19 Scholarships for Adults That’ll Help You to Go Back to School This Year
Heading back to school is a rite of passage for every student, from preschoolers to high school seniors. Increasingly, adults are also returning to higher education to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree that will help them change careers or beef up their paychecks.
But adult learners face significant barriers to attend college, including piling student loan debt on top of an already precarious household budget. Fortunately, there are several scholarships for adults that attempt to ease the financial burden of becoming a student again. We’ve identified grants, too, that offer nontraditional students a way to earn a degree without setting them back a decade in their financial goals.
How Adult Students Are Defined Differently from High School Seniors?
While eligibility requirements will vary depending on the scholarship, an adult student (or “nontraditional student”) is generally anyone beyond the age of a high school senior. This might be someone who took a break between high school and college or someone in the workforce looking to return to school. It might also be a single parent, a later-in-life learner or a graduate student looking for financial relief from their accumulating student loans. In other words, “adult student” can mean a lot of things.
The key thing to hone in on for these scholarships is whatever makes your application stand out and to make sure that you have the qualifications to apply for the specific scholarship. Some of them are for women exclusively and others are for specific majors.
What could make your application stand out could be your status as a single parent, or it might be that you want to go back to school to further your career in a specific industry— like hospitality or engineering. It might also be that you can demonstrate financial need, which many scholarships will ask about.
Whenever searching for scholarships, you should also consider what kind of degree you’re hoping to get, since some scholarships may be specifically for undergraduate or graduate degrees, while others are for those attending a vocational school.
If the costly college application process is breaking your budget, see how to apply for free or qualify for application waivers.
Financial Aid Opportunities for All College Students
One tip before you read through these opportunities: Fill out the FAFSA! There’s no age limit to receive federal financial aid, including Pell Grants, which you don’t have to pay back after graduation.
The FAFSA doesn’t just help you get financial aid from your school. Some financial-need-based scholarship applications require information from your FAFSA, as well.
19 College Scholarships for Adults and Other Nontraditional Students
Once you sign and submit your aid application, check out the following scholarships for adult students. Many adult students will find they qualify for these awards if they return to an accredited college to pursue a graduate or undergraduate degree.
1. Ford Opportunity Scholarships
One of the largest scholarship programs in the country for adult learners is run by the Ford Family Foundation. The Ford Opportunity Scholarship provides 96 renewable scholarships of up to $40,000 per year.
These awards are issued to parents of any age or adult students over 25 seeking to earn a college degree and reside in Oregon or Siskiyou County, California. Applications open annually on Dec. 1 and close on March 1.
2. Alpha Sigma Lambda Scholarships
Alpha Sigma Lambda (ASL), the honor society for nontraditional students, offers scholarships of varying amounts. Applicants don’t need to be members of their school’s ASL chapter, but they must attend a school with an active chapter and submit applications to a chapter councilor for review.
You must be enrolled in an associate’s or bachelor’s program and have completed 24 semester hours of coursework with at least a 3.2 GPA.
This scholarship requires a personal statement and a faculty recommendation, and applicants must demonstrate financial need.
For the 2024-25 academic year, ASL plans to open applications for adult scholarships in January 2024.
3. College JumpStart Scholarship
The College JumpStart Scholarship is open to nontraditional students and provides a $1,000 scholarship to a student who works hard, perseveres and has a love of learning. Financial need and test scores aren’t considered.
Applicants must submit a 250-word personal statement based on one of a handful of required prompts. You must be enrolled in a two- or four-year college or a vocational school or have plans to enroll in the next 12 months.
The fall deadline to apply to attend college under the spring JumpStart scholarship is Oct. 17, 2023.
4. Courage to Grow Scholarship
Any college student with at least a 2.5 GPA may apply for this $500 scholarship that recognizes one winner at the end of each month. Applicants must explain why they deserve the scholarship in 250 words or less. The award is sent directly to the winner’s school.
Some previous winners listed on the site mentioned they applied several times before being selected.
If you’re a senior adult, you can take college courses for free or cheap, and many institutions offer the chance to earn credits toward a degree. Here’s how to find them in every state.
5. Dr. Angela Grant Memorial Scholarship
Cancer survivors or students with family members affected by cancer may apply for a scholarship worth up to $5,000.
Applicants must write an essay outlining their personal achievements and career goals, and give two personal references. Undergraduate and graduate students may apply between Jan. 1 and May 1, with one to three scholarships available to be awarded annually
6. Boomer Benefits Scholarship
The age restrictions on this scholarship are exactly what they sound like. The Boomer Benefits Scholarship is designed for most adult students 50 or older who are currently attending college in an accredited undergraduate program or working to earn a graduate degree.
Two scholarships of $2,500 will be awarded annually. The current deadline for applications is Aug. 27, 2023.
7. Executive Women International ASIST Scholarship
Executive Women International (EWI) offers the Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) scholarship to women and men looking to improve their economic outlook through education. Applicants must apply through their school’s chapter. Qualified applicants move to a national round where EWI awards 13 additional scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.
