Woman’s Day magazine reported in their article “Baby Boomers- Back in Class,” that women over 50 are going back to school for various reasons. Some had their earlier attempts at obtaining a degree interrupted by raising a family, and now they are ready to get back to it. Others have achieved success in their job and are looking for a way to move forward, or up, in their career.
Some are looking for a way to begin a career or change careers. The reasons are many, but deciding to go is only the first step. Choosing a major, choosing a school, and finding funding are major hurdles that must be crossed before the real fun starts.
The major will simply be whatever you want to pursue, but the school will often depend on location and funding available.
How Grants are Awarded
College grants for women over 50 are awards based on varying requirements, depending on the specific grant’s specifications. Some are given based on financial need, such as Pell grants. Others are awarded based on area of study, location, school attending, or employer. Companies may award grants to employees, communities may award grants to citizens, and professional societies may award grants to those entering their field.
Where to Look
While few grants exist specifically for women over 50, there are some that specifically exclude women over a certain age. The key to finding school grants for women over 50 is to find grants that do not have age limitations. There are federal grants available, but other sources cannot be ignored. The U.S. Department of Education offers information on Pell grants for women over 50.
Check with professional societies that cover your desired field of study. If you are going to be studying in the scientific field for example, The, The Association for Women in Science may offer a grant that would be a good fit.
Discuss options with your company if you are currently employed. They may offer grant possibilities. Many companies work with employees on furthering their education if it will benefit the company, regardless of sex or age.
Check with the school you plan to attend, or if you do not have a preference, check with the schools in the area. There may be university based grants available to women over 50.
After you make the decision to go back to school, it is time to start looking for those grants. Start with the list above, but this is not an exclusive list. Look for grants open to all ages and sexes, but do not stop there.
Look for grants specific to women, and look for those that are available only to women over a certain age. Competition for grants can be fierce, and anything that reduces the competition is to any applicant’s advantage. Though it is becoming more common, women over 50 wishing to return to school are still on the rare side. Grants that are available only to women over a certain age are going to be much less competitive than those open to everyone. Examples of such grants include the Janette Rankin Foundation Grant available specifically to women over the age of 35, and the Alma Baron Second Chance for Women grant available to women over the age of 45 that will be attending the University of Wisconsin. They are out there; you just have to find them. The American Association of Retired Persons could be a good place to start.
Another great source is the American Association of University Women. The website is full of information and resources, including fellowships, grants, scholarships, and awards. Take a peek and see what you can find. They offer tons of information that can be useful even after you start your college career.
Paying for school can be difficult at any age, but there are notably more challenges after the age of 50. Do not automatically defer to loans. There are sources of funds out there that do not have to be repaid, including grants for women over 50. It may take some time, but exploring all the options and applying to any grants that are available and applicable can pay off big in the long run.
The first step is deciding to go. Once you do that, consider what your “must haves” are. Are you set on a specific school, location, or field of study? If so, set these parameters and look for funding within them. There are tons of resources for support available. Use them, and you will be a college graduate before you know it.