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Strategies For Non-Traditional Students Part III

(Continued from 2)

9. Take Advantage of Your Community.

As an adult student, you most likely have many ties to your community. You have built relationships with your church, neighbors, the schools your kids attend, family and friends, social or professional organizations, and the many other relationships you have.

By virtue of having established yourself in your community, you very well may have many more resources available to you that you have not thought of before. Take advantage of the time you have spent establishing yourself in your community.

Day care is a big issue for many non-traditional students. Quite a few schools now offer on-site day care at very good rates or have negotiated special prices at local day care centers. Check with your school's administration office to find out. Community colleges in particular tend to have a lot of students who are in the same position as you and therefore also tend to have more resources available to single parents. Try to make friends with some of your classmates and see if you can trade baby-sitting with them.

Active in your church? See if your church can help you. Do they have a day care center? Can you team up with another parishioner to share baby-sitting duties? Does your church offer scholarships? It never ceases to amaze me how much help churches of all faiths offer their members. One student, a single parent, spoke with her pastor. He made an announcement at the end of the service asking if anyone could help her by watching her kids. Fourteen people volunteered. A minor miracle if I dare say so!

Don't be afraid to try and negotiate with your current day care provider. See if they might be willing to reduce your price a bit, say, in exchange for you posting flyers about them on campus, telling your fellow single parent friends about them, or maybe even in exchange for you working for them one afternoon a week. Talk with your neighbors to see if you can help each other out with child care needs.

Check with all the social and professional groups you may be a member of, including labor unions. Chamber of commerce member? Association of Professional Wrestlers? Many professional and social organizations offer scholarships to their members. Explore this area thoroughly.

Talk with your neighbors, family, and friends. They may be more willing to help you than you realize. Granted they may not be able to help you financially, but they very well may be able to help you with running errands, shopping, cooking, child care, or even studying! This help can be far more valuable than money.

I share this letter from Michelle Beninghoff with great honor:

"My next-door neighbor, Helen, never graduated high school. When I told her I wanted to go back to college she said I was nuts. She knew I had flunked out of college after a year when I was 18. In my mind, I had failed already, so I could not do any worse than I already had. It was worth the risk. She thought that we were too old to learn, that it was already too late for us. We made a promise to each other: I would help her get her GED, and she would help me survive my first semester.

GED classes were Saturday afternoon and Wednesday night. My classes were Saturday afternoon, Tuesday and Thursday nights. Helen came up with a plan: Under threat of having to do their own laundry, she told our husbands that they would have to watch the kids every Saturday and cook dinner. All of our kids, seven between us. On the nights that I was in class, she would watch all the kids and cook dinner for both families. It takes only a bit more food and time to cook for 11 people than it does for 5 or 6. On the nights she was in class, I did the same thing: Watch all of our kids and cook dinner for both families. We always ate dinner at the house of whoever cooked, and quite often, the kids ended up spending the night, exhausted. Since Helen only had classes two days a week I watched her kids on Sunday afternoon so she could study in peace.

November 22, 1993: Helen got her GED, with the top scores in her class. A month later I finished my first semester with two A's and one B. In January 1994, barely two months after getting her GED at the age of 41, Helen entered college for the first time. In three weeks we are both graduating. Together. (May 1st, 1999)"

10. What You Should Not Do.

  • Assume the answer is "no" before you ask the question.
  • Give up without trying.
  • Fail to pay attention to important deadlines, especially add/drop deadlines and financial aid deadlines.
  • Deplete your emergency or retirement savings.
  • Pay for "guaranteed" scholarship searches or to have your FAFSA filled out.
  • Risk losing your home with multiple equity loans (third or fourth mortgages!)
  • Overload yourself with student loans for the first year. Better to take a few classes first to see if you really are ready for this before you become indebted to the point where you are choking!
  • Give up during the first day of classes! Wait another week or so!

First published on FreSch! The Free Scholarship Search Service, 2007. Reprinted with permission of the author.

For more information about scholarships, see Financial Aid.

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