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Nontraditional Student Status and Its Effect on Your Financial Aid

Nontraditional Student Status and Its Effect on Your Financial Aid


By Ryan Laspina
Analyst, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS

The term “nontraditional student” is a large part of the higher education vocabulary. Almost 75% of current college students are actually considered nontraditional.

What characteristics constitute a nontraditional student? The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has identified seven characteristics that that label students as nontraditional. These characteristics are:

  1. A student who does not immediately continue his or her education after graduating from high school
  2. A student who only attends college part-time
  3. A student who works full-time
  4. A student who is completely and financially independent (in this case, a student who does not rely on anyone else’s income)
  5. A student who has one or more children or other dependents (not including a spouse, but includes stepchildren, foster children, adopted children, or an adult supported by the student)
  6. A student who is a single parent
  7. A student who does not have a high school diploma, but completed a high school equivalency diploma (for example, a GED)

Although being a nontraditional student does not necessarily confer any more benefits or drawbacks as being a traditional student, there are some other considerations. Time management is crucial for nontraditional students, because balancing work, life responsibilities and school is never easy.

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Nontraditional Students

If you’re a nontraditional student, financial aid differences can come into play. Many nontraditional students will probably be deemed independent by the Department of Education, and their award package will reflect that in the higher amount they can borrow. In addition, there are some scholarships reserved only for nontraditional students.

For answers to financial aid questions, your best resource is to speak with your financial and academic advisors to determine the best course of action to take.