The AARP Women’s Scholarship Program recognizes the ability to pay for tuition and books are frequently not the only impediment to an older women’s success in secondary education. Adults who have been out of school for lengthy periods may not know how to access the educational system, how to register and how to select classes. They are apt to have serious doubts about their ability to reintegrate and to keep up with students who are on more traditional paths to their degrees. Adult students may be unfamiliar with the latest educational technologies or even basic computing skills. In addition, adults who have been out of college for an extended period, or never made the transition in the first place, may be unaware of or unfamiliar with the latest institutional and other resources available to them. They may not have received adequate advice or assistance in planning their academic programs or in developing realistic career goals. Lacking family experience, role models and access to institutional resources, older students are at risk of leaving education again without the degree. These college-related challenges are on top of the obvious potential life struggles associated with family, work, finances and academic preparation.
AARP Foundation Women’s Scholarship Program provides mentors for one year. The mentors are trained retention professionals who help the women:
- Set academic and career goals
- Work through time-management issues
- Improve study skills
- Gain computer access
- Understand and navigate the “hidden curriculum”/social mores of colleges and universities
- Provide sustained, effective encouragement and guidance to ensure academic progress
- Overcome challenges facing low-income, high risk adult learners, including addressing basic needs and identification of other sources of financial aid for school
- Build and maintain confidence
- Undertake general career planning
- Overcome prior negative experiences with learning
- Use a prior learning assessment to accelerate time to degree and save tuition dollars
The mentors achieve these goals through online mentoring and telephone but there could be cases where the mentor and student live close enough to provide opportunity for face-to-face meetings over the course of the year.