On Being a Non-Traditional Student

Back to School: Adults and Higher Education
Source: Back to School: Adults and Higher Education



At 29 I'm considered to be a non-traditional student. This has it's advantages like always being able to get the full amount of student loans. Being able to recall the short list of actual experience I've had is a plus too. I do at times find it somewhat discouraging being in classes with other students ten years my junior. I am somewhat relieved that at least thus far I seem to have more direction than the vast majority of what I must now call my peers. I find this to be the norm for those of us who are considered non-traditional, we all came back to school for a reason, we're not just continuing in academia because we don't know what to do with ourselves. This section is dedicated to those things that help keep me going when I feel more the outsider and I encourage my fellow non-traditional student to bookmark this page and refer back here whenever you feel discouraged by your lack of youth.


I found this site a little helpful: About.com Non-Traditional Student

I was wondering when this whole thing started how to do this correctly, be a student I mean. Here's a link to something that might help though: 10 Ways to be a Great Student. Some of the things are a bit of a joke, but that's part of the fun of it I think.

Here are some helpful links:
How to make friends as a non-traditional student
10 tips for Non-Traditional students

Mary Price was once a highly functional drug addict, graduating from high school, raising a family, and working as a teller at a horse track. But after checking herself into a rehab facility, the staff encouraged Price to become a recovery counselor herself. So after beating her drug addiction, she put determination into action, returning to school to get a certificate in alcohol and drug counseling. She admits that at 69 years of age, it was a challenge to go back to school but that helping people “feels so rewarding,” and every small victory for her at school made her feel “prouder and prouder” of her accomplishments.

You may have heard of Nola Ochs, who amazingly became the world’s oldest college graduate in 2007. She earned her teacher’s certification in the ’30s, but pursuing any further education was put on hold while she was married and raising children on a farm. After her children grew up and her husband died, Ochs found that she wanted to resume her education, receiving an associate’s degree at the age of 77, but she didn’t stop there. She received a bachelor’s degree at 95, graduating alongside her granddaughter, and a master’s degree at 98. Ochs is an incredible example of the never-ending drive for lifelong learning. Click here to read more about Mrs. Ochs. The picture below is of Mrs. Ochs receiving her masters.


Two thousand miles and 11 kids couldn’t keep Allyson Reneau, a 50-year-old mom from Oklahoma, away from Harvard. In earlier years, she dropped out of the University of Oklahoma to get married and have a baby, a detour that was at the time supposed to be temporary, until she continued to have babies and found herself at the head of a 13-member household. But when her youngest child turned 5, she decided to once again pursue her dream to re-enroll in school and subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree. Flush with success, Reneau was inspired to pursue a master’s degree from Harvard and is now enrolled in the Harvard Extension School. She commutes 4,000 miles each Monday, returning home to her family and business on Tuesday mornings. Reneau’s family is incredibly supportive, and as a mom, her incredible effort is an inspiration to her children

Priscilla Santiago left high school at the age of 16 after she was sexually assaulted by both her father and stepfather. After dropping out, she waitressed until she found a job with Bayer pharmaceuticals as a forklift operator and worked there until she was laid off when the plant was shut down in 2005. At 59, she applied for unemployment and was advised that the agency would pay for her education, a program that she took advantage of. Santiago was able to earn her GED, and upon graduation was further encouraged to enroll in community college, where she stayed on the dean’s list the whole time until she earned her associate’s degree. She even continued and earned a bachelor’s degree, graduating with her class despite taking exams while her mom was on her death bed. Santiago’s degree is in human services, allowing her to help others who have experienced abuse and violence. She is now a part of The Workplace, an organization that helps those in need get the training and jobs they need to turn their lives around, just like Santiago.

A college graduate at 41, Tammy Ramsey waited 25 years after graduating from high school to achieve her dream of a college degree. After college, she happily got married and raised children, but when her husband became sick and was placed on disability, the family reached a crisis point. Ramsey stepped up for her family and enrolled in a community college, working full time and taking night classes. She then finished her teaching degree with Western Governors University and has earned her teaching license to become a provider for her family. Ramsey says that despite feeling overwhelmed and discouraged at times, the challenge was worth it.

He’s a grandpa who has fought in Vietnam, and it seems that he’s already had a great life, but 61-year-old Alan Moore does not seem to be content to rest in his later years. After he was laid off from his construction job, Moore decided to go back to school. He went to college to finish a degree he started over 40 years ago, and not just that: he tried out for the school’s football team, becoming the kicker and the oldest college football player ever. His advice: believe in yourself, and never give up. The picture below is Mr. Moore's team photo. 






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