Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Untraditional and Nontraditional Students Attend College

nontraditional students in class
Photo: SDRandCo
Why Adults go to College

Going back to school after a long absence isn't easy. It is the process of stepping out of your comfort zone into a new, exciting, and terrifying path to a new future. Each of us, at some point in our lives, finds ourselves wondering if we could have been more or regretting that we did not pursue the dreams of our youth. For the untraditional non-traditional student, those regrets can be the stimulus to get us to take the first steps to achieve those dreams.

For some, lack of money was the reason we did not pursue those dreams earlier. For others, it is a lack of self-esteem or self-belief that we can actually accomplish the work required to make those dreams reality. Still others never received any encouragement to work toward their heart's goals.

More and more older adults are returning to, or attending for the first time, college classes. Lay-offs may be the reason, or the phasing out of a particular job. Technology has for decades made some jobs obsolete, requiring workers to learn new skills or find new ways to earn a living.

Once the path is determined, there are many obstacles to earning a college degree, money being only one of them and often not the most important. There is also family responsibility. Family, though, can be the impetus to get adults registered and into the classroom. After all, supporting their families is of vital importance to adult learners.

Nontraditional students can find college confusing, or even frightening. Overcoming the obstacles, though, will give you new found confidence and a new path in life.

Families can make College Harder

Families can make it harder on non-traditional students.
Photo: Jamierodriguez37
Sometimes, families make college life more difficult for adult students than it has to be. In some cases, women may be told that their place is in the home caring for children, that they are being selfish to take the time away from their children just to indulge in learning for themselves.

It is not the case that the majority of women who attend college do so to indulge in learning fantasies. They usually realize that the degree they will earn will make a marked difference in the lives their children and grandchildren will lead. Statistically, when a man or woman goes to college, it raises the likelihood that their children will also attend college, thereby giving their children the influence needed to put themselves on solid financial footing in their own futures.

Men may feel, or be told, that they are neglecting their duty to their families by going to college instead of finding a job. This is short-sighted in the extreme. A man without a college education is very limited in his earning power. A wife, mother, or girl friend who is not able to see that it is in the best interest of all for him to increase that earning power through the process of learning is not only short-sighted, but determined to prevent a better future from developing.

Government studies show that individuals with an associate degree will have more earning power than a person with a high school degree, for their entire lifetime. Individuals with bachelor's degrees will earn more than those with associate's degrees, masters degrees more than bachelor's degrees, and doctorates more than master's. At each level of education, a person's opportunities increase, with doors opening that might not ever have been recognized or considered otherwise.

A Higher Education Degree

Photo: kconnors
Not everyone will attain, or even desires to attain, a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree. There is nothing wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with waiting tables or digging ditches. Both are honorable work.

However, as one gets a bit older, waiting tables or digging ditches becomes more difficult. A higher education will give adults and older adults many of the same opportunities as it gives younger adults. Wish you had an education? Wish you had taken the time to learn a new set of skills when you were younger? It isn't too late.

Adults and older adults are returning to school in droves, and often find themselves sitting in classrooms with an eclectic group of learners, including others their age or very near their age.

Have a dream that requires a college degree? All it takes is making the decision to go. Financial aid offices are set up to help you find a way to pay for school. Student services and recruitment offices will be happy to assist you in deciding on what to study for a new career.

There's no time like the present to take a step into the future. And you're only too old, if you believe you are too old. You are the only one who can make that determination.

Going Back to School: Selfish or Selfless

So, who is right? Is going back to school when you have adult responsibilities selfish or selfless? Going back to school is both selfish and selfless. Selfish because it fulfills an individual need or desire. Selfless because it gives the graduate the ability to better care for the monetary needs of a family. See you in class.

Are you, or do you want to be, a nontraditional student?

Please Comment Below


  1. I attended college classes with my daughter. We were both nontraditional students at the time and both enjoyed the experience.

    1. Thank you for commenting. I shared some classes with my son-in-law, since we were both in college at the same place and time, and in the same degree program. I think I enjoyed it more than he did. :-)