The application period opens each January.
EWI gives preference to applicants facing economic, social or physical challenges.
8. Imagine America Adult College Grants
Adult students attending or enrolled in an eligible Adult Skills Education Program (ASEP) can apply for a $1,000 award from the Imagine America Foundation.
Interested students must complete the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) Student Success Assessment before submitting their application.
9. Niche “No Essay” Sweepstakes Scholarship
Set up a free Niche account to enter this monthly sweepstakes with a $2,000 cash prize. This scholarship is open to all high school seniors, college or graduate students who plan to enroll within the next 12 months. The scholarship can be used to cover any education-related expenses, including tuition, books or even housing.
New winners are selected every month and there’s no limit to how many months you can apply throughout the year!
10. Return 2 College Scholarship Program
Anyone 17 and up who is starting college in the next year or is already enrolled can apply for this $1,000 scholarship.
You must submit a three-sentence essay that explains why you are getting a degree. If three sentences doesn’t seem like enough, no worries — you can submit up to 12 entries to more fully explain your academic goals. Awardees can use the scholarship toward any level degree.
If you meet the eligibility requirements, apply soon. The next deadline is Sept. 30, 2023.
11. ‘Scholarship Detective’ Launch Scholarship
Scholarship Detective is a new site devoted to helping prospective college students find money for higher education. To celebrate the site launch, they’re offering to put their money where their search engine is.
If you explain how you’d use this scholarship money in less than 140 characters, you can apply for one of two $1,000 scholarships. The deadline is Aug. 31, 2023.
12. SuperCollege Scholarship
Any student pursuing higher education or planning to start may enter this annual random drawing for $1,000 — only incomplete applications will be disqualified. The winner may use the money for tuition, books or any other education-related expense.
The deadline for the next scholarship is Aug. 31, 2023.
You have your own tuition to worry about, but do you also have college-bound kids? Here’s how to help them pay for college without sinking your own financial ship.
13. Unigo $10K Scholarship
If you’re enrolled in college, you can apply for this $10,000 award. Applicants must write a 250-word essay on the following topic: Would you rather be smart, funny or rich … and why?
The deadline is Dec. 31, 2023.
Visit Unigo for a list of the website’s other scholarships. There’s something for everyone, and the essay requirements are usually brief!
14. Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship
This highly competitive scholarship awards up to $55,000 per year (for up to three years) to winning students who plan to attend a four-year college to earn an undergraduate degree. While there’s no age limit, this scholarship is generally meant for students in community colleges who are transferring to accredited colleges in order to complete a bachelor’s degree.
The application requires you to complete several short essays, provide recommendations and include details on your college goals and current financial situation, and gives priority to those with real financial need.
The next application window opens on Oct. 5, 2023 and closes Jan. 11, 2024.
Scholarships for Women and Non-Binary Students Only
Here are five scholarships available to adult women or adult students who identify as women or non-binary.
15. Jeannette Rankin National Scholar Grant
Lower income women and nonbinary students ages 35 and older who are working on a technical or vocational education, an associate degree or their first bachelor’s degree are invited to apply for this scholarship fund.
The Jeannette Rankin Foundation also offers the Emerge Grant for women or nonbinary students who are older than 25 and living in Georgia or Montana. The grant can be renewed for up to five years.
The application for 2023-2024 has closed, but 2024-2025 scholarships will be awarded, and deadlines for application should be announced soon.
16. PEO Program for Continuing Education Scholarship
PEO offers a maximum $3,000 grant to a woman in the United States or Canada whose educational journey has been interrupted.
The need-based grant is open to any woman who has had at least 24 consecutive months as a non-student sometime in her adult life and is within 18 consecutive months of completing her degree.
Applicants must do an interview at the chapter level to qualify. Contact your local chapter to apply.
17. Society of Women Engineers Scholarship
Women-identifying students studying full-time for their bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering, technology or computer science may apply for various scholarships from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
Nontraditional students and re-entering students who have been out of school for a minimum of two years prior to the beginning of the current course of study can apply. The scholarship is available to full- and part-time students entering any year, including graduate school.
Sophomores through graduate students typically apply between December and February, while first-year students apply between February and March.
18. Patsy Mink Education Support Award
In 2023, the Patsy Mink Foundation offered five Education Support Awards of up to $ 5,000 to assist low-income women with children who were pursuing education or training at an accredited college or other educational institution.
Although applications are currently closed for the 2023-2024 academic year, the award is expected to be reissued in 2024, so check the site for updates on these private scholarships.
19. Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award
Issued annually, the Live Your Dream Award offers three levels of cash awards up to $16,000 for educational expenses to eligible women who provide primary financial support for dependents.
Eligible applicants can submit their application between Aug. 1 and Nov. 15.
Kaz Weida is a senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder covering saving money and budgeting. As a journalist, she has written about a wide array of topics including finance, health, politics, education and technology for the last decade. Lisa Rowan contributed to this post.