Success Tips for Non-Traditional College Students

Many colleges are experiencing growth in non-traditional student populations, with some campuses catering specifically to working adults. Although non-traditional students are more common and schools are working to cater them, it will always be a challenge to balance work and school.


If you’d like to go back to school or currently attend college as a non-traditional student, the following tips can help you balance academic and professional responsibilities.

Take a Manageable Course Load

Balancing work, family, and school isn’t easy so you have to be realistic about how much you can handle. If you can only take one class, that’s okay. It’s better to excel at one or two courses than to struggle through a heavy load. In fact, you’ll probably save time and money by passing everything the first time rather than retaking courses.

Set a Study Schedule

A schedule is particularly important for non-traditional students, because school isn’t your only focus. Academics can get pushed aside when there are so many competing demands. Try to find a block of time every day so that you don’t end up cramming or rushing to finish projects at the last minute.

Create a Designated Study Space

A study space should be free of distractions and provide room for all books or materials. If you have family or roommates, they should know and respect your study space just as with your schedule. Having a specific work space puts you in the right frame of mind and allows for better focus.

Seek Out Support

In order to successfully manage work school and personal life, you’ll need support from people in your life. First, your immediate family will need to be fully supportive of your efforts and willing to step in when you need some time to study. Your employer should also know you are a student, and will hopefully offer moral or practical support when needed. School shouldn’t be an excuse to slack off at work, but it’s important for your coworkers and supervisors to be aware that you’re also a student. If you foresee scheduling conflicts, bring it up as soon as possible so that your colleagues can have time to prepare.

Make Practical Connections

It’s likely you’ll have more work experience than most college students, so take advantage of your position by making connections between what you’re studying and your current or past jobs. How can your courses benefit your career currently and how can you apply that knowledge to make immediate career gains? You may also be able to bring practical experiences to the class discussion, which will benefit other students.

Communicate with Professors

All students should communicate with professors, but this is especially true for non-traditional students. You may not be able to make  office hours, but speak to them before or after class so they know both your name and face.  Introduce yourself and ask relevant questions about the course or topics discussed. Once you become familiar with your teachers and show enthusiasm for the subject, they will be more willing to help you in the future.

College isn’t easy for anyone, but non-traditional students face additional challenges.  Luckily, there are a few simple actions that can make balancing work and school much easier.

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