoff to fill out an application.

Limban directs students to the library or to the Internet to facilitate their search. Some Websites that may be helpful include FastAid and FreSch! These sites prompt a person to fill out a general questionnaire and then perform a search based on the entered criteria.

Gelato agrees with Limban's advice. “Returning students can search the databases on the Web and also scholarship books. Most public libraries and local colleges and universities have these books. They might even have some geared to returning adult students.” Gelato suggests one book in particular, the Back to School Money Book for older women returning to college, while Olson suggests a book entitled Financial Aid Resources for Women.

Checking out the organizations to where you belong might also be helpful. Fraternities, sororities, and honor societies may offer scholarships to alumni or current members. Don't depend on only one source for information. Private scholarships often aren't advertised so you should inquire with individual universities, professional organizations, churches, clubs and other interest groups. Often employers provide tuition reimbursement as do military programs. Another source of private scholarships are local libraries.

Scholarships are not limited to those with a 4.0 GPA. Some have a base criteria of an average GPA and focus on career interests, extracurricular activities, ethnicity, or gender.

The most difficult part is diligence, but the harder you work at the search, the more options you will find. Limban explains his philosophy in finding scholarships. “I would tell students that the results are dependent upon the work that one puts into this search. What's satisfying is to see so many organizations out there that do want to help.”

Stephanie Lyncheski is a freelance writer and college professor living in Phoenix, Arizona. She has a Master of Arts degree in Communications from Marquette University and is currently working on a Master of Education degree in Educational Psychology.

Additional Resources:

Scholarships for Re-entry Students: Grants and Retraining Assistance for Adults Returning to College.
Special 89 page report available for immediate download. Find the money to go back to school today.

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