The College Train

Advice on how to get to college.


My Advice

“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.

AP Classes vs. Dual Enrollment

Want to maximize your time in high school while minimizing your time in college?Consider getting college credit while in high school. You can take advance placement (AP) and/or dual enrollment classes that will give you high school and college credit at the same time.

AP classes are college level classes taught in a high school environment. Students get the high school credit by passing the class like any other class. However, the only way to get the college credit is to scored a 3-5 on the AP test at the end of the year. It does cost money to take the test ($93 as of April 2017). The nice thing about AP classes is you have all school year to prepare for the test. You can also experience a college workload and expectations without being in college. Another bonus to AP classes is that all college and universities accept AP credit.

With dual enrollment classes, you are taking a college class through a college/university (as in you become a part time college student). Dual enrollment classes can solely online, in a classroom environment, or a combination of the two. Passing the class is all that is required to get both your high school and college credit. As for cost…that depends on the school and state. Duel enrollment can range from free to the full cost of a college class. Also, like I mentioned in my Planning to Transfer? article, your college credit from dual enrollment may not transfer to the college/university you want to attend.

Now which option is best for you? To answer that question you need to asked yourself several questions:

  • Are you good with keeping up with deadlines without being reminded?
  • Are you a good test taker?
  • Does the college you want to attend accept credits from the duel enrollment college?
  • Are you and your family willing/able to spend money on college before you are even in college?

Ap classes (1)


The Importance of Starting the College Search Early

Before I even started this blog, people have asked me questions about getting scholarships and the college search process in general. I have no problem answering their questions and giving them any advice. My only problem is when they ask me. Parents and students will ask me questions at the beginning or in the middle of the student’s senior year in high school. And though that is when I started the college application and scholarship process, it is much easier if you start earlier than that. I suggest students start searching for colleges his or her junior year. But why start early when everyone else doesn’t?


Whether you are a high school student that knows exactly what college they want to attend or a student that has no idea if they want to go to college starting the college search early will give you more time to research. Research colleges. Research possible careers. Research scholarships. You have options and you need to know what they are.


Deciding where to attend college is the first major decision most students will make. Once you know all your options you can make a better decision. You will make a decision (hopefully) understanding all the benefits and drawbacks to you.


Senior year is filled with so many celebrations, traditions, and parties. No mention your regular school load, any extracurricular activities, and/ or any job you may have. You will be busy. Thus, your college search will take a backseat to more pressing thing like your English paper due tomorrow morning. Starting early will require less work from you your senior year. Your college search your senior year should be a to-do list not a research project.

You want your college search to be marathon not a sprint. Doing a little work here and there, so you is not rushing at the end filling out applications, writing essays, and trying to make a decision.

First Generation College Student

Did your parents go to college? Did your parents go to college but didn’t graduate?

If you answered no to the first question and plan to go to college, you will be a first generation college student. If you answered yes to the second question and plan to go college, you will be a first generation college student.

A first generation college student is a college student that is the first in his or her family to attend and graduate from college. If you are going to a first generation college student, I have some special advice for you.

Ask for help and ask for it early.

The college application process is unknown to you and your parents. Even though the college application process seems simple, there are so many hidden tips and tricks to the process. Talk to your school guidance counselor about what the college application process requires and what you should be doing. Seek advice from adults you know who have gone to college- family friends, neighbors, people in your faith community, parents of friends, etc. And most importantly, have these conversations early like your freshmen or sophomore year in high school. To get the best outcome for you, you need to start planning early, so seek help early.

There are scholarships available for you.

There are scholarships for first generation college students. Do a Google search for them and apply to them even if they are a nationwide scholarship. The number of first generation college students is small enough where the odds are in your favor.

There are college and university programs dedicated to help you succeed.

When you get to college don’t think you’re on your own. There are programs at universities designed to help first generation college students with academic advising, professional development, study habits, and skills you need in college and in the real world. In your college search, I encourage to ask about and look for these programs. Furthermore, I think you should make these programs deciding factors in your college decision process.

The college application process can be tricky at times even more so if you’re a first generation college student. Empower yourself with as much knowledge as possible.

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.


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