What is a nontraditional student?

If you’ve considered going back to college, you may have come across the term nontraditional student, but what exactly does that mean?

Actually, it’s easier to describe a traditional student than a nontraditional student. Traditional students attend college right after graduating from high school and take classes full time. They may work, but they haven’t started a career.

What is a nontraditional student? Typically, they are described as 25 or older and have returned to school to earn a professional certificate or an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree. Depending on the college, they are sometimes referred to as adult students or adult learners. These students often juggle school, work and family responsibilities all at the same time.

Growing numbers

While the term nontraditional may make it sound like these students are out of the norm, the number of nontraditional students across the country is rising.

Because of the challenges nontraditional students face, these students must consider many different factors when pursuing their educational goals.

Weigh your options

As an adult student, you have a lot to consider. Will you continue working full time while pursuing advanced education or are you able to take some time off to focus on your studies? Do you want to take classes in a traditional, on-campus atmosphere or does a part-time, online program better fit your needs? Research various types of programs and schedule meetings with admissions counselors at a few institutions to get a better feel for the pros and cons of various approaches to continued education.

You may also want to reach out to your employer’s human resources office. Some companies have partnerships with specific colleges/universities. Other employers may offer incentives such as tuition reimbursement. If you are a veteran, make sure you take advantage of the educational benefits available to you!

Consider time and commitments

If you are going back to school as an adult, you need to set yourself up to succeed. Ask yourself, is now the right time to pursue additional education? In addition to family and work responsibilities, do you have time for classes, readings and assignments? If the answer is no, are there responsibilities you can cut back on to increase the amount of time you are able to devote to your studies?

There will never be a “perfect” time to go back to school. Instead, think ahead to reconfigure your schedule and commitments and focus on how earning a new degree will ultimately benefit your personal and professional life.

Develop a support system

It’s inevitable. There are going to be times when the workload seems to be too much, and you begin to question whether you can finish. Having the support of your family, friends and coworkers will certainly increase your ability to succeed. Let people know you are going back to school and let them support you! Need childcare for an evening class? Would it be helpful for somebody to walk your dog so you can finish an assignment? At some point you will need to ask for help. It is vital to have people in your corner from the very beginning.

What is a nontraditional student? YOU!

When you consider your options, make a plan and develop a team of supporters, going back to school as a nontraditional student is not only feasible, it’s a decision you will not regret!

At Bluffton University…

Working adults can complete their degree in accounting, business management, or social work; or earn an MBA (Master of Business Administration), MAOM (Master of Arts in Organizational Management) or MAEd (Master of Arts in Education).

The dedicated faculty and staff at Bluffton University ensure supportive, cohort-based programs for degree completion, MBA or MAEd. You will take classes one day a week via Zoom with the same group of students. Bluffton graduates routinely say the program has changed their lives.

Written by Tricia Bell, content manager