While only about seven percent of all college undergraduates are married, this number increases greatly when you look at students over the age of 25.
As more and more adult students return to college, the number of married college students increases as well.
Married students encounter a unique set of challenges as they progress through college. Married college students have much different responsibilities than the traditional student, with increased financial pressures, differing social experiences, and a partner with whom they must plan their future.
While being married in college can be difficult, it does have its advantages. Let’s explore both the challenges and advantages of being a married college student.
Financial Aid for Married College Students
When applying for financial aid, it might seem like marriage can work against you. Instead of counting only your individual income, you must now count your spouse’s as well.
But the upside of marriage in terms of financial aid is that once you are married, you’re an independent couple. This means that the federal government will no longer look at your parents’ income when you fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This can be very beneficial and lead to greatly increased aid through grants and subsidized Stafford loans.
Scholarships for Married Students
Aside from financial aid advantages, married college students are also qualified for a variety of unique scholarship opportunities. These specific scholarships are typically offered by individual colleges. For example, Ohio State offers the Ed Bacome Scholarship, which gives preference to married students. The David H. Runyon Scholarship is given at Indiana University - East to married mothers. And Virginia Commonwealth sets aside a scholarship for married graduate students.
National scholarships, while rare, are also offered. Scholarships4moms offers scholarships to working mothers nationally, in amounts of up to $10,000. Simply stated, there are many scholarship opportunities for married students. Consult your prospective colleges for more information.
Obviously, the social life of a married student is vastly different from that of a single one. While single students have roommates, married students often live in married housing or off-campus. This can sometimes isolate a married couple and disconnect them from the student community. To combat this, it’s important to stay active within the college. Joining student organizations, clubs, fraternities and sororities, and athletic teams, can help keep you connected to the school community and bring about a well-round perspective on the college experience.
Additionally, oftentimes one member of the married couple is in college and the other is not. This can bring about issues of trust, support and financial burden. Utmost in importance, throughout a student’s studies, is a supportive spouse. Without communicating expectations before enrollment, there are often feelings of distrust, resentment, and even envy.
Discuss your goals and expectations with your partner, and lay out a specific plan to achieve them. Budget this plan as well—with a thorough exploration of scholarships and financial aid—so that both individuals have realistic expectations. With good financial planning and goal-setting, college can be a wonderful experience for both single and married students.
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