The challenges of being a non-traditional student

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

Photo by Scott Wells/Prospectus News Baby Boomer Connie Deyarmond and Generation X student Bethany Parker study Microsoft Office applications this semester at Parkland. Keeping pace with rapidly changing technology allows them to remain competitive in the work force.

Photo by Scott Wells/Prospectus News
Baby Boomer Connie Deyarmond and Generation X student Bethany Parker study Microsoft Office applications this semester at Parkland. Keeping pace with rapidly changing technology allows them to remain competitive in the work force.

Parkland’s student body is incredibly diverse. Students can generally be divided into two groups – traditional and non- traditional. Traditional students are those who enroll in college courses straight out of high school, and non- traditional students are typically 25 years of age and older. College life is very different for these two groups of students, and non- traditional students often face a lot of adversity in the world of academia. This can be a very stressful experience, and Parkland offers services to help these students cope.

Tony Hooker, Advisor in the Adult Re-entry Center, is one of the many faculty members at Parkland that helps non-traditional students navigate their academic careers.

Hooker explained that the Adult Re-entry Center is a one stop shop for adult learners. Students can find out what they need to know about enrolling in college, and Advisors will help guide them through the process. Instead of wasting valuable time trying to figure out what it is they need to do, and wandering around campus looking for specific offices, students can use the center as resource to efficiently get things done.

In addition to going through the process of enrolling in college, non-traditional students also face other difficulties, such as feeling alienated, financial pressure, and learning how to manage their time more efficiently. All of these things add up to a lot of stress, and Hooker hopes that he can be of help to students dealing with these issues.

“Most adult learners have jobs, families, and responsibilities over and above school,” Hooker added. “What we try to do is be a repository for as much information as we can so that our students can focus on the important stuff, which is the learning. Whatever might inhibit their ability to successfully complete their class, I feel it is my job to try and filter that out.”

Although non-traditional students might have a lot more responsibility, they also tend to be more focused. They have life experience, knowledge, and they tend to know why they are in school and what they expect to gain from the experience. Sandy Spencer, Director of the Career Center here at Parkland agrees.

“Anecdotally, I feel like adults, academically, are more focused and more ready for school,” Spencer said. “That’s because maybe they’ve had some experiences where they weren’t as focused, so when they come back to school, or when they start school, they are more focused and more appreciative of the opportunity.”

Adult learners certainly don’t have an advantage over traditional students, but their focus seems to be the factor that ensures their academic success. Statistics show that non-traditional students typically perform well.

According to the Institutional Accountability and Research department here at Parkland College, as a group, non-traditional degree-seeking students have a higher average cumulative GPA than traditional degree-seeking students.

Many adult learners may feel as though they are alone, but the Fall 2014 enrollment statistics show that approximately 31.6 percent, or 1,913, of all degree-seeking students here at Parkland are non-traditional. Non-traditional degree-seeking students range from ages 25 – 81, with an average age of 34. Dealing with family life and all of the other responsibilities that go along with being an adult leaves little time for school. The data supports this fact, and shows that most of non- traditional degree seeking students (62.7 percent) are part time students.

Whether you are a traditional or a non- traditional student, college is a stressful endeavor. Adult students currently enrolled at Parkland, as well as adults who are contemplating going back to school, can find assistance in the Adult Re-entry Center, located in room U233, or the Career Center, which is located in room U238.