5 Financial Aid Secrets Every Mom Who Wants to Go Back to School Should Know

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Heading back to school has its costs. It costs time. It costs energy. More than anything, it costs money!

Still, there is good news for Moms going back to school. Financial Aid is available to you, and it’s the same as every student headed into application season. It might be unchartered territory, and in that case, I’m here to help. Your parents won’t be filling out the FAFSA for you, or reminding you to apply for that scholarship. It’s totally up to you.

You can do it. Here are 5 financial aid secrets for the busy season ahead:

1. Just Apply

Thinking that they won’t qualify for aid too often prevents people from applying. There is no harm in filing your FAFSA or filling out applications for grants and scholarships. There is no age limit, so get that out of your head. Government aid is awarded according to income, scholarships according to merit, and some grants according to student need. Apply for anything and everything—the worst they can say is no. And in reality Federal Aid is awarded to more people than you might think. Don’t count yourself out just yet!

2. Get prepared

Think ahead to the FAFSA. Make sure you know the key dates (listed later) for when filing begins. Get organized so you won’t miss out. Keep track of dates for individual scholarships as well. It’s important to know your stuff and be strategic. You can miss out on thousands by simply missing deadlines. Even if you aren’t sure what school you’ll be going to or aren’t accepted quite yet, it’s okay to apply. Try and come up with a general scholarship essay that you can mold according to the different prompts. If you work ahead of time, application season won’t seem quite as overwhelming.

3. Apply Early

Heading into the FAFSA you’ll want to know a few dates. The first day you can file your FAFSA is January 1. It’s important to submit early. You might not have filed for tax returns or know your exact income but that’s okay. FAFSA allows for estimates and corrections later on. Apply early so you don’t forget. As for scholarships and grants separate from federal aid, there will be different deadlines for each one. This makes getting prepared important. Also, the school you are accepted to will have aid available. Often they have a set budget, so the early bird gets the worm. Apply early for aid before the money runs out!

4. Look for private scholarships & specialty grants

For some students it’s being a student athlete, others it’s their time spent volunteering, and some their career goals. Everyone has a niche when it comes to scholarships. It helps narrow down the search to find the scholarships that apply to the individual. The best part? You have a niche! As a mom going back to school, there are tons of scholarships just for you. Just Google, “scholarships for moms going back to college.” Did you do it? Were you surprised? Follow the links the world of possibilities. Narrow down the search to what applies to you and then apply. You might be surprised.

5. Borrow what you need!

This might not seem like much of a secret. It should be a no brainer! Still, every year students take more than they need and create more debt for themselves post-grad. When you find out how much Federal Aid you qualify, don’t take more than is necessary. These loans have to be paid back with interest. Prioritize. See if you are awarded grants or scholarships from the school. See if you won any scholarship awards that you applied for. Consider how much you can afford to pay each semester. Then, when you have the final total for what costs remain, accept the Federal Aid accordingly. Be strategic in your college budget. Take what you need, and try not to get distracted by the dollar signs.

The cost of college should not be a reason to not go back. If you have a career goal in mind, and this is the next step, go for it. Don’t let the price tag scare you off. Navigate the world of financial aid with caution. It’s tricky, but you can do it. Stay organized.

Don’t be afraid to apply. If you try, you might surprise yourself.


6 Tips for Moms
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Paige Dinneny is a recent graduate of Biola University. Born and raised in Southern California, she currently lives in Long Beach and is now pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction at Cal State Long Beach. Her days are filled with many jobs including social media marketing, retail and this! She spends her free time writing, watching the Game Show Network and going to concerts.