Navigating the Scholarship Space as a Non-Traditional Student


There are billions of dollars of scholarship opportunities that currently exist to help students cover the rising costs of attending college. Among those billions of dollars of scholarships out there, there exists a specific category of scholarship programs that specifically target non-traditional college students. 

Seeing as many non-traditional students have experienced financial challenges which might have previously prevented them from pursuing a “traditional” college experience, these scholarships specifically act as a gateway to allowing non-traditional students the financial security that they need to help them bounce back and continue to pursue a higher education degree. 

Despite the fact that there is an abundance of scholarships and resources out there for non-traditional students, these opportunities often get overshadowed by programs that appeal to students who are navigating along a “more traditional” path to completing higher education. So, in this post, I am going to highlight some of the best scholarship opportunities, organizations, and resources that are designed specifically for the non-traditional student niche.


Where to search for scholarships as a non-traditional student

It is important to look high and low, as well as far and wide when it comes to searching for the places that non-traditional students can find scholarship opportunities. In addition to the scholarships provided by the college or university that you are enrolled in, you can find scholarships sponsored by companies, non-profit organizations, professional associations, and perhaps even your current employer if you have one. 


Resources and scholarships for non-traditional students

General scholarships


The Association for non-traditional students in higher education

ANTSHE believes that “yesterday’s non-traditional student is today’s traditional student”. Their mission is to provide financial support to all kinds of non-traditional students. In order to be eligible to apply for their four scholarship opportunities, you must be at least 23 years old and be a registered ANTSHE member.


Imagine America Foundation

The Imagine America Foundation has an Adult Skills Education Program (ASEP), which provides scholarships to adult learners who are interested in attending trade school. In addition to their scholarships, they also have a “Road Map to Student Success” resource which can help you to learn career-related skills and get access to job opportunities. 


American Legion Foundation 

The American Legion Foundation offers a $2,000/year Non-Traditional Student Scholarship, which helps members of the American Legion to pursue a college degree later in life or pick up where they left off. The scholarship deadline is March 1 of every year and is open to students pursuing a 2-year, 4-year, or trade school degree.


For Women 


Society of Women Engineers 

The Society of Women Engineers offers hundreds of scholarship opportunities for women who are studying in community college, baccalaureate, or graduate programs and preparing for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science. Their non-traditional scholarships apply to women who have been out of school for a minimum of 2 years, and there is no minimum GPA requirement to apply. 


Jeannette Rankin Women’s Fund

The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Fund supports low-income women ages 35 and older who are pursuing a technical, vocational, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree in the US. Their scholarships are renewable for up to 5 years.


Executive Women International 

Executive Women International offers the ASIST (Adult Students in Scholastic Transition) Scholarship. It is open to members of their chapters (which are based across the US) who are looking to improve their situation through pursuing higher education. Their scholarships range in amounts from $2,000 to $10,000.


University-linked scholarship programs 


Boundless Opportunity Scholarships 

The Boundless Opportunity Scholarship is open to non-traditional students attending a 2 or 4-year college or university in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, or Wyoming. The application process is managed through each individual school partner. Click here to see the list of participating schools. 


Osher Foundation Scholarships 

Osher Scholarships are offered through dozens of colleges and universities across the US, to students between the ages of 25 and 50 who have experienced an interruption in their education of five or more years and who want to resume their education at the undergraduate level.


General resources 

College for Adults

College for Adults is an awesome resource helping non-traditional students navigate all aspects of the returning-to-college process. Their site helps with career planning, college applications, and also provides information regarding the financial aspects of going back to school.


Student Aid – File your FAFSA!

Last, but certainly not least, is the website where students can file for the FAFSA, which is federal student aid. Federal aid comes in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans. The application process is free and is completely open to students of all ages and educational situations. 

About the author

Ayden Berkey is the co-founder of Access Scholarships, a free scholarship search engine resource connecting students with scholarships and other resources to help them succeed.  

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