We believe that our learning community is greatly enhanced by students from a wide array of backgrounds, and we welcome applications from those of non-traditional college age. We recognize the challenges and concerns that can come with applying as a non-traditional student and we are here to support you.


How many non-traditional students are at COA?

Although the numbers vary from year to year, we typically have 15-20 non-traditional students (age 25+) enrolled. 

What is different about financial aid as a non-traditional student?

Applying for financial aid as a non-traditional student is similar to the process for all other students (you need to complete the FAFSA and COA’s verification form), with the exception that you may be considered an independent student and not need parent financial information. At COA you are considered an independent student if you are 27 or older or have received an approved Dependency Override from the Financial Aid Office. Make sure you complete the appropriate application and verification form for your status.

Please also be aware that the federal limit to receive financial aid is 150% of the time it takes to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree (equal to 6 years). If you were previously enrolled at a college and received financial aid but do not plan to transfer credits to COA, it is possible that your financial aid eligibility will expire before you graduate. We encourage you to discuss your situation with our financial aid staff.

Do I still need to submit my high school transcript?

We do still require your high school transcript to be submitted as part of your application, though our admission committee understands that you have likely had many new experiences since graduating from high school. They will also look at transcripts from any colleges you attended and we welcome you to explain other learning experiences through your essays and/or an interview.

What if I have been out of school for a while and don’t have teachers to write recommendation letters?

If you are not able to get educational references from recent teachers or advisors, you might consider asking a mentor, supervisor, or someone else in your community who knows you well and can speak to your strengths.

Will my previous college credits transfer?

A student can transfer a maximum of eighteen credits to COA, the equivalent of sixty semester credit hours or ninety quarter hours in systems commonly used at other institutions. One COA credit is equivalent to 3.3 semester hours or five quarter hours. Work at another accredited institution is transferable with a grade of C or above. Although all work from previous institutions must be submitted during the admission process, students may elect to not transfer in their credits (unless receiving VA benefits). Military training experience may be acceptable for credit under the American Council on Education guidelines. As with DANTES, credit requests are handled on a case-by-case basis.

A transfer student bringing in nine or more COA credits is exempt from the first-year requirements (Human Ecology Core Course, History, Writing, and Quantitiave Reasoning courses). We can connect you with the registrar’s office if you have any questions or would like a preliminary transcript review.

What is it like to be a non-traditional student at COA?

We are happy to connect you with a current non-traditional student if you would like to hear about their personal experience.

How does housing work as a non-traditional student?

Non-traditional students are not required to live on-campus and often prefer to live independently. If you would like to live on campus, we guarantee housing for first-year and transfer students entering in the fall term, if all forms are submitted by May 1st. We cannot guarantee off-campus housing, but we do our best to help students find options in town. We will share any rental listings we receive and are happy to send out a request to the COA community on your behalf. We also recommend checking out the MDI Rental Resource group on Facebook.

I have more questions!

Please reach out to us! We’re happy to help and we will do our best to provide answers based on your specific situation. Our admission staff are available via phone or email. You can also schedule an interview to chat one on one with an admission counselor.