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When Do You Apply for College? A Resource for Adult Students

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If you're an adult who's never been to college, or you started and didn't finish, you're in good company. The stereotype of the young high school graduate leaving home for the first time is giving way to a newer, more realistic image of a student who's between 25 and 70, has a job and a family, and seeks a modern college experience which includes online classes and flexible schedules.

High school students have a great deal of support when applying to college. Most books and resources on the topic are written with them in mind, and they can often rely on advice from parents and guidance counselors. Adult students often lack these support systems, and many may have applied to college back when applications were filled out on paper and sent via snail mail to their colleges of choice. If you're an adult student, how and when do you apply to college? Here are some tips to help you answer that question.

When Do You Apply for College?

The question is one you have to answer for yourself by first examining the areas of your life which will be impacted by returning to school. Can your family accommodate your new schedule of classes and studying? How will you manage your work responsibilities? Once you've dealt with these elements, you can begin to examine your options for applying to college. The higher education landscape has changed greatly in recent years, and many of these changes benefit adult students:

  • Online colleges and universities: These have become more prevalent, providing adult students with choice and flexibility. The reasons people have for returning to college vary widely. Some adult students wish to start or finish a bachelor's degree or take their education to the next level with a master's degree. Some need new skills to meet the needs of the workplace, and others may be interested in changing careers. Pursuing a degree online can be an appealing option for these students.
  • Test-optional and test-flexible schools: Are you stressed about standardized tests? More and more colleges are admitting students without SAT or ACT scores. This is a relatively new development, and it does not apply to every school, so it's important to look at the requirements before you apply to college.
  • Rolling and late admissions: Some colleges have rolling admissions, which means you can apply anytime within a wide time frame and have an answer within four to eight weeks or less. In addition, some colleges offer later deadlines, which may provide you with additional options. If returning to school is something you've wanted to do for a long time, these admissions options may give you the speedy decisions you desire.

The Other Application

Your answer to the question of when do you apply to college is a vital one. If you're ready to return to school now, chances are you'll be able to find schools whose application deadlines align with your plans. But if you're planning to seek any kind of state or federal financial aid, you need to be aware of when those applications are due. This tool on the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Website can show you both the federal and state deadlines for your state. The cost of college requires many students to seek financial aid and scholarships, and if you're relying on these to help you pay for school, it's necessary to be mindful of those application deadlines too.

A Final Tip

So when do you apply for college? Whenever you're ready! The options summarized above should help you get started. Finally, make sure to allow plenty of time for the application process. Even if you've been out of high school for many years, you'll likely still need your transcript. If you attended school in the years before computer recordkeeping became the norm, it may take time for your records to be located. Many colleges accept transfer credits from other colleges, and while you should be prepared for some of your credits to not be accepted, it's still worth exploring because it can save you time and money.

Attending college as an adult student can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Are you ready to begin looking for a program that fits your busy life? Learn more about online degree programs at AIU.

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.