5. Scholarships in your field One of the biggest trump cards that older students hold over traditional college coeds is that they already have a career, Tanabe says. Armed with years of experience, real-world connections and a well-rounded resume, older adults seeking field-specific financial aid often are better positioned than 20-somethings for some scholarship programs.
"Somebody who's offering scholarships in an area like marketing, for example, they want to make sure they're giving that scholarship to a person who knows they're going into marketing," Tanabe says. "You can raise your chances of getting that scholarship by demonstrating that you've had experience working in that area."
6. Cash in on service Thanks to new legislation, military veterans may be able to pass their tuition bills on to Uncle Sam. After Aug. 1, 2009, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act will allow those who served active military duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, access to veteran educational assistance for up to 15 years after service, five years longer than under the current law.
Eligible vets can use their education benefits almost anywhere to cover tuition, fees, books and housing, says Keith Wilson, education service director for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"We've got veterans at about 6,800 locations throughout the world drawing benefits from us, and this is just one more way we're trying to help them readjust (to civilian life)," Wilson said.
Wilson adds that veterans also start receiving a 20 percent increase in educational assistance as of Aug. 1, 2009, to keep up with climbing tuition costs and inflation. The bump boosts assistance to $1,321 a month for those enrolled full-time.
In addition to all the financial assistance the federal government offers former military personnel, there's another government source for aid. Several states, including Oregon, Connecticut, Montana, Texas and Wisconsin, offer full tuition waivers for veterans.
"Just about every state offers some type of discount program," Wilson says. "In addition to our programs, there are literally thousands upon thousands of places that veterans could receive aid from."
"That's the biggest challenge for veterans -- getting their hands around all the aid that's available and what the eligibility requirements are," he says.
Christina Couch is the author of "Virginia Colleges 101: The Ultimate Guide for Students of All Ages."