Returning to College: Tips for Non-Traditional Students

Non-Traditional Students: African American Senior working on college assignment on laptop.
Some baby boomers, or individuals born in the years 1946 to 1965, are going back to college to complete a degree, stay competitive in the modern working environment, or simply improve their skills. They are what we call non-traditional students who may need to undergo a period of adjustment in the college setting.

If you’re returning to college as a new student, a second courser, or you simply want to finish what you started in college years ago, here are some tips:

Find out what you really want to study by undergoing assessment. The returning student has to complete a questionnaire provided by the college or university to determine his or her strengths. This may be a modified IQ exam, but there’s no pressure to get a high score in any subject area. This test is necessary so that the individual knows whether his current skill set matches the subjects he plans on taking. Some college websites also offer this test for free.

Determine What You're Good At

Many baby boomers are inspired by the economic boom brought on by new technological breakthroughs and they want to be a part of the change. But having the proclivity for the subject ensures that the individual will not find it difficult to cope with the course work.

Ask your target university if you can audit a class for one semester. In the academic sense, auditing a course means “sitting in” during lectures and participating in the course work without earning college credits. This may seem like a waste of time for some people, but this is a good way to find out if you can see yourself doing this for real. This is a particularly good strategy if you plan on studying a subject that is new to you or if you’ve already taken up the subject when you were in college and you need a refresher. Many baby boomers who are not familiar with computers and technology audit several courses before going for it.

Choose Your College Wisely

Some college programs are better than others for specific subject areas. College admission personnel are more than willing to discuss the scope and limitations of their courses for you to find out if that college is the best option for you. Some colleges offer online coursework supplemented with weekly face-to-face classroom sessions. This will enable you to complete your degree without taking time off work to study.

Get advanced college credits by taking the College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP). Use the CLEP process for subjects like History, Business, Social Science and Literature. While CLEP isn’t free, you will save time and be able to concentrate on other subjects.

Help With Tuition and Other Fees

College tuition assistance for returning students comes in many forms. Ask if your employer has tuition reimbursement for employees who take enrichment classes. There are universities and colleges that offer discounts for returning students. Some grants and loans may also be offered by the college.

Technology Update

One of the things that returning students find intimidating is the level of technology that is now being used in college courses. If your computer skills are basic or less than adequate, there are tutoring options available in most colleges. You can also try tutorial courses online for free. The best thing about modern technology is the information sharing. You can self-study and learn the basics of computers by talking to someone who knows and by reading or watching tutorials online.

Dealing With Generation Gap

Returning to college means you will have to deal with generation gap. You should also prepare for the classroom interaction, especially because your classmates and professors will likely be younger than you. It may take a while for everyone to adjust to the fact that someone older is attending class with them, but if you establish yourself as a student and you tackle the coursework with gusto, the adjustment will go smoothly.

Investing on a computer and other gadgets that you may need during college will help you a lot. You will be communicating via email and you will definitely need a laptop for in-school work and presentations. While most schools have projectors and other devices, you will still need internet connection and a printer so that you can conveniently communicate with classmates and professors.

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