What is a Non-Traditional Student?

Three years ago, I made the decision to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in Communication after my time as a hockey team chaplain came to an end. I wrestled with the idea of how I would pursue my degree: would it be in a classroom setting at a local university in my native home of New York or would I do so online? And if I did my course work online, where would I attend?

After time in prayer and research, I launched my academic studies at Regent University as a non-traditional student. But you might ask yourself, what is a non-traditional student? Who fits into this category? According to the National Center of Educational Statistics, this definition varies based on location and institution.

Non-traditional students, according to New America, are often over the age of 23 and attend classes part-time. They also are usually financially independent, first-generation Americans, and live off-campus.

I had gone the non-traditional route before when I earned my Associate’s Degree in 2001 because it made the most sense financially. But when I initially enrolled at Regent, I didn’t do that. I wanted to get done with school as quickly as possible. After failing a class in my first semester back to school, I learned my lesson and decided to go back to what I knew was the right path: taking classes part-time.

What is the reason why so many of us non-traditional students re-enroll in college? For me, it is the opportunity to start a career in a new field – yes, even at the ripe age of 42 – in my dream field of broadcast journalism. For others that I’ve interacted with in my studies, it’s a similar reason or to advance in their current career.

Who among us are non-traditional students? It’s the stay-at-home parent who raised their children and now they’ve grown, they’re looking for a degree so they can reenter the workforce. It’s the recently discharged soldier or sailor using their G.I. grant to further their education. It’s the single parent who might be struggling and wants a better life for their child. It’s the student feeling stuck in their current job and are looking for a new career, perhaps even their dream career.

Although it might take us a little longer to accomplish, the goals of the traditional and non-traditional students remain the same: a degree and a chance at a successful future.

Featured image courtesy of retailconnection.wordpress.com.