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What Is A Nontraditional Student?

September 26, 2017
by Anesa McGregor , Emmetsburg News

With college classes getting underway, I am reminded of when I went back to school.

One would think this is no big deal, but for me it was a terrifying thought that could bring on what might be considered panic attacks. Why would this be, do you wonder? Well, I was 47 years old when I went back to school and although there were other nontraditional students at the college, there was only two or three of us in the program I was in.

I began to wonder what really constitutes a nontraditional student and in doing some research, I have discovered what I think is the best description. What follows has been taken from an article written by Stephen G. Pelletier from Rockville, Maryland.

The National Center for Education defines nontraditional students as meeting one of seven characteristics: delayed enrollment into postsecondary education, attends college part time, works full time, is financially independent for financial aid purposes, has dependents other than a spouse, is a single parent or does not have a high school diploma.

By this definition, I was the typical nontraditional student, and I met more than one of the above characteristics.

I definitely delayed enrollment into college. I attended college as a fulltime student plus worked a full time job. I was financially independent. I was a single parent of a high school student. I did, however, have a high school diploma.

As I said at the beginning, I was scared to go back to school. The majority of students in my program of study were directly out of high school. They understood how to use computers extremely well and had no problems doing research, writing papers or submitting assignments over the computer. I, on the other hand, was self-taught on a computer and what I did know was tremendously limited.

I liked having a hard copy of textsbooks. For me learning is being able to read, highlight, take notes and read again. I would sometimes lose focus reading on the computer.

But I was determined to get the degree in Criminal Justice that I had wanted since I could remember, with a lot of trial and error, I managed to figure out what worked for me. I took five semesters because I started in the summer but I graduated with honors. Even though I was very scared to return to school, it is something that I would tell anyone thinking of getting their degree that it makes no difference how old you are. What is important is doing something that you truly believe in and for all the obstacles and fears that go with returning to school as a nontraditional student, it is all worth it in the end.



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