October 29th, 2007 16:29 EST
Securing Financial Aid for the Non-Traditional Student
Troy Evans spent seven and one half years within the confines of a Federal Prison. Despite the obstacles that only prison can produce, Troy was determined that his time behind bars would not be wasted time. Education would be his saving grace.
Unfortunately, his aspirations coincided with Federal Pell Grants be eliminated for the incarcerated. Undeterred, Troy set out to secure funding on his own through scholarships, grants and foundation assistance. After six months of filling out applications, writing essays, begging, pleading and selling, Troy landed his first scholarship for one class. That was a beginning, and when Troy walked out the doors of prison he carried with him two degrees, both obtained with a 4.0 GPA and designation on both the Dean's and President’s list. Troy now wants to share with you some highlights in securing financial aid for the non-traditional student.
- Your first attempts should be through the School or University you have chosen to attend via correspondence. Most institutions will offer some type of scholarship program/package through an alumni association, a foundation or a sponsorship group. Some people may choose to research what is available in the form of financial aid at several different schools, making that the determinant in what school they will attend. This is first and foremost the quickest way to land a scholarship.
- Apply for federal and state aid. Although the incarcerated do not qualify for either, many scholarships which you will apply for in the future require that you first exhaust these two possibilities.
- Contact the Department of Commerce where you reside, as well as where the school is located. Get from them a listing of all Civic and Service clubs in their area (Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Lions, Elks, etc.) and contact these clubs individually. They often times sponsor scholarships, and more importantly they often earmark their scholarship money towards “hard luck” cases such as those incarcerated.
- Associations within your area. These can be brought up easily on any search engine, and the key here is to contact the Public Affairs Division and inquire as to what might be available for somebody in your situation. In particular target nonprofit, social work and any associations that are involved with the helping of others.
- Churches and religious organizations within your area. These organizations often have money earmarked for, again “hard luck” cases (homeless, disaster relief, etc.). Many times the church leaders have discretion on how this money can be distributed, and many times those incarcerated can fall under the umbrella of these funds.
- Private scholarships. This will be your bread and butter in the future. There are literally thousands of private scholarships out there. They are based on every imaginable criteria (the degree you are seeking, sex, race, hobbies, location, religious background, etc.). The list goes on and on. There are several good scholarship books that list every private scholarship and grant available nationwide. Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants and Prizes and Daniel J. Cassidy’s Scholarships, Grants and Loans are both excellent resources, and each offers scholarships ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. In applying for these scholarships, apply for anything and everything that you even remotely qualify for. The association which funded nearly my entire academic career started with a scholarship that I didn't even remotely qualify for, but they were so impressed with what I was trying to do that they decided to make an exception and give me a scholarship for one class. That one class led to nearly my entire academic career being funded while incarcerated.
- The Internet. Databases with thousands of public and private scholarships are available via the Internet. If you not have access to the Internet yourself, ask a family member or friend to do some research on it for you. The possibilities are limitless.
- Private and Public Foundations and Trusts. There are literally thousands of Foundations and Trusts out there that are required to give away a certain amount of money per year in order to keep their tax-exempt status. Many of these are geared towards education. Although securing these funds can often take months and even years, it is good practice to look into these early in your academic career, as they can provide a large chunk of assistance and allow you to go on to complete that second or even third degree. The one publication that I'm familiar with, Foundation Grants to Individuals is published by The Foundation Center, and is an excellent resource.
- Almost any scholarship you apply for is going to require that you write an essay as to why he you feel you're deserving of this funding. This is the most important process in the securing of financial aid. Your application will be judged almost solely on what is written within this essay. It is important you stress how you are using education as a way to turn a very negative situation into as positive a situation as it can be. Let the committee know that private scholarships or whatever you are applying for is the only source of funding available to you. Let them know that state and federal aid is not available, and that you are now faced with the final avenue available for living your dream. It is very important to sell yourself as someone who is attempting to turn his or her life around. Also, make sure that this essay is in the correct format, with spelling and punctuation being perfect, and that it is presented in a professional manner combined with a heartfelt plea. Do these two things and you will get results.
- A’s are a must. Again, A’s are a must. This is particularly true in the beginning, for the first one or two courses. The reason that this is so important is that as you apply for scholarships at later dates you want to be able to send your transcripts, report cards, etc. along with your application and essay. This sets a track record in what you've done with scholarship money in the past. Show the committee members you are serious about turning your life around and serious about education. The importance of this is enormous. You must be able to show them that their money is going towards a worthy investment.
This is just a rough outline to get help you get started. I want to stress that there is money out there for everyone. There is absolutely no reason you cannot secure funding for your education while incarcerated. It is only a matter of beating the bushes. The money is there, but the effort has to be there to make it happen. If you’re serious about obtaining an education via correspondence while incarcerated, I'm here to tell you and I'm living proof it can happen; you only have to want it bad enough. I invite you to visit my web site www.troyevans.com and e-mail me with any questions or comments you may have. In the near future I will be publishing a book PAYING FOR COLLEGE: Financial Aid for the Non-Traditional Student. As completed it will be posted on my website. Good luck and go shake those bushes.
Troy Evans is a professional speaker and author who resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Pam and his dog Archibald. Troy travels the country delivering keynote presentations, and since his release from prison has taken the corporate and association platforms by storm. Overcoming adversity, adapting to change and pushing yourself to realize your full potential. Other speaker’s talk about these issues, Troy has walked them.
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