Who Are Non-Traditional Students?

Who Are Non-Traditional Students?

Jasmin Dimas, Staff Writer

College experience is different for everyone. 

For non-traditional students college is especially unique. So, who exactly are they? These students could differ from the traditional student because of their delayed enrollment into college, their financial independence, and/or possible dependents, like children. Unlike the traditional student who is coming straight from high school and participating in college full time, their non-traditional peers could be enrolling with a separate college degree, 10+ years of experience in a job, or even a family.  

CAC has a blend of both traditional and non-traditional students. Some students come in with a sense of uncertainty for their future. For others, college is a second chance to try something that might not have been accessible in the past. Community colleges grant the opportunity for both types of students to coexist. 

Whitney Currie and Ronald Currie, no relation, are two non-traditional students here at CAC. Both students had similar reasons for entering into college life. Whitney wanted a career change, “Mostly, I was sick of working call centers…I needed to make changes.” 

For Ronald, CAC was a chance after many years of bouncing careers as a test driver, call center worker, and a trucking school trainer, to finally pursue a passion he had always held dear. “I have always been into computers,” Ronald stated. Unfortunately, this passion for computers as a career wasn’t accessible in the past. “When I was in my 20s, the best tech related jobs went to people with degrees from MIT, or who happened to get experience in the field.” Now, at the age of 57, he is majoring in Networking Technologies. Ronald hopes to pursue a career as an IT specialist.  

Whitney and Ronald are only two students out of the hundreds of non-traditional students at CAC. Each has their own reasons to attend CAC later in life. There is a valuable lesson here – it is never too late to start over. 

Going to school as a non-traditional student also brings challenges. Whitney, who plans to transfer from CAC to ASU, said she feels the age gap between her and younger students makes it harder to connect and, “…makes it less likely to have interests in common.” For Ronald, regaining financial stability after a previous stint at college in his 30s was his biggest obstacle. He stated, “I took on additional debt, and it took a while to get back to above water financially.” Connecting with other students and financial worry may be two issues that affect both traditional and non-traditional students alike, and these obstacle could serve as a common ground. 

For traditional students, interaction with non-traditional students can provide an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. Ronald and Whitney want traditional students to know that they should not let others choose their life for them and to never stop learning. Ronald specifically wants traditional students to, “learn critical thinking and apply it to everything.” Whitney believes that living life is the ultimate teacher, “I think younger students need to learn the lessons experience teaches.” 

Non-traditional students do not usually come to mind when speaking of college, but they should. They have accomplished many things in life that are still ahead for the traditional students, and they can talk about them not from a position of power but rather eye to eye. They are the generational bridge to traditional students.