Every year, many students pause their college educations. According to a National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) study in 2019, the number of adults who stepped away from post-secondary education is almost thirty-six million since 1993. Some of those adults are simply taking breaks from academia, but others are forced from their educations for a variety of reasons, including financial reasons.

There is some positive news.

Since 2014, the NSC study found that, of those thirty-six million, nearly one million adults had returned to college to successfully finish their degrees. One major factor in the success of their return was the amount of time that they had been absent from the classroom–the longer the students had been away from school, the less likely it was that they would return. Time, rather than physical distance or financial constraints, makes it less likely that the student will complete their degree.

The 2020-2021 school year had been an especially difficult time as the global pandemic compounded the financial difficulties that many students face. Time recently reported that an estimated ten million adults have canceled their plans to attend college classes during the pandemic school year because of increased financial stress. During a health panic and social isolation, college may seem like an unattainable luxury whose cost places it outside the realm of possibility.

If you are eager to return to college, it is important not to give up. There is a lot of resources out there to aid in bringing students back to campus. Institutions, from schools to foundations to the federal government, are aware of the constraints and are working to help ease the burden of returning to class. To create a plan to return to college, it is important to take these two steps.

Step One: stay flexible. You may have told yourself somewhere along the line that a college education is a specific thing–it has to be in a certain place and at a certain school. Take this opportunity to widen your view. Make a list of all the possibilities. Consider two-year schools and technical schools along with colleges and universities. The two-year programs may offer courses of study that you hadn’t considered, one that upon closer inspection, may prove extremely inviting. Technical schools will allow you to focus on creating skills for a vocation or trade. Post-secondary education is an opportunity for discovery. Your list of schools may hold undiscovered potential, and, depending on the school, they may be able to offer financial resources. This brings us to…

Step Two: know that there is help out there. Help can come in many forms including federal aid and scholarship money. Many returning students are under the misapprehension that scholarships are for high school seniors. That is untrue. There are scholarships available for all students in undergraduate programs and some for technical schools. But investigating available scholarships can be both intimidating and confusing.

Scholar’s App connects students with scholarships they qualify for (we have already helped students receive over $20 million in scholarships). Once you create a profile, you can browse a list of verified scholarships for which you are pre-qualified, then you can apply online. The entire process is neat and effective, and, most importantly, geared toward helping you return to the classroom. Signing up is quick and easy. Give it a try and return to college.

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