Why Non-Traditional Students Are Nervous About Attending College

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By Karen Powers Liebhaber

Contributing Writer to RNDegrees.net

The thought of going back to college after the age of 26 can be daunting. Many prospective non-traditional students--college students over the age of 25--believe that they are too old to go to college. Others feel so intimidated by the thought that they postpone their decision or talk themselves out of it. Despite their doubts, returning to college after the age of 25 is usually a wise decision.

Afraid of Doing Poor in College

Most non-traditional students are afraid they will do poorly in school after being out for so long. Usually, this is completely untrue. In fact, most non-traditional students earn better grades in college than they would have if they had attended right out of high school or after the GED.

For many non-traditional students, a few years in the real world has taught them what life is like without an education. They have been passed over for promotion, underpaid, even unable to get a different, often better job. Not only do they know what is actually important in life, they see a real value in education. Because they are conscientious about their grades, they recognize the importance of studying. They often find that they not only appreciate their studies, they enjoy learning.

Dread paying attention for their own tuition

Many non-traditional students had a free ride to college when they were younger: Mom and Dad were paying, they had a scholarship, or they received grants. Now, however, the non-traditional student is responsible for footing his entire bill in addition to his familial costs.

Fortunately, many colleges have scholarships, grants, and fellowships aimed solely for the non-traditional student. Government options exist to help the non-traditional pay his tuition. In many cases, colleges have waivers for adults over a certain age, the adult student’s work will pay for his return to school, or he is a displaced worker eligible for programs that exist to pay for his tuition.

Worry about being looked down upon because of their age

Frequently, the non-traditional student worries that she will be looked down upon by traditional students and instructors because of her age. This is almost always incorrect. In fact, many traditional students look up to the non-traditional simply because she is older. They expect her to have advice for them and be a role model. Most traditional students recognize that the non-traditional is balancing work, family, and school.

Instructors, too, are glad to have the non-traditional student because they know she tries, she cares about her grade, and she genuinely wants to learn. The non-traditional is not there because Mom and Dad are paying her way and forcing her. She’s there because she has chosen to be.

Apprehensive about balancing work, family, and school

Many non-traditional students worry that they will not be able to manage work, family, and going back to school. In many cases, returning to school requires familial sacrifices. However, the sacrifices are often worth it.

Having a valid reason to scale back on a child’s sports may reunite the family and increase the familial bond. Spending time discussing a science lecture that coincided with their children’s improves both the children’s and the parents’ understanding of the material. It may even open a new area of interest in which both parent and child can share.

Often, non-traditional students express delight in finding that their child has a new interest in going to school. Doing homework when the children do increases not only the children’s grade points, but their respect for their parent. Mom’s new interest in her own schoolwork may inspires Jimmy to study harder for his history exam--especially when she made an A on her exam and he made a D.

Finally, many non-traditional students express concern that they cannot attend college because classes conflict with their jobs. However, with night classes, weekend classes, and distance education options, scheduling college courses has become more convenient than ever. Instructors can be contacted at a variety of hours. Even college services are available at irregular times.

Fear that the traditional students will "blow the curve"

Perhaps the largest fear that non-traditional students have is that the traditional student will “blow the curve,” will increase the instructor’s expectations to a height that the non-traditional student cannot achieve. The funny thing is that the traditional student is concerned about the non-traditional blowing the curve! Fortunately, this concern is usually incorrect. Traditional students and non-traditional students usually work on the same level.

The realization that one does not have enough education for a good job coupled with the necessity to return to college is often depressing for a non-traditional student. However, once he embarks upon this difficult journey, he’ll find rewards about which he would never have dreamed. He’ll also realize that the journey, though tough, was more rewarding that he would have ever imagined.

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