Whether you’ve earned a college degree before or not, it can be a daunting prospect. The good news is that there is financial help out there for adults who want to make a career change and need a college degree to make the switch. Although federal grants and other sources of government assistance are typically only available for those earning their first college degree, scholarships are privately funded and much more flexible.
The key to easing the financial burden of going back to school is to seek out scholarships that encourage students with your specific background to apply. There are scholarships for all kinds of students, and by applying strategically, you can reduce the amount of debt you need to take on in order to move forward with your career plans.
Ready to fund your career change?
Here are some of the top scholarships for people seeking a whole new career and a bright new future.
Scholarships vs. Other Types of Financial Aid
Scholarships are intended to give people a leg up and a pathway to an education that might otherwise be unaffordable or at least get them into extensive debt. They are funded by organizations (such as foundations and private companies) or individuals and vary extensively in terms of requirements and award amounts.
A scholarship is usually funded to further a cause of some kind. A donor who wants to help single mothers specifically, for example, might fund a scholarship to help these particular students with tuition and fees. Or, a scholarship might be given for students in a specific state or attending a certain kind of program.
Overall, anything goes when it comes to scholarships. The key feature, however, is that scholarships do not need to be paid back. In some cases, a certain GPA must be maintained to continue receiving aid, but scholarships are a gift for students who might otherwise struggle to pay for college.
Other types of financial aid, such as grants and work-study positions, are usually need-based and are often provided by the government. Students might be awarded a financial aid package that includes a mix of grants, work-study, and low-interest loans. Grants do not have to be paid back, unlike loans.
What Makes a “Top” Scholarship
Scholarships are extremely diverse, and therefore, each person’s “top” scholarships will be different. Most people think of a top scholarship as a prestigious or large award. For example, getting a “full ride” scholarship means getting the cost of college and associated expenses covered in full—an ideal situation.
With that said, full ride scholarships are rare, especially for students who are changing careers. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t any top scholarships available for older or non-traditional students. It might take a bit of digging, but there are lots of scholarships you can apply for, even if you’re going back to school for a second degree.
In many cases, it’s better to apply for a number of smaller scholarships than it is to spend lots of time on the application for a large scholarship. Applying for a variety of awards of different levels is a good way to cover your bases and improve your chances of getting scholarship aid.
How to Find Great Scholarships
Plan to sit down for a few hours just for the research phase of applying for scholarships. There are lots of search engines that can help you to quickly narrow down your search. You can search based on geographic location, demographics, major or program, and more. This will help you find scholarships you’re eligible to apply for.
Once you have a list of possibilities, take a look at their requirements. Often, larger awards will require a more rigorous application process, but not always. Take note of the deadlines for each of your top scholarships so that you budget enough time to complete the applications.
It can also be a good idea to look at associations and foundations in your area to see if there are any scholarships listed off of the major scholarship sites. For example, the American Association of University Women provides grants to some of its members (up to $12,000!) for going back to school. Your university might also be able to direct you to some possible scholarships, so be sure to ask.
Scholarship Application Process
Many scholarship applications require an original essay and other components that need to be written specifically for the applications. Be sure to review the requirements well in advance so you can set aside enough time to complete each application. You will need to make sure you maintain a healthy work-life balance, especially if you are still working when applying for scholarships and preparing to go back to school.
Request any letters of recommendation that you might need right away. You’ll want to give people time to do this favor for you. It’s also important to be persistent. You won’t get every scholarship, but you definitely won’t get them if you don’t apply!
Additional Tips for Success
If you’re considering a career change, then you probably already know what you want your new career to be. However, you might still be on the fence. If you’re not sure about which field you’d like to enter, then consider choosing a career that’s in high demand, such as nursing. Choosing an in-demand career path not only opens up a lot of opportunities but it also means that competition for scholarships might be lower.
Get started on your applications as soon as you can. Each scholarship has different requirements, and you’ll need time to complete the applications for each award you’re hoping to get. Starting a spreadsheet can help you keep track of everything and ensure that you’re meeting the deadlines as posted.
Remember, you’re not going to get every scholarship you apply for. That’s why it’s important to apply for as many as you’re eligible for. If you’re short on time, choose your list wisely and budget enough time to complete each application.
Scholarships Help Make Career Dreams Come True
Scholarships aren’t just for high school seniors. If you are looking to make a career change without getting into significant debt to do so, then putting in the time and effort to find and apply for scholarships is absolutely worthwhile. As you search, you’ll probably be surprised by how many scholarships you can qualify for!
Getting one or more scholarships can help make your career dreams come true. For a successful career change, remember to embrace the idea of being a beginner and learn everything with an open mind. Career changes can be a challenge, but they can also help you build the happy, fulfilling life you’ve always dreamed of.