What is a Non-Traditional Student?

There are a number of criteria involved in defining a non-traditional student. Most people think of age, and it’s often students over the age of 24 who fall into this grouping. Many in the field of higher education now utilize the characteristics named in a National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) study to define a non-traditional student. Regardless of criteria used to define the group, it is important to note that these students face different challenges and have needs that are separate from traditional students who begin their college careers immediately following graduation from high school. Let’s take a look at what sets non-traditional students apart and what you can expect from from your educational experience if you fall into this group.

Non-Traditional Student

NCES Characteristics

There are seven characteristics attributed by the NCES to be commonalities of non-traditional students. If you fall under any of these descriptions, you are a non-traditional student.

  • Delayed enrollment into higher education program
  • Part-time attendance
  • Working full-time
  • Financially independent from parents
  • Have children or dependents besides spouse
  • Single parent
  • GED holder

Needs of Non-Traditional Students

Non-traditional students often have needs that differ from those of their traditional counterparts. Reasons for such differences usually are dependent upon the student’s life stage. Because so many non-trads are working either part-time or full-time in addition to pursuing their degree, flexibility and convenience of classes is imperative. That one reason why online classes work so well for this group. As a working student, you can fit your studying and class requirements into whatever time of the day is best for you when taking classes from your computer.

In addition, older learners often look for colleges that have adult-friendly policies. Some of these may include flexible admissions standards, Accredited programs with a strong reputation and ability to transfer to other programs such as a four-year institution or graduate school are also appreciate by adult students. They also look for affordable education with a variety of financial aid options, as non-traditional students often have dependents and various obligations. Speaking of dependents, students with children absolutely look for either a college that has a childcare center or an online program that provides flexibility so that childcare is not necessary. Without such options, higher education is not a possibility for these students.

Finally, non-traditional students often have a very pressing need to pursue an educational program that will either lead to employment or help them to obtain a better job or promotion. Adult students are often facing challenging life circumstances that lead them to enroll in higher education. Such events as job loss, divorce, relocation or career stagnation make learning tangible new skills in promising job markets appealing. Thus, a college or university with a wide variety of desirable academic programs is attractive to non-traditional students.

Why Non-Traditional Students are Often Successful

Study Tips

You may be worried about entering college because you’ve been out of the education system for awhile now. You may think your unique needs as an adult learn put you at a disadvantage. The truth is, you’re actually more likely to be successful as a student simply because of your differences. There’s a good chance you decided to enroll in college for a very specific reason. You know what you want, and you can see the big picture. This knowledge will help you to keep moving positively toward your goals. In addition, you possess life experience that has taught you important skills such as prioritizing, time-management and problem solving. These skills will serve you well in balancing your many obligations with your academic assignments.

As someone with a wide array of experiences, you can often relate many of those in practical ways to the subject matter you’re learning. This kind of association will help you in understanding and retaining the information you read. While studying and formal learning may be something you feel like you’ve forgotten how to do, chance are you’re actually quite skilled at incorporating new things into your life when needed. Think of studying as just another skill you have to learn. After some time passes, you’ll get the hang of it, and things will begin to feel more comfortable.

As a non-traditional student, you do possess certain characteristics that differ from your traditional-aged peers. You also have needs that require you to find an educational program that is a bit more flexible and allows you to meet those needs. As an adult, you’re ready to face the challenges because you have the life experience to lead you to success.

Contact us at Brighton College to learn more about the ways our programs are designed to help adult students excel.