I’m a 26 yr old sophomore and I have to be honest. When I applied to G.C.C. 2 years ago, I had my fears about being an older student on campus. Knowing I wanted to live in student housing, I worried about how my 18 year old room mates would feel about living with a 24 year old, and if I would be able to relate to my peers. Looking back to that time from where I am now makes me want to laugh and encourage my 24 yr old self. My room mates never felt weird about me because I was an older student, and I’ve made much more friends than an average college student should. Because of my maturity, I made a great RA and I have met a lot of people. Outside of the social aspect, there are some financial benefits for college students who are over 24.
Most college students under 24 are considered to be “dependent” by the federal government, which means they consider you financially reliant on your parents. Therefore when most college students apply for financial aid via FAFSA and TAP, they are required to enter their parents income as well as their own. The system then generates the EFC (estimated family contribution); this amount represents how much money they believe you and your family can contribute toward your education. The grants and loans they then award you is supposed to be the rest that you need to pay for school. The issue is that sometimes they expect your family to pay more than what they actually can, and assume that your parents are they type of parents who will help you pay for school. Not all of us are so fortunate.
What I’ve learned is that it’s easier to file as an independent student when you are over 23, even if you live at home. Once you’re labeled an independent student, you are only required to enter your financial information. This helps a lot once the system generates your EFC. It is going to be much lower that it would have been with your parents information, and thus your grant and scholarship money should increase.
Another benefit to being an older college student has to do with car insurance. This only applies to older students who will be buying their first car in college. When you’re older, car insurance companies don’t charge you as much as they do 18-20 year olds. How awesome is that!? You could pay as low as $80/ month for car insurance, when your younger peers are paying around $150/month.
The last perk I can mention for older students in college is an internal determination boost. When I attended BMCC at 18 years old, I had very low motivation to finish. I went to college because I thought it was the right thing to do. I didn’t have a post-college goal in mind to motivate me when I felt lazy about going to class. I withdrew from college two semesters in a row and accumulated loan debt. I entered the workforce, and found a career goal that I am now using school to reach for. I know what it feels like to be without a goal, and to quit. Now I have a goal and I’m on fire to finish. If you are thinking about going back to college and you are a little bit older, you probably can identify with feeling like where you are isn’t where you want to stay. That mature feeling coupled with a post-college goal is that determination boost, and it will drive you through college. Thank you for reading this blog about the benefits of being an older student. Until next time!