The College Train

College and Scholarship Advice


Money Talk

Advice and inside knowledge about scholarships.

“Are there scholarships for old people?”

With online and night classes, it is extremely easy to go back to college for bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees. A few months ago, a mother in her late 30s asked me this question. Since I know there are others who have this same question I thought I would share the answer with everyone.

The proper term for “old people” is non-traditional college student. And like most things that have to do with postsecondary education, the qualifications for a non-traditional students varies from college to college. The qualifications can be age, life experience or a combination of the two. For example, one university may declare a non-traditional college student to be anyone over the age of 25. Another may say a non-traditional student is anyone married before they enroll into the college. While a third college says a non-traditional student is someone who is over 30, married, and have children.

This terminology is very important when looking for scholarships. Yes, there are scholarships for non-traditional students. You can find them the same you find any scholarship- the college’s scholarship office and the internet.

Pro-tip: if you are looking for scholarships online, search for scholarships based on your life experiences and situations. Search scholarships for parents, single parents, divorcees, etc.

To those who want to go to back to school, I wish you good luck and hope you are successful in your endeavors.


The Basic Cost of College

With tuition constantly on the rise and scholarship requirements rising with it, cost is becoming the deciding factor in choosing a college. But most students are comparing prices incorrectly. They are only comparing the price of tuition when really the basic cost of college consists of tuition, room & board, fees, and books. These are the costs that will occur every semester and the sum of these expenses will give you a better idea of the cost of your college education.

Not taking all these costs into account when choosing a college is how you go into debt. I know several people who had scholarships that paid for their tuition, but they went into over $10,000 worth of debt because they didn’t have the funds for room & board and fees.

You can easily find estimates and exact prices for these expenses online or in the college brochure. Books are the only cost you can don’t have to research and will be the same no matter where you go. (Thank you, Amazon and Chegg!) Also if you plan to attend college near your home and commute, don’t put your room & board costs as $0. Instead put in amount of gas money you will need.

Below is an example of the best way to compare with college is cheaper and how much money you need to finance college.

School Tuition Fees Dorm option #1 Dorm option #2 Total cost with dorm #1 Total cost with dorm #2
A College $30,000 $500 $2,000 $3,500 $32,500 $34,000
B University $5,500 $600 $4,000 $1,500 $10,100 $7,600
University of C $6000 $500 $3,000 $2,500 $9,500 $9,000

Now go forth and make better informed decisions.

Get Your Scholarships from Multiple Sources

I have said this before indirectly in my “Scholarship Hunting” and “Types of Scholarships” articles. But today I will say this explicitly: COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES AREN’T THE ONLY PROVIDERS OF SCHOLARSHIPS.

There are several people I went to college with who gotten better academic university scholarships than I did and still graduated with debt. How did this happen? They didn’t get their scholarships from more than one source.

By “source” I mean a company or organization that will write the check for your scholarship. Outside of colleges and universities, there are companies, nonprofits, special interest groups, social clubs, professional societies, churches, government agencies, and other organizations that will provide scholarships to students. You just have to find them.

Why is this important? Why should you get multiple scholarships from multiple sources?

Why not? It’s free money. If your scholarship money is greater than your tuition, fees, room & board, etc. the school will refund you. You get money that can be used for food, entertainment, money to do laundry, emergency expenses, and whatever you want to use it for.

Also college tuition increases every year, which means you need to be increasing the scholarships you receive every year if you don’t want to go in debt.

In addition, there can be restrictions on the scholarships you receive from colleges/universities. For example, you may qualify for two scholarships but you can only receive one. That’s called non-stackable scholarships.

Lastly, there is no such thing as a “full ride scholarship” anymore. You can find scholarships that pay for tuition or a large amount of your expenses, but that’s it. And those scholarships are fixed amounts. If tuition goes up, your scholarship does not.

Be diligent in your scholarship search. Don’t just get one scholarship and say I’m done. Keep looking until you can’t find anymore. Or until you got enough to pay for all your college expenses.


Having the Financial Talk

I cannot stress the importance of parents and children discussing how college will get paid for. Yes, most families can’t pay the average cost of tuition for four years. But can they help pay for books or meal plans?

Like I have suggested in “Your 4-year Plan”article, the financial talk should be had in the freshman year of high school and the summer before the senior year. Having the talk gives students an idea of how much money they will need to raise for college.

Parents/guardians should bring their pay-stubs, budget sheets/file (if they have any), and records for college savings (if there are any). Students should bring estimated college expenses from college brochure or website and their pay-stub (if they have a job). There should also be pencil/pen, paper, computer, and calculator.

Here are the questions that need to be answered during this discussion:

  • How much will one year college cost?
  • How much money is your parent(s)/guardians currently spending to feed, cloth, shelter, and take care of you?
  • Can they continue to spending that amount for the next 4-5 years? Are they willing to? And can they spend more than that amount if they are willing?
  • If the student continues to work or start working, how much will that help ease the financial burden?
  • How much is your college fund if you have one?
  • Are they any lottery scholarships you can get?
  • What grants and loans do you qualify for? (Use the FAFSA4caster at

After this talk, you, the student, should have an idea of how much money you need to raise via scholarships, loans, and jobs to pay for college.

Keep in mind this talk is to make you aware of your situation. DO NOT GET MAD ABOUT YOUR SITUATION OR THINK YOU CAN’T GO TO COLLEGE.

When to look for scholarships?

In early February, I got call about scholarship search advice. The parent of a high school senior asked me how could they find scholarships and was it too late to apply for scholarship. I told that parent it’s getting close and advise them on all the things I mentioned in my “Scholarship Hunting” and “Using Google to Find Scholarships” articles.

I have noticed that students and parents wait until the last minute to look for scholarships. I think it is because they are so worried about getting into the college they want (or that will give them the best price) that they forget about scholarship searching. So as always I am here to help.

When is the best time to look and apply for scholarships?

Beginning of the school and winter break. Students (and parents) have more free time during the periods to search and plan. Also few scholarship due dates occur during these times. So if you find one you qualify for, you don’t have to worry about rushing to apply for it.

When is it too late to look and apply for scholarships?

March. After March, there are much less scholarships available. Strangely, there is another surge in scholarships in June. However, most people’s determination for scholarships wavers in the summer.

When is the busiest time for scholarship packet due dates?

From February to Mid-March. During this time, there are a large number of scholarship packets due. This is why I recommend looking during winter break.


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