Going back to school

Most of the information I am about to share applies to the state of Oregon. However, it may encourage you to find similar resources in your state.

Apply for the FAFSA. This is essential if you want to qualify for grants, which you do not have to pay back. Need-based scholarships may also request proof of need based on your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) on the FAFSA.

NOTE: You do NOT need complete tax information when filing your FAFSA. You CAN estimate your income, set your status as “will file” and change it later. Applications are available January 1st EST every year and state and institutional grants are first come first served.

Start at your local community college. Tuition is much cheaper. Make an appointment with an academic advisor and talk to that person about your concerns. If it’s not mentioned, ask if the institution has a TRIO program, such as Student Support Services, that you can enroll in to make the transition easier. Be sure to ask about scholarships as well.

You may be in a position where you find it difficult to continue your education during traditional school day hours. If you need to balance work and school, getting a degree via an online education may be for you. Make sure you do your research when looking into beginning your online education. Lookup information for accredited online college degrees here. There are a wide variety of degrees you can pursue from the comfort of your own home at any hour of the day that is convenient for you.

Consider taking a scholarship essay writing class! I took one and it was the best $100 I ever spent. If you’re lucky, you might find help through free workshops. Using the knowlege I gained, I was able to secure a scholarship through the Ford Family Foundation, which is a variable award that takes my COA (Cost of Attendance) for the year, subtracts my EFC and any other aid I am receiving from grants and scholarships and pays 80% of the remainder. I also secured a $5000 scholarship from a private foundation (through the Oregon Student Access Commission, or OSAC) and a $4000 scholarship from my university.

Open an IDA (Individual Development Account). For every dollar you save, three dollars is deposited in a separate account, which you can apply toward tuition and books. That is 300% interest, which is much more than the mere pennies you’ll earn at a typical bank or credit union. Save up to $2,000 for a total of up to $8,000 for each person age 12 or older in your family.

You can also opt to take certification exams to build your resume. If you have a lot of self-taught skills like Adobe Photoshop, you can easily get certified and make a decent living wage doing freelance design work!

It’s difficult to be a parent and juggle work and night classes, but it can be done with very little debt. I am proof of that! It’s just a matter of finding the support you need in getting where you want to go!

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