Nontraditional Students and Financial Aid

Are you 24 years of age or older? Do you have at least one child that you provide most of his/her financial support? Are you married? Are you a veteran? If you answer yes to any of those questions, you may be considered as a nontraditional student. Many nontraditional students have been away from 'school'  for some time, and appreciate extra guidance when planning to begin or return to college.

Financial aid is an important part of most students' success, so invest the time and effort to learn as much as you can about it. Here are several tips:

  • Keep good records, and copies of all applications you submit
  • Ask questions to be sure you understand everything
  • Don't wait until the last minute!
  • Be aware of deadlines and submit applications well before tuition bills are due
  • Learn more about the College's SIS, where you can quickly check your financial aid and bill status
  • Review our FAQs
  • Deadlines for scholarships come early!
  • Be conscious of keeping your loan debt to a minimum

Financial Aid Application (FAA)

Penn College has an internal FAA, to be completed or reviewed once a year. New students complete it as part of their Admissions application. Returning students enrolled in any one year will have a FAA for the next academic year generated for them, but they still need to review the information on that FAA and make any corrections during March or April. In case you do not have a FAA for the year of attendance, you can complete yours via SIS.

Apply for Grants

The first step in determining your eligibility for grants and student loans is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

You complete the FAFSA online. To do so, you will need a federal PIN (Personal ID Number). To request a PIN and to submit your FAFSA online, go to Submitting a FAFSA online is fast and secure. Many millions of students submit their FAFSAs online every year.

When should you submit the FAFSA? Early in the year, whether you will start classes in the summer, fall, or spring (January of the next year) semester. If you are required to file a federal (IRS) tax return (1040, etc.) you should submit the FAFSA 2 to 3 weeks after you electronically submit your tax return, to take advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which transfers key tax return data directly to your FAFSA. Do not change any of the data transferred from the IRS. Submit your FAFSA before April 15, which is Penn College's Priority Application Deadline.

If you have been a Pennsylvania resident and never attended a college or business/trade school before, you will be given the option to go directly to the Pennsylvania state's aid center's (PHEAA) secure website to complete additional questions as soon as you submit your FAFSA. Be aware that PHEAA has a FAFSA completion deadline of May 1 for most students. Students who may be eligible for PHEAA Grants and are taking distance education classes should review this frequently asked question. Regardless of what state you are a resident of, once the FAFSA Office processes your FAFSA, it will forward your information to your home state’s aid center.

By the way, don’t confuse with or Those commercial sites will charge you money to complete your FAFSA. Remember, the first F in FAFSA stands for FREE, so don’t waste your money!

This FAFSA site tells you what documents you need to complete your FAFSA. If you do need assistance, call, e-mail, or stop by the Penn College Financial Aid Office; and/or visit this FAFSA site. By answering YES to any question in Step Two of the FAFSA on the Web, you are considered an independent student, and so will skip the step for parents.

You will need to renew your FAFSA information every year, preferably during the first three months of the year and after you've completed your federal income tax return.

Submitting the FAFSA is the first step in applying for government-backed student loans. The next step is to request a loan.


Most students require student loans to help pay expenses. You should submit a loan application at least 90 days before your tuition bill is due, but you can apply as soon as you schedule classes. First-semester independent students can borrow a maximum of $4,750 per semester through the government-backed Federal Direct Stafford Loan Program.

You should apply for your Federal Direct Stafford Loan online. Online Stafford Loan MPNs are processed quickly. You will need your federal PIN to sign your MPN. First-time borrowers need to complete Federal Direct Entrance Counseling.


Review information about Penn College scholarships. With our easy-to-complete online application, you will be considered for all scholarships for which you satisfy the criteria. The best time period to apply is from December 1 until we start awarding in early March, though we accept applications until October 1. For most scholarships, you must be a full-time student to apply. We recommend that you submit your FAFSA for the same academic year as the scholarship awards. Here are several Penn College scholarships specifically for nontraditional students:

You may also want to explore our external scholarship page, where you can view scholarships offered by off-campus sponsors and use scholarship search engines.

Federal Tax Incentives

Students that file federal income tax returns may be eligible for a tax credit or deduction for qualified education expenses, specifically payments of tuition and fees (including payments credited by educational loans). For more information on the Hope Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit and the Tuition and Fees Deduction, visit the Parent & Student Guide to Federal Tax Benefits for Tuition & Fees site provided by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).

Upromise: Student Loan Reduction Program

Upromise is a program that allows you to help reduce your student loan debt. Various merchants will contribute a percentage of purchases you make from them toward your student loan. Family and friends can join on your behalf. Be aware that many of Upromise's partners require online purchases.

Bursar's Office

The Bursar’s Office/Student Accounts is responsible for the billing and collection of student fees, but also disburses or distributes financial aid funds. This is the office to contact regarding questions about your student bill, and to receive or inquire about any refunds you are to receive. As mentioned above, you can check billing and financial aid information from SIS.

Make Good Use of Your Time and Money

Good planning and preparation for courses can reduce both the amount of time and the amount of loan money that you need to complete your degree. Many new students underestimate the amount of study time they need to devote to a course to earn the grade they want, so give careful thought to the number of credits you can 'handle' each semester. Students that are good planners, know their limits, and manage their time well are much less likely to withdraw from or fail a course(s). Take advantage of the tutoring, guidance, and support that the Academic Success Center can provide.

Explore the rest of this Financial Aid website, including our FAQs. Complete applications well ahead of deadlines, strive to minimize educational loan debt, and feel free to ask us questions!

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