Every fall, 18-year-olds head off to college for the first time with the financial and emotional support of their families behind them. But what if you don’t have this support? Maybe you’re older and have been in the workforce for a long time, or maybe your family simply can’t afford to help you out financially. You might feel as though college is out of reach for you in these circumstances, but this is not the case. These tips can help you thrive.
Organize Your Funding
Cost is often the biggest hurdle for people hoping to get a college education despite the availability of scholarships and federal grants and loans. These are often not enough to cover the costs of tuition, room and board, so many students turn to private loans to make up the difference. If you have been out in the workforce long enough to build up a good credit record, you should be able to qualify for a loan without a cosigner. If you have no credit or bad credit, you might have to spend a year or two building your score, but you shouldn’t let this discourage you. Look online for potential lenders, note their credit requirements and work toward that as the first step toward getting into college.
Use Campus Resources
The good news is that once you are enrolled as a student, you have access to an enormous number of resources. Advisors, professors, the staff at your school’s career center and mental health counselors are among those who can offer you advice on everything from classes to take to your future career path to dealing with stress and more. If you plan on attending part time, keep in mind that some schools may require that you are enrolled for a minimum number of credit hours in order to access some resources, and be sure to meet those requirements if those resources are important to you.
Find a Community
If your parents are unable to help you financially but still offer of emotional support and other types of help, this may be less necessary for you, but if you feel as though you have little support in general, you might want to try to look for some structure that could provide that. This could be with a church group, an organization you volunteer with or a professional organization associated with your future career choice. Your school might even have an organization for someone in your specific situation, such as for nontraditional students or single parents, and if it doesn’t, you could start one.
Spin Your Experience
From applying to college to applying for jobs in your final year, you can use your experience to demonstrate your intelligence, resourcefulness and determination. Be sure to highlight the fact that you put yourself through school on your own any application essays you write and make a point of mentioning it in your job interviews. If you had to work to support yourself while in school, your GPA might not be perfect compared to that of another candidate, but you can spin this to your advantage.