College students are mostly perceived as young people aged from 18 to 23 years old. People may refer to them as traditional students because they have made the majority of students’ population in universities for quite some time.

However, the university doesn’t consist only of young students. You can find students of all ages in universities now. The non-traditional student population of colleges is gradually increasing year after year. A non-traditional student is considered someone who, for particular reasons, couldn’t continue their post-secondary education after high school or had to take a break after being accepted into one.

Going back to school after 35 and over might be scary for some, but it doesn’t have to be. Of course, there will be many challenges awaiting non-traditional students once at the university. However, becoming aware of them will make it easier for you to face and overcome these challenges while simultaneously increasing your chances of success.

Challenges That Non-Traditional Students Face

Going back to school isn’t an easy decision to make. Adult students have many things to consider before coming to a final decision. Commitment only isn’t enough because they may already have too much on their plate to find space for education.

Being a first-generation student

Many non-traditional students are the first person in the family to continue their higher education and have to figure out everything related to it on their own. Being a first-generation student can make the whole joining a university process challenging. You’ll have no one to turn to give you insights on whether you’re making the right choice or even to provide you with a few tips on what’s awaiting you.

Paying for school

While traditional students might depend on their families to pay for their college education, adult students aren’t this fortunate. They’ll have to pay for schools themselves or seek out financial help from the state. When choosing to pay it from their own pockets, they know that for years they’ll have to make financial sacrifices to pay tuition fees on time. On the other hand, getting student loans means that for a few years after they finish their studies, they’ll have a debt to pay.

Lack of self-confidence

Being an older college student in a room full of young people isn’t the easiest. The age gap might create difficulties in socializing with them. At times, you might even compare your situation to theirs. Seeing younger students thrive in their studies while you might be left behind because of your other responsibilities might take a toll on your self-esteem.

Choosing the college and the major


Often non-traditional students might not have a clear idea of what they want to study. They might not know whether they should pick up where they left or to have a brand new start. Even when they choose a program, they might want to make sure that the curriculum is developed in that way that they can continue working and fulfill family responsibilities. Or whether other adult students choose this kind of program, or whether they’ll earn credit for all the experience they have. These elements are all taken into consideration when making a major decision.

Apart from the importance of choosing the right major, choosing the right college, you want to continue your studies in is of equal importance. After all, the better the college, the more qualitative the work of the professionals working in that institution. Which ultimately leads to better career opportunities in the future.

Use of modern technology

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Another challenge that non-traditional students face, especially those who continue their studies after a pause of ten years or more, is learning how advanced technology works. Many college classes deliver or require tasks to be submitted online. This might be a problem for older students who don’t have much experience in this area. However, one is never too old to stop learning.

Balancing the work-study-family life

Many non-traditional students have other commitments aside from studying. Having a full or part-time job might be just one of them. Normally, being employed requires you to balance work and studies. Finding the time to attend classes, study, or finish homework means you need to learn to manage your time.

There’s more managing to do when in the equation enters the family. The day has only 24 hours, and you need to learn to get the most of these hours when you have children to look after, a job you need to give your best to, and the studies you want to continue.

How to Overcome the Higher Education Challenges

Being aware of the difficulties and obstacles you’re going to stumble upon as an adult student won’t prove helpful if you don’t know what to do about them. Take some of our tips on how to make your learning experience as an adult way easier.

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Make a financial plan

Tuition fees aren’t a low sum to pay. One has to do serious planning on how they’re going to pay them. The benefit of the planning is that once you realize you can’t pay them yourself, you can always turn to state financial aid, or university’s scholarships and grants.

Find universities with flexible schedules

Universities are trying to make the studying experience easier for their students by offering more flexible schedules. Yet, not all universities do so. To find those universities, you need to do thorough research on them before you decide to apply.

One other alternative is to try online education since it offers the flexibility the non-traditional students desperately need.

Ask for help

It’s not failing if you see that you can’t manage to do all that’s required of you in one day. Everybody can understand you and your situation. On the road to advancing your education, you don’t have to be alone. You can always ask for help when you’re struggling academically or otherwise.

Trust yourself

Everything gets easier when you trust yourself and your abilities, studies included. You won’t get anything by doubting your capabilities. There’ll be moments when you aren’t sure whether you can manage to earn a degree while amid other responsibilities. All you can do is to remind yourself that you’re not the only one struggling. Everybody is struggling in their own ways. You just don’t know about that.

Celebrate small victories

Getting a degree will certainly be a massive success. However, you shouldn’t wait until you graduate to celebrate. Every step you take towards that degree should be considered an accomplishment. Maybe you submitted an assignment on time, or you got an A on an exam. Those are all moments worth celebrating.

Continuing school after a long pause may have its difficulties. Still, this doesn’t mean that you won’t achieve the goal you have set for yourself in attaining a degree. The hardships, financial expenses, and hard work will be worth it in the end. Be courageous and be strong; you can do this!