Friday, October 19th, 2018

Back to School: If you’re non-traditional, you’re not alone

Posted on March 02, 2015 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

It is early March and winter break seems but a distant memory.  You remember that about six weeks ago you had a social life. You look fondly back on those nights of eight hours of sleep and afternoons where you weren’t rushing from your day job to a 4:00pm class.  You thought your days of eating meals out of a vending machine were long gone; yet here you are, two Snickers bars and a coffee into dinner, asking yourself, “Just what was I thinking when I decided that this going back to school thing was a good idea?”

Welcome to the life of the non-traditional student. According to the American Council on Education  40 percent of all college students are considered non-traditional students; some estimates even put the number at 70 percent.  38 percent of enrolled college students are over the age of 25 and 25 percent are over 30. They are generally working full-time, have achieved some level of financial independence and many have children living at home.

Whether this is your first time in college or you are making a return, you’ve chosen to add the pursuit of a degree to your already full and established life.   You may be juggling a full time job, a primary relationship, myriad hobbies, a social life and possibly family commitments. Even if you are attending part-time you are adding an additional ten to fifteen hours a week of class, study and homework time to all of that.  Is it any wonder you might be asking yourself if you are a little crazy?

Despite the difficulties there are many benefits to being a non-traditional student.  You have been out in the world making a life for several years now.  As such you have a much better idea of what you want out of life than you did at 18.  The decision to go back to school was probably not one you took lightly.  That decision may be rooted in a desire for personal enrichment or to further your career, but whatever your reason for enrolling here at USM you really want to be here, and you are determined to do what it takes to achieve your goal.

It’s true that being a non-traditional student is not easy.  You can at times feel stressed to the max, cut off from your former life, and yes, you question your sanity often, but the good news is that you are not alone.  USM is full of non-traditional students like you and me.  This column, which will be shared weekly, is written for students like us.  It is my hope that it will not only shed a bit of light on the life of the non-traditional student and offer a bit of advice, but also to help each of us feel a little bit less isolated.


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