It's easier than ever to find financial aid for single mothers, so if you're a single mom who is considering returning to school to start, finish or simply resume a higher education, don't let the fear of tuition fees ruin your day. In fact, once you know where to look you'll realize that it's cheaper than ever for a single parent to get an advanced education, be it a college or university, a trade school or even to finish high school with a GED.
Types of Financial Aid For Single Mothers
As a single mother, you actually have several financial aid options: Scholarships, grants and loans. While scholarships and grants are prefered since they usually don't require any payback, don't discredit students loans, especially in today's economy. Many lending institutions offers ultra low interest rates and a payment schedule that doesn't even start until you've landed a job - not a bad way to go should you not secure a scholarship or grant.
Scholarships For Single Mothers
Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, but the one I'd like to talk about the most are those catered exclusively towards single parents. And call it sexist if you will, but there are generally more of these single parent scholarships available for women versus men - I can't exactly say why this is the case, but the point is that as a single mom, you're in a great position to secure some great funding for your education.
Of course there are other types of scholarships, such as the better known athletic and merit based varieties. You might even be eligible for these types, so be sure to look into them. Only in the rarest situations are scholarships not "stackable," so the more you can earn, the better.
The best part about scholarships is that you generally do not need to pay any of the money back, provided you meet the criteria. This criteria can vary, so be sure you understand exactly what is needed - the last thing you want is to pay back "free" money.
The best place to start is to submit a FAFSA form, which stands for "Free Application For Student Aid." This form is available at fafsa.ed.gov.
School Grants For Single Mothers
From the student perspective, there isn't much difference between scholarships and school grants for single moms. The money is usually "gifted" to you in an effort to reduce the cost of education, so long as you keep your end of the bargain - often in the form of maintaining a certain grade point average, majoring in particular field of study or agreeing to work in an agency or business for a short while after completing school.
Perhaps the most famous of these grants are those issued by the state and federal governments. Each state's Department of Education sets aside a large chunk of money specifically to help its students obtain higher education, and this fund usually eclipses several million dollars of available grant money each semester. Ironically, some of this money is never handed to students because the pupils don't realize it's available to them. This is usually because these grants have very strict criteria, but why not check to see if your situation meets the rules? You have nothing lose and everything to gain!
Of course the public sector isn't the only place to find great grants for single mothers, the private sector and non-profit sector funnel plenty of money in the direction of higher education each year, usually it's part of a tax requirement. If they dangle the money, why not grab it?
You've probably heard of many of the big names in school grants, and they are just as available for single mothers as they are for anyone else. These include: Pell grants, federal grants, federal supplemental educational opportunity (FSEOG) grants, private grants, state grants and more.
Student Loans For Single Mothers
Sure, student loans aren't the "golden nuggets" that scholarships and grants are, but don't mistake them for fool's gold, because such loans are often very affordable and come with amazingly easy payment terms. In fact, you don't even need to start paying back some student loans until you've graduated AND found a job out in the working world! Granted not all student loans come with this generous option, so be sure to check before signing the dotted line.
Recently, students loans for single moms have been very favorable, with very low interest rates and flexible payment schedules. Most don't even require a first payment until you've either graduated (provided you don't stop attending classes) or after you've stopped going to school for several months.
Let's talk about another great feature of school loans for single moms: There usually aren't any "requirements" like you'd find with scholarships or grants. Once the money is handed to you, there are rarely any rules that require you to major in a certain subject, maintain a certain GPA or anything of the sort. So in the interest of pure flexibility, loans actually outshine grants and scholarships.
The First Step In Obtaining Financial Aid For Single Parents
It sounds cliché, but your first step towards finding a funding opportunity for your schooling is to literally get started looking. I mentioned the FAFSA form earlier, and I'll mention it again, simply because it's widely considered the ultimate first step for anyone seeking educational financial help. Once you submit this form, a massive government agency that gets paid tons of money each year will begin searching for financial aid opportunities for your individual situation. Be prepared to answer questions about your income status, marital status, living expenses, employment and more. It might seem intrusive, but it's actually a wonderful system that can help you find options that many people didn't even know exist.
Your next step: Talk to the institution you're attending or planning to attend. They should have a dedicated financial aid office, and they'll be more than willing to work with you and point you in the direction of great money aid. Remember, the school only makes money if you enroll, so it's to their best advantage to find ways for you to attend. You'd be surprised at the amount of resources these offices have at their disposal.
But don't forget the reason you're going through this in the first place: Work hard at school! The whole purpose of this process is to obtain an education, so give it your all! Remember, financial aid for single mothers only pays the bills, you're the one who will ultimately earn the education!