A lot of the resources available to college students are tailored to “traditional students,” or students who attend college directly after graduating high school. While traditional students tend to make up the majority of college students, they’re not the only demographic. In fact, for many, the college experience is a much different reality than the stereotypes associated with college students.
While there is some overlap in the resources available to nontraditional and traditional students for funding their education, in some cases, the loans and financial aid available for nontraditional and traditional students are different. If you are a nontraditional student, here is some helpful information on the loans and scholarships for which you may be eligible.
Unlike traditional students—who are students that attend college soon after graduating high school—nontraditional students are generally “independent students”— a term used by the Department of Education to differentiate students and the loans for which they are eligible. In general, independent students can qualify for higher student loan limits than dependent students. Some of the groups a nontraditional student could fall into include:
- Part-time students
- Single parents
- Married individuals
- Students who are older than 24
- Individuals who are returning to school after originally dropping out
Just like dependent students, independent students can use financial aid, loans, and scholarships to help fund their education.
Scholarships for Nontraditional Students
The first strategy for funding your education—whether you are a nontraditional or traditional student—should be to apply for scholarships. There are a lot of scholarships that are specifically tailored to nontraditional students. Websites like Scholarship Owl, Unigo, and Scholly are great resources for researching scholarships for nontraditional students. These sites allow you to set filters in accordance with the characteristics you qualify for. Applying for as many scholarships as possible is the best way to reduce the number of loans you’ll need to borrow.
Financial Aid for Nontraditional Students
Just like traditional students, nontraditional students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for federal financial aid. The FAFSA requires you to submit information related to your financial situation, including your income, assets, and any money made from investments.
The main difference between filling out the FAFSA as a nontraditional student is that you won’t need to submit your parent’s financial information. Most traditional students who go to college out of high school are dependents, meaning their parent’s finances are used to decide the amount of financial aid they are eligible for. As an independent student, you are only required to submit your personal financial information.
You have to complete the FAFSA each year you’re enrolled, and the financial aid amount may differ from year to year if your circumstances have changed. For example, if you have a child, you may qualify for more financial aid because you’ve added a legal dependent.
Federal Student Loans for Nontraditional Students
As a nontraditional student, you will have to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for student loans. Nontraditional students who classify as independents can receive up to $57,500 in undergrad student loans and $138,500 in grad school loans—both of which are higher than the limits available to dependent students.
Private Student Loans for Nontraditional Students
Private student loans don’t require you to fill out the FAFSA and usually have higher loan limits than the loans offered by the government. However, these loans tend to have higher interest rates and less flexibility for repayment. In general, it’s best to pursue federal loans before opting for private loans.
See If Your State Offers Grants for Nontraditional students
Some states offer specific grants for nontraditional students. You can check the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ list of state grants to see if there are any you are eligible for. These grants tend to apply to students who are attending college in-state, but there are some state grants offered to students who choose to go out of state.
Contact a Skilled Arizona Student Loan Lawyer Today
Navigating student loans as a nontraditional student can be complicated. However, it’s important to educate yourself on all the variables and factors embedded in different loan agreements to ensure you will be able to handle the terms once you graduate. If you are struggling to make your monthly payments, you should seek professional guidance from a student loan attorney. An experienced student loan lawyer can explain all the factors of your loan and the best strategies for locking in a monthly payment that is best for you.
At McCarthy Law, our attorneys are dedicated to helping students navigate the complexities of the student loan system. Under our student loan debt settlement program, our licensed attorneys negotiate with lenders to ensure our clients pay only a fraction of their original loan balance. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled student loan settlement attorneys, call (855) 976-5777 or fill out our online contact form.