Are you a veteran or someone looking to enhance or change your career? Maybe you’re a grandparent, a single parent or someone returning to college after stopping to raise a family.
If you’re not a typical college student (just out of high school and living on campus), then you’re considered a nontraditional student.
Nontraditional students are defined by their enrollment patterns, financial and family status, and high school graduation status. While there’s not an exact definition of a nontraditional student, the National Center for Education Statistics identifies the following seven characteristics common to nontraditional students:
- Didn’t attend college immediately after graduating from high school
- Attends college only part time
- Works full-time (35 hours or more per week)
- Financially independent
- Has children or dependents other than a spouse
- Is a single parent
- Has a GED, not a high school diploma
Do one or more of these characteristics describe you? If so, you’re a nontraditional student.
If you think that leaves you in the minority, think again.
“These students have the potential to reshape higher education, as their needs and student service requirements are different from the traditional 18- to 22-year-old student living on campus.”
According to the NCES, the nontraditional student population is the fastest growing population in colleges and universities. The latest data show that in 2011, 74 percent of undergraduate college students fell into the nontraditional category. The NCES projects a 21 percent increase in students aged 25 to 34 and a 16 percent increase in students aged 35 and older by 2020.
That’s why Frank Rodriquez, director of operations and student support services for the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies, often refers to PACS students as “neo-traditional.”
“As traditional student populations decrease, colleges and universities are going to see increases in the student population that PACS has served since it was created in 1961,” Rodriquez said. “These students have the potential to reshape higher education, as their needs and student service requirements are different from the traditional 18- to 22-year-old student living on campus.”
Rodriquez said these students, in fact, may become the majority in many institutions of higher education.
“As their numbers continue to grow, it is no longer suitable, or accurate, to refer to these kinds of students as ‘nontraditional,’” he said. “They are the neo-traditional students that may come to dominate colleges and universities in the future.”
Furthermore, about one in 10 nontraditional students choose online courses as their route to a degree. So, as you can see, your circumstances my not be as unique as you might think.
While being a nontraditional student may present its own special challenges, it’s comforting to know there are others like you seeking similar goals.
You can also rest easy knowing PACS will be there every step of the way, working to give you the support and help you need to make your college experience a success.