Non-traditional student college experience

Hello from Wilmington, North Carolina! My name is Bridgette, and I’m a non-traditional senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington studying English with a concentration in Professional Writing, and a minor in Journalism. When I’m not in class or studying at the library, I can be found at home with my two kids, or working as an English/Math tutor for children. An aspiring freelance writer, I enjoy the art of local storytelling, spending time with my family, and living at the beach. I have published articles with local magazine Wilma Magazine and my college newspaper The Seahawk. I received my English Education degree from Cape Fear Community College in July 2012, before transferring to UNCW. I strongly believe in helping non-traditional students find their place in the university life, as I can personally attest to the frustration of juggling school, kids, work, among other things. Read on to discover some tips for surviving life as a non-traditional student.

While most students begin college straight after high school, others find themselves traveling, working in the service industry, or taking a break from school for a while. For me personally, I took a break from school to raise my two children that I had very young. Now at 29 years old, I am close to graduating with my English B.A., with a minor in Journalism. If you think you are too old to go back to school; think again, it’s never too late to continue or begin your college education.

Explore Community College Life First
Although it is good to have a plan to get your B.A. down the line, you may want to consider starting off at the community college level if it’s been awhile since you’ve been in school. Not only are these schools cheaper, but many of them are better molded toward non-traditional students, and you are more likely to find others in your same position. As someone who started off at a community college and then transferred to a university, I can attest that the community college level will have more a variety of students from all age groups and backgrounds to help ease the transition back to college. It is also good to get your basics out of the way at a community college since you would take the same classes but for a much higher price at a university.

Find Where You Belong
Once you do transfer to a university, find a group that you feel comfortable in, such as writing for the college newspaper, or helping to plan student events. It is much easier to get lost in the world of university life if you don’t take the time to find a small group you connect with. Not only will it help you meet new people, but clubs and extracurricular on-campus activities are great to add to your resume.

Connect with Other Non-Traditional Students
Most campuses offer a mailing list for non-traditional students, including lists of events where students of this type can meet up and get to know one another. University of North Carolina Wilmington where I attend frequently has pizza parties, beach swim days, among many other events geared specifically toward non-traditional students. A lot of the time these events are extended for non-traditional students to bring their spouses or kids along, too. It can be a great opportunity to meet others who are in a similar position to you.

You’re Not Alone
One of the most important things to realize as a non-traditional student is that you are not alone. It is good to form friendships with students of all ages, and perhaps you can serve as a mentor for some of the younger ones who need guidance. It can be frustrating to work full-time, attend school and take care of a family, but many non-traditional students out there do it, and you’re not alone. Finding others who are in the same boat as you will help smooth the process, and before you know it, you’ll be walking on stage with that cap and gown – well off to your new career!

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