Independent and Nontraditional Students Financial Assistance
Paying for college can be stressful, especially for students without family financial support. Independent students may struggle to cover college costs. These students comprise a large portion of college learners. Independent status includes married students, parents, those over age 24, military service members, and graduate students.
Fortunately, several available scholarships for independent students can help cover the cost of a degree. This page introduces some scholarships for independent students and nontraditional learners.
Independent Students vs Dependent Students
Scholarships for Older Students (25 years+)
Nontraditional students include anyone over age 25. Older students often bring more life and professional experience to college. They also qualify for several scholarships for older students. Married students also qualify as independent for financial aid purposes. However, few scholarships support married students.
Scholarships for Graduate Students
Many organizations offer scholarships for graduate students based on their degree, career goals, or school. Learn more about graduate student financial aid and see some scholarships below.
Accredited Online College Programs
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Scholarships for Parents and Caregivers
Caregivers and student parents qualify for scholarships when attending college. The following opportunities help those caring for others earn a degree.
Patsy Mink Education Support Scholarship
The Patsy Mink Foundation offers five Education Support Awards each year. The scholarship offers up to $5,000 in financial aid for low-income mothers pursuing education or training. Applicants must be pursuing their first degree at a postsecondary level. They must attend a nonprofit, accredited school that does not discriminate based on gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, or immigration status.
The Custody X Change Single Parent Scholarships
Three parents pursuing an undergraduate degree receive the Single Parent Scholarship each year. The scholarship requires an essay on how applicants will use their education to improve their family. Applicants need primary physical custody of at least one minor child. They need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must enroll full time at an accredited college.
Job-Applications.com Working Parent Scholarship
The Working Parent Scholarship supports parents enrolled in a college program while also working. Applicants can be full-time or part-time students attending an accredited college. The scholarship requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and a work history of at least 12 hours a week for the four weeks before applying. Applicants submit an essay on balancing parenthood, working, and school.
SeniorCare.com Aging Matters Scholarship
The Aging Matters Scholarship provides $1,500 to a student who cares for an aging loved one or works with elderly adults. The scholarship also supports students pursuing a career in elder care. Applicants must enroll in an accredited two-year or four-year college and sumit an essay on why aging matters. Applicants submit their materials in May.
Scholarships for Active Military Students and Veterans
Active-duty military service members and veterans qualify for a variety of educational benefits. In addition to the GI Bill® and other service-related educational support, these students can apply for special scholarships for veterans and opportunities for the dependents of service members and veterans.
Many scholarships apply to in-person and online programs. This allows active-duty military students to earn a college degree while serving.
ANTSHE Nontrad Military Service Award
The Nontrad Military Service Award funds nontraditional students with a record of military service, including current and former service members. Applicants must attend an accredited school and demonstrate drive and perseverance. The scholarship also requires student membership in the Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education.
Army Women's Foundation Legacy Scholarships
The Army Women’s Foundation offers Legacy Scholarships to help women soldiers and their descendents advance their education. The program offers financial support for certificate students, community college programs, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees. The graduate scholarship offers up to $2,500 in financial aid for students with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
HotelPlanner.com College Scholarship Program for Veterans
The HotelPlanner.com Scholarship provides 10 scholarships for veterans each year. Applicants must attend an accredited graduate program related to technology in the U.S. The scholarship committee evaluates applicants based on financial need. Other criteria include military service and an essay. The partner or child of military service members also qualify. The scholarship accepts applications in August and December.
Scholarships for Students With Extenuating Circumstances
Foster care youth, adopted children, emancipated minors, and other students with special circumstances qualify for a variety of scholarships. FAFSA independent status applies to students with several extenuating circumstances. For example, young adults with deceased parents, students in legal guardianship, and homeless youth qualify as independent students.
In addition to the following opportunities, consider scholarships for adopted students and special scholarships for independent students with extenuating circumstances.
How to Find Other Scholarships as an Independent Student
Sorting through dozens or even hundreds of scholarships can feel overwhelming. Independent students can streamline the process by focusing their search. For example, students can look for need-based scholarships or scholarships that include terms like “financial need” “FAFSA required” or “demonstrated need.”
In addition to need-based opportunities, independent students can seek scholarships based on their major, college, future career plans, or identity. Learners can also search for scholarships based on their high school, hometown, county, and membership in any clubs or organizations. National scholarships often receive the most applications. State and local scholarships typically offer a higher chance of receiving financial aid.
Many employers also offer scholarships, grants, and tuition assistance programs to help their employees earn a degree. Some states provide scholarships and grants for particular college programs. Finally, look for unique scholarships and other scholarships for nontraditional students.
Additional Resources: How to Pay for College
Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.
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