It’s that uneasy feeling of pressure you get after coming back from winter break— It’s a struggle to physically and mentally get back into the routine of classes, homework, studying and late nights. Now imagine taking off not just a month from school but years. This is a hurdle thousands of students jump every year.
Non-traditional students, older students who have chosen to continue their education after delaying it in the past, make up a significant portion of students in the United States. In the United States, polls indicatebetween 37 and 60 percent of college students could be considered non-traditional students. Of these non-traditional students, 58 percent are women.
For many non-traditional students, continuing their education not only gives them better opportunities for careers but a chance to accomplish their dreams.
Susan Potter, a post-graduate student from Wilcox, went back to school to find her true vocation. “I currently have my endorsement for high school education in social studies. In order to make myself more marketable,
I chose to complete an endorsement in English. I have had so many non-teaching jobs that I know teaching is where I belong.”
Non-traditional students at UNK say they find both challenges and rewards continuing their education at this point in life. “I thought when I was in college the first time that it was difficult finding time to do homework and other class-related activities. Looking back, I can't believe how much time I had then. Now, trying to balance classes with a husband, kids, work and other responsibilities, I find it's more challenging,” said Amy
Hadley, junior language arts major from Mitchell.
Non-traditional students may feel like a fish out of water when they find themselves sandwiched in with students far younger than them. With families, jobs and homes to manage, it can be hard to find commonalities with traditional students. “I've been mistaken for a traditional student several times. One girl asked me which dorm I live in. I suppose life experience is really the biggest difference between me and traditionalstudents,” Hadley said.
In order to bring together non-traditional students, UNK’s Non-Traditional Student Organization offers support. “We focus on continuing learning. Even if you can only take one or two classes, we encourage students to just continue. For older students, they come to class and leave because they don’t live on campus. We are kind of a support group to help other students, offering advice about advisors or professors, just someone who can help you to take steps towards actually graduating,” said Victor Garcia, a senior Spanish translation and interpreting major from Grand Island.
Garcia has high hopes for this new organization. “We want to figure out just what a non-traditional student needs so we can offer them more support. We want to get our name out there so that they know there is support. I would like to get our number of members up as well as more activities. My big dream is to get this organization across the nation to let these students know that they don’t need to be ashamed and just to get their education done,” Garcia said.
For non-traditional and traditional students alike, education is key. “It doesn’t matter if it takes 10 years to finish your education, as long as you continue,” Garcia said.