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Tip Tips10 Tips for Adult Students to Maximize Financial Aid

1. Apply early, as soon as possible after January 1st, by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Also, check into state aid opportunities. Don't wait until the last minute to apply for financial aid. Most colleges have a limited amount of institutional grant funds to award and when it's depleted students may only be eligible for federal and state programs (i.e, the Pell grant and Stafford student loans.) You don't have to wait until you are admitted to a program to apply.

2. Look for ways to accelerate your degree program. There are several college level examinations that you can take (i.e., the College Level Examination Program and DANTES) as well as college departmental challenge exams to gain credit. Look into possible portfolio credit opportunities for your work experience or prior learning. Portfolio credit may consist of credit for corporate training, professional licensure or certification, or other competency credit. These strategies can result in significant time and cost savings. Another way to accelerate your degree program to take courses in an accelerated learning format. Courses can be completed in six or eight week blocks. These classes are fast paced and present a large volume of information so are not for everyone, but they can help shorten the length of time you are in school and help you attain your degree for a much lower price.

3. If you are working toward a four-year degree, consider taking the first two years of general education coursework at a community college. The tuition is much lower and most schools have articulation (or transfer) agreements with four-year colleges and universities. (A community college articulation agreement outlines the course credits that can be transferred toward a bachelor's degree at the four-year school.) Another cost effective strategy is to take college courses online or through correspondence - they are often less expensive than traditional courses and often allow you to work at your own pace.

4. Reduce the expense of textbooks. Textbook prices are escalating. Before the semester starts, get a syllabus for the classes you are taking and arrange to borrow the necessary textbooks from the public or college library. If you need to purchase the textbooks, research prices from online stores to find the best price. Many times you can get a used edition of the textbook for much less than those offered in the college bookstore.

5. Research college and university grants, as well as private scholarships. Many colleges offer academic merit or talent scholarships, and often provide special scholarships just for adult students or single parents. Make an appointment to meet with the financial aid advisor at your school's financial aid office. He/she can help you find additonal resources, and when new opportunities become available, can contact you to let you know.

6. Check associations and organizations affiliated with your field of study for scholarships, as well as community and professional foundations. There are scholarships provided for certain ethnicities (African American, Hispanic, Native American, etc.) or members of various religious organizations. Financial aid is also available for military veterans and disabled persons.

7. Ask your employer about tuition assistance (TAP) programs. To be eligible for assistance, your degree plan should directly relate to your position or place of business. According to the College Board, nearly 86 percent of large corporations offer some type of tuition assistance for employees. TAP programs are usually administered through the human resources department or are part of an employees benefits package. If you belong to a union, check to see if they offer any scholarships.

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