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Going Back to School for the Non-Traditional Student

The decision to go back to school can be a tough one to make.

Maybe you’re worried that too much time has passed, or you just aren’t sure how college can coexist with “real adulthood,” which often includes the responsibility of managing children, jobs, financial obligations, and the like. To be frank, it can be a really scary life adjustment! Add that to the stresses that you might have about being older than the average student and out of the loop, and well, it can get even scarier. We understand that, and guess what? You’re going to like what we have to say about the non-traditional student.

Let's get technical for a moment.

A non-traditional student refers to a category of students that did not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year that he or she finished high school, typically in the 26-40 year old bracket and have a variety of educational and professional experience. They may attend on more of a part-time or flexible basis, and probably work at least part-time when enrolled. One thing they all have in common? This isn't their first rodeo, and they have a little more life experience under their belts. While there are challenges to becoming a student later in life, there are also many perks.

Managing Your Time… and Your Sanity!

Most non-traditional students have moved out of Mom & Pop’s long ago, and have been busy supporting themselves, and possibly a family of their own, for some time. Adding college into an already demanding schedule can seem impossible to do without losing your mind. There is a lot of pressure to be a superhero here, especially considering that nursing school IS hard. But having a solid game plan and a strong support network will make everything possible. You have experience juggling so much already, figuring this out will luckily be a little easier for you. Sit down and create a realistic schedule that you can live with. Communicate with your friends and family what you will need help with, and let them help you. And remember that nursing school won’t last forever, so these adjustments will only be temporary. (And worth it!) 

You Know What You Want

For some entering college right out of high school, it may be challenging to adjust to the culture, learn the ropes (and the lessons), experience independence for the first time, and simultaneously know exactly what they want out of their college experience. In fact, it’s not uncommon for younger students to switch majors a few times, or spend time pursuing interests and goals that they may end up letting go of in a month or two. But an adult entering or re-entering the collegiate realm has much more working knowledge of the way the world works, is more focused, and truly understands the importance of time management in a way that applies to the real world. So, remember - While it may be frustrating to sit in a classroom with a twenty something who might be just a little green, don't forget that we were all there at one time or another, and there may even be something you can teach that person to help them along their way. We’re all just trying to figure it out, but adult students definitely have the advantage when it comes to the built-in tools needed to succeed.

Better Coping Skills

It's safe to say that if you're returning to school as an adult, that probably means you've been managing your own life (and maybe even the lives of your children or family members) for quite a while now. You’ve got a firm grip on reality. You understand that it’s important to look at the big picture and are willing to work hard to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Not because this understanding was magically bestowed upon you, but because you’ve worked hard to earn this knowledge through what we like to call, “Life.” One bad grade doesn’t mean you should hang it up and quit nursing. You have the maturity to know that one bad grade means you have to ramp it up and try harder, and you also possess the confidence which will tell you that you will succeed if you work to continuously improve. While we can all agree that being an adult is sometimes overrated, we sure do appreciate it in these moments!

So, go on - make that information session appointment that you've been putting off. Now is not the time to be doubtful; it's quite the opposite! You've spent a lot of time cultivating the awesome adult you've become, and you now have the skills needed to create the life you've always wanted with a rewarding career in nursing. Of course it will be tough, but anything worth the work always is. You've got this.


Related Articles:   Don't Stress the (PAX) Test!  |   Getting Into Nursing College   |  Emotional Rewards of Nursing   |   First Day on the Floor: ICU








Jenn Meredith

Jenn Meredith

Marketing Coordinator

Jenn Meredith is a frequent blog contributor and coordinates Digital and Content Marketing for Galen College of Nursing.