The average person probably thinks of the typical college student as an 18-year-old recent high school graduate earning a degree at a traditional college. In the past decade, these traditional college demographics have changed considerably. More people attending college to earn their degree are non-traditional students. Many of them never went to college, got an associate’s degree or dropped out of college before graduation who have come back.

The Non-Traditional Student Up Close

At one time, an adult past 40 assumed that they were too old to think about returning to college or attending college for the first time to earn their degree. Things have changed dramatically. Many of the college students on campuses across the country are over 40. Many are earning their first college degree, while others are earning a second degree. They range from undergraduate students to Ph.D. students. They’ve come back for a variety of reasons. Some of them were never able to complete their degree because of financial reasons or they had to take care of their children. Some of them want to improve their job prospects or they are looking for a change of career. For a few of them, they just love learning and they are blessed to have the money to keep taking classes.

Attend Evening Classes

For those non-traditional students who are still working, a normal college schedule isn’t going to work, because most classes are offered at the same time they need to be working. To help with this, many colleges have started offering evening classes on a variety of subjects. These students go from work to school and spend several hours a week in their evening classes. Instead of going to class three times a week, the classes are usually one or two nights. While some of the higher-level classes are only offered during the day, most non-traditional students can manage to get most of their degree by just going to night classes.

Go Part-Time

For non-traditional students with a more flexible schedule who still have to work, they can take classes part-time at their local university. Many universities will offer a lower tuition if you aren’t going full time, so this can also be beneficial. It does take longer to earn your degree, but it allows you to keep working with the benefits of taking classes during the day and being on campus with the majority of the student body.

Online Classes

For those who aren’t able to work their schedule to take classes part-time, don’t have night classes nearby, or don’t want to go to a campus to take classes, there are plenty of online degree programs. These online universities and their programs are surprisingly customizable and will fit well with most people. They allow you to move at your speed and provide the support you need to figure things out. Because they don’t have a physical location that students attend, tuition is often cheaper, and many students will complete their degree much quicker than they would at a normal college because they don’t have always have to follow a semester schedule.


A large number of older adults are interested in continuing their education but lack the necessary funds. There are plenty of scholarships for students that do not fit the mold of the traditional student. There are several grants that are aimed at getting people to go finish their degree and some schools will specifically court these students with special scholarships. The wide array of scholarships is pretty easy to find because many organizations are very public about helping people with education.

Today, the workforce is more competitive than ever. Therefore, it is almost mandatory for the working individual to earn a degree to stay competitive in some industries. The non-traditional student should not delay their plans to further their education.


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