August 14, 2020

The truth about being a nontraditional student

Starting a new semester of college is always a bit awkward. Everything is new. It takes time to adjust to the professors, books and subject materials. Everyone starts the semester with different expectations. This is even truer for a nontraditional student. You feel like an outsider, almost as if time ceased to exist for you, while the rest of the world continued to move forward. I know because I am one of these students.

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This archived article was written by: Austin Palmer

Starting a new semester of college is always a bit awkward. Everything is new. It takes time to adjust to the professors, books and subject materials. Everyone starts the semester with different expectations. This is even truer for a nontraditional student. You feel like an outsider, almost as if time ceased to exist for you, while the rest of the world continued to move forward. I know because I am one of these students.
“What in the heck is a nontraditional student” you may ask. It applies to someone at CEU who is 25 or older, married and/or with children. I fit all three categories. To give a little background information, I received my associate’s degree in May 2004. After working for two years in Salt Lake City, I decided to quit being an educational slacker and finish my bachelor’s degree through USU, most classes I could take at CEU. This brings us to the present time: I’m 26 years old with a wife, 10-month old son, three dogs, a full-time job and a full-time student. I am busy, but happy. Life is good … except for the new label I have acquired. (I have decided the rest of the students at CEU should also have a label and for the rest of this article, they shall be known as the others, as on the TV show, “Lost.”)
Being a nontraditional student can be uncomfortable. I walked into my first class and realized that I look 10 years older than the others. Most of them probably thought I was the professor instead of a student. Some of the others look as if they haven’t yet hit puberty, which makes me feel older than dirt … and I’m not even that old! I feel like Billy Madison returning to kindergarten, sticking out like a sore thumb.
Nontraditional students live in completely separate worlds than the others. I hear them talk about parties they’ve attended, while I haven’t been to a party in ages. I don’t even know what they do at parties any more. They look in the mirror every morning hoping to find new facial hair, while I hope I don’t find hair where it isn’t supposed to grow. They talk about their next boyfriend or girlfriend, while my wife and I talk about when to have another baby. They are tired from staying out late with friends, while I’m tired from doing homework the night before and then working all day long. They hope their roommates will let them watch their favorite TV show when they go home, while I hope a dirty diaper isn’t waiting for me when I go home. The contrasts are endless.
The moral of this story: we are all different. Each of us has come to CEU with varied backgrounds and obstacles. While I have emphasized our differences, we also have much in common: we are all students trying to achieve goals through higher education. We are similar in more ways than we know. If you are a nontraditional student, remember you are not alone. If not, try not to laugh at the weird questions we ask in class or how old we look. You may end up a nontraditional student someday too.

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