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Articles / Applying to College / Financial Aid for 24-Year-Old Returning to School?

Financial Aid for 24-Year-Old Returning to School?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | March 14, 2010

Question: I am 24 years and want to be in college this year. I made an annual income of $25,000. Will I be eligible for financial aid of $12,000?

At age 24, you will be considered an "Independent Student," which means that colleges will look at only your income and other financial resources and will not include those of your parents. For most 24-year-olds, this is good news, since it usually means they will qualify for far more financial aid than if the parents' figures were included in the aid calculation.

Your annual income of $25,000 should mean that your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) will be low and that you will qualify for financial aid to make up the difference between your contribution and the cost of your education.

You can estimate your EFC by using an online calculator such as this one: http://apps.collegeboard.com/fincalc/efc_welcome.jsp Be sure to check both "Federal' and "Institutional" methodology on the questionnaire because this will reflect the varying ways that the colleges on your list may determine your financial need.

If you already know where you're applying, check to see if your college requires only the FAFSA form or also the CSS Profile form. If your college does NOT require the Profile, then the "Federal Methodology" EFC will apply to you. If your college DOES require the Profile, then the "Institutional Methodology" EFC will be a reasonable approximation of what you will be expected to pay.

To find out the amount of financial aid you will be eligible for, you must subtract your EFC from the Cost of Attending the college of your choice.


Cost of attendance is $32,000 (this includes tuition, room and board, fees)

Your EFC (according to the online estimator) is $5,000

Your financial aid eligibility is:

$32,000 - $5,000 which is $27,000

But ... many colleges do not meet "full need." In other words, the college folks may say, "Sure, you're eligible for $27,000, but we can only give you $6,000."

So you may have to shop around and find out which colleges can provide the greatest amount of financial aid.

Also, if you are supporting yourself, your income may plummet when you attend college full time, so you can explain this to financial aid officials when you apply for aid. You should write a separate letter to aid officers after you've submitted your online forms. In this letter, state whether or not you will be working when you start school and how your annual income will be affected by your enrollment.

Hope that helps. Good luck with your plans.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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