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Back to College: 6 Common Issues Facing Non-Traditional Students

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It’s that time of year again! The stores are full of school supplies and students around the country are getting ready to head back to class. If you’ve been tossing around the idea of going back to college to finish your degree, you probably have some questions you want answered and some concerns that you need to have addressed.

6 Issues Facing Adult College Students

Below is a list of six issues that most non-traditional college students have faced at one time or another, and we hope that you’ll find the information valuable.

1. I’m too old to go back to school. Students over the age of twenty-five are often referred to as non-traditional students or adult students. They often return to college later in life to complete the degree they did not earn the first time around, and a growing number of adult students are beginning college for the first time.

Studies show that non-traditional students aren’t quite as non-traditional as they once were—more and more college students work full-time and juggle the pressures of college with the responsibility of raising a family. The National Center for Education Statistics projects that the number of non-traditional college students over the age of twenty-five will increase by nineteen percent between 2006 and 2017.

2. I can’t afford to go back to college. Figuring out how to pay for college is a major concern of most students, especially for those who are financially independent and have recurring bills each month. The tuition at your local community college or state university is drastically lower than the tuition at a private university or liberal arts college, and financial aid for non-traditional students is available in the form of federal grants, student loans, and scholarships. Paying for college is possible, and the schools you are considering should be happy to provide additional information regarding financial aid.

3. I don’t have enough time to take classes. If you work full-time and have a family, it might seem like there are just not enough hours in a day. Although it may be difficult at first, it is possible to find the time to take one or two classes per semester as a part-time college student.

Colleges and universities are adapting to the needs of non-traditional students with busy schedules by offering a larger selection of classes in the evenings, on the weekends, or over the internet.

4. Who will watch the kids when I’m at school? A growing number of colleges and universities offer childcare services, and plenty of others have daycare centers located nearby. Alternatively, you may have a group of friends or relatives that are willing to help you complete your degree by watching your kids for a few hours each week.

If you find yourself in a pinch because your baby-sitter cancelled on the night of an exam, you could always bring your child to class with you and explain the situation to your instructor. Most professors understand and have empathy for students that are attending college despite a having a hectic schedule—after all, a lot of professors are also working parents.

5. I’ve been out of school for so long, I’ve probably forgotten everything I ever learned. Going back to college after a long break can be frightening, but fear can act as a huge motivator. There’s no time like the present to go back to college or start for the first time. Help is always available in the form of remedial classes, college study centers and tutors. Adult college students with jobs, busy lives and families often earn better grades than younger students who started college straight after high school simply because they are more serious about their studies!

6. The younger students will make fun of me. A lot of non-traditional students have anxiety about being the oldest person in the room and they’re often afraid participate in class discussions for fear of drawing attention to their age. Some adult learners are even too embarrassed to ask for help if they are having trouble understanding a concept being taught in class, but that’s also common among younger students who do not want to be recognized. It’s important for adults that are going back to college to remember one thing: although they might not much in common with the younger students, they are all striving to improve themselves by working toward a college degree.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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