Adult StudentsPerhaps you have never attended college, or would like to return to college after a long break. Either way, you can apply for federal and state student aid to help you pay for college when you are enrolled in a degree or certificate program. There are no age limits and most people receive some kind of student aid to attend college. Start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – the FAFSA. And, if you are a New York State resident and plan to attend college, either full or part-time at a New York college, you may be eligible for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a State need-based grant that does not have to be paid back. Review all of your financial aid options in the Paying for College section.
Guidance for Specific Circumstances
Military and Veterans
If you are an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces or a veteran, review your student aid options in the Military Corner.
Returning to College
If you have previous college credits (not earned while in high school), speak with a transfer counselor at the college you plan to attend about transferring your credits. Review the Transfer Students section for additional information. If you wish to re-enter the college or university where you were previously matriculated, you may be eligible for readmission. Contact the admissions office for details.
Never Attended College
Congratulations! It’s never too late to earn a college degree and there are many schools and programs to choose from.
High School Equivalency
All colleges and trade schools require a high school diploma. If you don’t have one, you can still go to college, but you will need to earn a high school equivalency first. Learn more about earning your high school equivalency.
Unemployed workers receiving unemployment benefits may qualify for additional education and training at a college or trade and technical school. Review Opportunity.gov, a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor.
Programs for Adult StudentsResearch your options
Many colleges and universities offer degree programs with classes held in the evenings, on weekends, online, or a blend of several methods. Some colleges also have divisions with programs especially tailored for adult students.
For example, the institution may have an Adult Division that only admits students older than age 21. Frequently, classes are offered at times that are more convenient to students who have other day-time or work-week obligations. An additional distinction is that adult students are often defined as independent students for financial aid eligibility.
College credit for life experiences
The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) helps students receive credit for life experiences and is the most widely-accepted credit-by-examination program; CLEP exams are accepted at 2,900 colleges and universities nationwide.
Many colleges, community colleges and universities offer college credit for life experience. Each college has its own requirements and policies. Here are a few you may consider:
Regional BOCES programs across the State offer specialized training for adult students. The programs vary by region, but often include career training programs such as:
- Skilled and technical trades
- Health related occupations
- Computer training
- High school equivalency preparation
- English as Second Language
- Am I able to take one class or do I have to go full time (12–15 credits)?
- When you register for classes, you have the option to fully matriculate (enroll in a degree-granting program), or register as a non-matriculated student (take courses without earning a degree). Matriculated full-time students have access to more financial aid, scholarships and grants. Matriculated part-time students have fewer financial aid options, but are still eligible for some programs. In general, non-matriculated students have few financial aid options. Check with the financial aid office at your college for details.
- I know I want to enroll at a certain college; where do I begin?
- Research the college you are most interested in attending. Schedule a campus visit and meet with an admissions representative. If you can’t visit or are more comfortable speaking with an admissions counselor on the phone or via email, be sure you have reviewed the campus website and guidebooks and prepared your questions carefully. As an adult learner, you may not need to take standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT tests. Learn more about the college application process.
- How can I afford a college or university?
- Find out the institution’s costs and what the average financial aid package is for adult/returning students. Also ask what percentage of students receives financial aid, what scholarships or grants are offered at the college and the qualifications needed to be awarded aid. Veterans and members of the military may be eligible for additional financial aid. Learn more. (link to Military section – Pay) Always be realistic about your finances.
- Don’t wait to be accepted before applying for financial aid! The first step in applying for financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – the FAFSA. Your college may require additional forms; get details about any additional forms that are required and deadline dates for filing on the college financial aid office website page.
- Always start with free money before taking out a student loan. Grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back. Learn how to apply for financial aid.
- What are my housing options?
- Contact the housing/residential life office to inquire about housing for adult students. If you have a family and will require campus housing, be sure to ask if family housing is available. Most colleges will be able to provide information about off-campus apartments, or at a minimum, recommend a local realtor.
- I need childcare; where can I get help?
- Some colleges offer on-site childcare. There are often certain requirements you must meet to be eligible for this service. Ask the admissions counselor about childcare options on campus.
- How will I know what courses will transfer?
- If you have earned college credit from another college or university, some or all of your credits may transfer to your new college. Take a look at the course equivalencies found on the college website. The college will make the final decision about how and if your college credits or credits for life experiences will transfer. Speak with a transfer counselor to ask about transfer credit evaluation. Learn more about transferring to another college or university.
- How do I begin the application process?
- Check the college’s website for application procedures
- Some academic programs (such as nursing, teacher education, business or social work) require a separate application to the general application.
- Most colleges and universities prefer that you apply online. Applications are usually found on the college’s admissions page in a link such as “apply now.”
- Know the application deadlines!
- Learn more about college applications.
- Which transcripts do I need to send?
- There are three types: high school, college and military transcripts for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and veterans.
- Request your official transcripts from ALL the colleges you have attended and from your high school, if required by the college.
- For veterans and members of the military, contact your military branch to obtain your transcript.