Serving the Tarrant County College District

The Collegian

Serving the Tarrant County College District

The Collegian

Serving the Tarrant County College District

The Collegian

Older students need a support system in college


Being a non-traditional student can be


Non-traditional students either have a large gap between when they either graduated high school and then started college or they attended college many years ago and have decided to go back to school to complete their degree or get a new degree to further their career. These students are usually much older than their classmates.

For me, the decision to return to school was difficult. I have a 20-year gap between my first time in college and my now. Older students often face obstacles during their return to school. Many are usually working and raising a family simultaneously and balancing that and school can be difficult.

Financially, returning to school can be stressful, especially if you come from a single parent household or only one spouse works. Many want to finish school as quickly and efficiently as possible to make the best use of the money from their families’ pockets.

These students should be looking at financial aid options and scholarships. If they have a career, some companies have educational benefits to help employees return to college to bring the skills they learned back to their jobs.

Time is another factor. Many students like me also work part-time or full-time, have a family and have a full course load. Sometimes, challenging isn’t enough to describe the juggling that gets me into the classroom or the level of fatigue I am experiencing because I had to stay up after the kid went to bed so I could do assignments.

All the multitasking a non-traditional student does in an eight-hour day can be difficult. It’s usually a 12- or more-hour day. There is a lot of guilt about the time spent away from home, especially since kids grow up so fast. One of the first things I realized was that my time management skills had to change significantly. That included discovering my learning style, which can be broken up into three types: visual, auditory and kinesthetic or a combination of them and making a flexible class schedule with the help of an adviser or taking some online classes.

Non-traditional students also face an isolation factor. Only a few, if any, events, or clubs on campus help facilitate building community with people who are also dealing with the same issues.

Making new friends on campus is one of the best parts of college. If you don’t have people to socialize with, the experience can be very lonely.

Finding a support system is significant. You may need to find someone to do school pick-ups for your kids, help make meals or hire someone to do a deep cleaning of your house.

Getting your partner or spouse on board with the return to education plan will help you navigate all of that and you must have conversations with your kids to make sure they understand there will be some changes. Still, if everyone works together, then things will go more smoothly.

Returning to school isn’t all negative. The skills and topics I’m learning in school positively impact my life, and I’m looking forward to using these skills in my career. It also gives me self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment, knowing that even though it’s been decades since I was in school, I can reach my goals.

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