What do adult learners and other ‘nontraditional’ students need to know about the FAFSA?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), traditional (or ‘typical’) college students “earn a high school diploma, enroll full time immediately after finishing high school, depend on parents for financial support, and either do not work during the school year or work part time.” But recent data shows that the majority of today’s college students are not ‘typical’ at all.

Approximately 73% of those enrolled in undergraduate studies nationwide are adults over the age of 24 who often work and attend college part time. Other common characteristics of nontraditional students are:

  • Graduated high school at least one year ago.
  • May have a GED, or high school equivalency diploma.
  • Often have dependents other than a spouse.
  • Financially dependent from their parents.

Evening and weekend classes, online courses and economic twists and turns have changed the landscape of higher education. If you’re an adult who is 25 years of age or older and you’ve been thinking about enrolling in college for the first time or returning to college to complete your degree, you’re definitely not alone. But where do you start? First, if you’re not sure which college you would like to attend, research your options by using tools such as OKcollegestart.org and NCES.ed.gov/CollegeNavigator to find schools that have the program and/or major you’re looking for.

When you have your choices narrowed down, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is simply a snapshot of your family’s financial situation used to help technology centers, career schools, colleges and universities determine your eligibility for various types of student financial aid. Things may have changed since you submitted your last FAFSA. The vast majority of FAFSAs are now done online, and you can begin yours at StudentAid.gov. To complete your FAFSA online, you’ll first need to establish your Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID), which is a username and password you’ll use to electronically sign your FAFSA. You should create your FSA ID at least two to three days before you submit your FAFSA. Click or tap here to create your FSA ID. Please note: the current FAFSA for academic year 2023-24 will expire June 30, 2024. The 2024-25 FAFSA is not expected to be released until sometime in December 2023.

The college you wish to attend will have someone you can talk to who works with students like you who want to finish their degrees. Contact the college(s) of your choice for more information, and be sure to visit ReachHigherOK.org to see more valuable resources.

You CAN reach higher…you CAN go farther…and you CAN complete your degree! You’ll have a lot of help along the way.