As a non-traditional student, here are a few items I wish I’d known before I hopped back in.
Your Professors Are Here for You
This is one of those pieces of advice that every nerd who runs freshmen orientation will tell you and I whole heartedly urge you to take it into consideration. Your professors are here for you! Yes, you will have some grizzled professor that just got tenure, who may or may not give two flips about what you whippersnappers are doing, but 99% of the time you will have professors who genuinely care about your success. Remember, you are taking this class to learn the basics. These people have spent years (years!) of their lives learning and dissecting the subject. Listen to them. Go to office hours. Take notes. And put your phone down! No professor is going to tell you that your question is stupid, or that you should give up and drop the class while you can still get a refund. They will do everything within their abilities to help you. When in doubt, keep asking questions.
There’s Money on the Table
So many students forgo scholarships because they feel intimidated. I’m here to tell you: They’re worth it. Most colleges have writing centers dedicated specifically to scholarship essays. You have a story worth telling and that story can make you some serious money. Thousands of dollars are reserved for first generation-, non-traditional-, minority-, and LGBTQ students and more. Your student loans will haunt you for years to come,
so take advantage of what’s on offer.
Jeez, I’m Old. Good.
This is for fellow non-traditional students: I’m here to tell you that it’s very different and sometimes a little lonely. Whether you’re entering as a freshman or returning after an extended absence, it’s different as an adult. While your classmates are bonding over being away from home, you are scheduling classes around work. There will be moments when you feel like you should be riding into class on a Hoveround, and you’re tired because your kid was up all night. To contrast, there are times when your life experience will help you better understand the course material than the youngins sitting next to you. You’re the one who deeply knows this experience is invaluable to your future, and you’re likely the one footing the bill, meaning you’re really paying attention.
Time Flies
When you feel like your syllabus is mocking you and you just don’t believe you will ever be able to get the work done, I want you to remember that you are smart and fully capable of doing this. Four years will, at times, feel insurmountable. Thing is, it’ll pass faster than you can ask in a loud, scandalized tone, “How much for that textbook?!” Before you know it, you’re walking across that stage brandishing a diploma. Just remember in your darkest of nights, eyes deep in reading, ready to chuck it all in and give up: Donald Trump has a degree. You got this.
“Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you”
— John Green

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