non traditional students

The term ‘college student’ is no longer exclusive to the traditional 18 to 24-year-old matriculating directly from high school. Today’s college students are parents, caregivers, full-time employees, and retirees. In fact, estimates suggest that 40% of the current undergraduate population at American colleges and universities are non-traditional.

Selecting a college, applying to college, and enrolling in colleges courses can be daunting. Click here to access resources which will assist in those decisions.

Tuition and Course Load

Often the cost of school is an important factor in determining which college or university is the right choice. Click here to compare costs associated with specific colleges and universities. 

In addition to tuition, colleges typically charge fees for things like parking, technology, and laboratory use. Adult students should consider these fees when determining the total cost of attending college.

Course load is another important consideration for non-traditional students. Many adult learners work full-time, so attending college full-time is not an option. Most colleges have part-time programs available so that adult learners can continue earning money while getting an education. Online courses are a good option for adult learners who work long hours and may not be able to attend classes on campus. Online classes offer opportunities for interacting with professors and students via online course software. Tests, quizzes, and assignments are completed and submitted online. It may also be possible to get credit for prior learning by taking and passing examinations in specific subject areas.

Online Learning vs. Traditional Higher Education

Although online learning is a good opportunity for some students, online classes are not for everyone. Enrolling in online courses typically requires better time management and organizational skills, as students must complete all of their work on their own time. Students enrolled in online courses often have to teach themselves the course material without the benefit of having other students or an instructor in the room. Another major drawback to online courses is that online learners do not have the opportunity to join study groups or participate in campus activities.

Advantages of Online Courses

  • Accessibility: Attend online classes from anywhere. This is great because many graduate school students hold down full-time jobs in addition to studying. Not having to rush to class on a busy workday -- or a relaxing weekend day -- can be a perk. Flexibility: Work on classwork when it makes sense for you, as you are not tied to a class schedule in most cases.
  • Interpersonal Breadth: Your peers will include students all over the country and even the world. This is also a great advantage for networking purposes.
  • Cost: An online education does not require that you relocate to a new place or that you stop working full time.
  • Documentation: Documents, transcripts, live discussions, and training materials are all archived and recorded so that they can be retrieved via mail, e-mail or the school's website for reading, downloading and printing at any time.
  • Access: Instructors are available, respond quickly through email and generally are prepared to work with diverse students with a range of lifestyles and needs.

Disadvantages of Online Courses

  • Employment: If you attend an institution that is entirely online, you may find that you have to discuss the validity of your degree. Some people may not view a completely online program as being as authentic as a traditional or hybrid program. Information about the school's accreditation can convince employers of the program's validity.
  • Communications: Most of your communication will be through email, which may not be the most effective method if you or the professor are better in person.
  • Courses: Not all courses of study are easily available online. If you're interested in a more unusual field, you may have difficulty finding a source for a complete online education.

Additional Resources

Adult students do not have to navigate the college application and enrollment process alone. There are many on-campus and off-campus resources available to help students learn how to apply for financial aid, plan a course schedule, and decide on a career path. Adult learners also have access to tutoring, counseling, and other services. Students who need career advice should check with the career services office to learn about starting a new career, applying for jobs, and writing cover letters. The staff members of the financial aid, registration, and accounting departments can answer specific questions about paying for college, applying for financial aid, and enrolling in courses.

Financial Resources for Non-Traditional Students
There are various resources that can help you assess how to be financially responsible throughout your education. Financial aid can involve federal assistance from the U.S government, scholarships, and non-profit or private organizations. For low-income non-traditional students who cannot avail of financial support from their parents or external parties, financial aid can cover educational expenses including tuition and fees, housing, books and supplies, and transportation. It is important to understand how to navigate loans- which are also an option but to also explore all types of funding available and make a decision that works best for you. Our resource list provides a unique visual that can walk you through how to apply for financial aid through the U.S government’s FAFSA portal- which can open the door to loans, grants, and scholarships. It also provides a general list of financial resources available to students to help them navigate college in a financially responsible manner.

Resources for Non-Traditional Students with Disabilities
Non-traditional students with physical, mental, intellectual or learning disabilities should note the extensive resources available to them for various organizations and institutions that provide general and specialized support. At times, students with disabilities may need additional support and accommodation to succeed in college. Your respective campus also has specialized student services and associations that offer further empowerment and support for students with disabilities throughout their academic journeys. 

Resources for Non-Traditional Immigrant Students
Undocumented and immigrant students have the right to attend college in the United States. However, it can be difficult to navigate what resources are available to you given your respective legal circumstance, but also the constant change in immigration policies in the U.S. Furthermore, immigrant students may also face more hardship when it comes to finding scholarships, federal funding and specialized resources such as language courses. We have compiled a resource list that we hope will support you in your education as a non-traditional student and allow you to have a fulfilling college experience. 

Mental Health Resources for Non-Traditional Students
It is essential for non-traditional students to understand that they can access counseling, psychiatric, and mental health management services through their institution’s mental health centers. The pandemic has also had consequences on students' mental health. Non-traditional students may find it difficult to adjust to the change in lifestyle and navigate academic challenges. This resource list captures the extensive resources available that can help students navigate their mental health, so they can thrive in their studies.