Financial Aid for 24-Year-Old Returning to School?

Question: I am 24 years and want to be in college this year. I made an annual income of $25,000. Will I be eligible for financial aid of $12,000?

At age 24, you will be considered an "Independent Student," which means that colleges will look at only your income and other financial resources and will not include those of your parents. For most 24-year-olds, this is good news, since it usually means they will qualify for far more financial aid than if the parents' figures were included in the aid calculation.

Your annual income of $25,000 should mean that your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) will be low and that you will qualify for financial aid to make up the difference between your contribution and the cost of your education.

You can estimate your EFC by using an online calculator such as this one: Be sure to check both "Federal' and "Institutional" methodology on the questionnaire because this will reflect the varying ways that the colleges on your list may determine your financial need.

If you already know where you're applying, check to see if your college requires only the FAFSA form or also the CSS Profile form. If your college does NOT require the Profile, then the "Federal Methodology" EFC will apply to you. If your college DOES require the Profile, then the "Institutional Methodology" EFC will be a reasonable approximation of what you will be expected to pay.

To find out the amount of financial aid you will be eligible for, you must subtract your EFC from the Cost of Attending the college of your choice.


Cost of attendance is $32,000 (this includes tuition, room and board, fees)

Your EFC (according to the online estimator) is $5,000

Your financial aid eligibility is:

$32,000 - $5,000 which is $27,000

But ... many colleges do not meet "full need." In other words, the college folks may say, "Sure, you're eligible for $27,000, but we can only give you $6,000."

So you may have to shop around and find out which colleges can provide the greatest amount of financial aid.

Also, if you are supporting yourself, your income may plummet when you attend college full time, so you can explain this to financial aid officials when you apply for aid. You should write a separate letter to aid officers after you've submitted your online forms. In this letter, state whether or not you will be working when you start school and how your annual income will be affected by your enrollment.

Hope that helps. Good luck with your plans.