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Scholarship Opportunities for Adults Returning to School

Adults returning to school often assume there's no scholarships for them, but that's not true! Here's how nontraditional students can find money for college.

I was recently asked by a family if it was too late for their high school senior to pursue scholarships. As George Eliot once said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” I love sharing with families that it’s never too late to start a scholarship pursuit—even if you’re an adult going back to school. There are scholarships open to students at every age, grade, and certification or degree level. Despite this information being available to scholarship seekers, many people assume scholarships are only for high school– and college-aged students. One specific category of scholarships that’s often overlooked is scholarships for nontraditional or adult students. 

A little bit about private scholarships

Private scholarships from companies, organizations, individuals, and foundations recognize that creating a scholarship can drive brand or mission awareness. A scholarship is also often an opportunity for a company to connect with future followers and consumers. Local radio, newspaper, and television outlets love to mention scholarships offered from businesses or mention the recipient when the award is advertised. With all these benefits to scholarship creation, awards for all types of students will continue to rise, including those for adult students. Seeking out these channels for scholarship opportunities is key to finding the money you may need to return to college. 

Related: 3 Questions to Ask as You Look for Scholarships

Scholarship opportunities for adult students

The following are some examples of scholarships for nontraditional and adult students that you should take advantage of if you’re planning on heading back to school soon. 

#NextChapter Scholarship

The #NextChapter Scholarship from Natural Awakenings is open to individuals age 25 and older who are pursuing continued education in the form of training, certification, or a degree with a professional goal that promotes healthy living or a healthy planet. The award of $500 must be used toward educational expenses, and the application deadline is May 31. 

Environmental Awareness Scholarship

The Environmental Awareness Scholarship, in association with, is a $1,000 award with deadlines of February 1 and September 1. It’s open to high school students and college students of any age worldwide—which includes adult students looking for their first or an additional undergraduate degree. There are also opportunities for student groups and student classrooms to apply. 

Related: How to Get the Most Financial Aid Possible

Margaret McNamara Education Grants

The Margaret McNamara Education Grants are awarded to women who intend to work in or with a developing country to improve the lives of women and children. Applicants must be at least 25 years old. With awards of up to $15,000, recipients can pursue travel to Latin America, South Africa, and Canada. Deadlines for applications are September 14 or January 14 depending on your travel plans.

E-waste Scholarship

The E-waste Scholarship is open to high school students in grades 9–12 and undergraduate students, but it’s also available to graduate students with no age limit. Applicants must be US citizens or legal residents and are required to write about digital responsibility. The award is $1,000, and the application deadline is April 30. 

How to find scholarships for adult students

Key search words and phrases you should be using to find scholarships for adult students include:

  • “of any age”
  • “no age limit”
  • “including adult students” 

Lastly, adults seeking scholarships shouldn’t limit themselves to opportunities that specify open age criteria in their description. Many scholarships—especially at the undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate level—won’t ask any information about the applicant’s age. 

Related: How to Find Scholarships in Hidden Places 

Ultimately, adults who are striving to earn first or additional degrees or certifications have many more scholarship opportunities available to them than they realize. It’s never too early or too late to start a scholarship pursuit. Continue searching for scholarships as often as you can to make your post-graduate debt as low as possible.

Start finding great scholarship opportunities for you using our Scholarship Search tool. 

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About Jean O'Toole

Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying Jean’s scholarship strategies. In 2008, Jean co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. Visit for more information, and follow Jean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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