For some university freshmen, the biggest worry isn’t how they’ll get along with their roommates—it’s how they’ll continue to house, feed, clothe, and otherwise care for them.
Mature students—often already with established lives and families—who choose to go back to school are faced with the daunting challenges of balancing university coursework and adult responsibilities, like mortgages and childcare. It’s not just university tuition and fees—it’s everything else, too.
1. Grant Programs
Individual grants are difficult to get—you need to be brave and ask.
There are grants out there for childcare, mortgage repayment, and single parents. While they won’t come directly from your university, you should contact your school’s financial aid office to point you in the right direction.
Some of these grants aren’t advertised—you have to ask. If you are in good standing with your lenders, you can explain to them what you’re doing and why, and ask them if they offer scholarship funding for folks in your position.
Some universities offer an older student’s allowance, at the beginning of a course. If you’re unsure where to look for these, contact your school’s financial aid office.
2. Government Funding
This is a bit easier to find and to apply for, but you still have to do your homework.
In the US, check out the federal guide to grants and scholarships through the US Department of Education. You’ll have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and submit it. Pay attention to due dates.
You may qualify for a federal grant which you don’t have to repay, or a federal loan, which has the benefit of a low interest rate.
3. Continue to Work
Ensure your funding by earning it—yourself. While this method requires a lot from you, there are benefits.
Talk to your employer about working part-time and arranging your course schedule around your work schedule. This keeps you in the game as far as work goes, and gives you the time, space—and money—to pursue your degree.
Another benefit? You can probably keep your benefits and have some leftover cash to help support your family.
4. Student Loans
These are different from grants and scholarships in that you have to pay them back. Federal loans generally have low interest rates and can be more difficult to secure than private loans. Here’s the thing to keep in mind with private student loans: the interest rates are often high and they’re not locked in. Do your homework. If you’ve applied for all the loans on your list and you still don’t feel great about your financial situation, ask about other loans. Talk to your lender and your financial aid office.