Life of a Non-traditional Student

By: Tim Thiede (@DJ_Tim_T)

Over the past five to ten years many universities and vocational colleges have seen an increase of adults on their campuses. With the increasing number of adults returning to school the term “non-traditional student” may come to pass as the presence of adult students has become more commonplace.

What exactly sparks the interest of many adults returning to universities to earn a degree?  Reasons can vary from the struggling economy, to advancing a career and to following a dream. The struggling economy is a relevant factor for many adults returning to school.

For me the choice was a result of these two factors: achieving a dream and advancing into a career that I have always desired.

ImageWhen I returned to school I attended a two-year institution before deciding to attend full time. I made this decision because I wanted to major in radio/TV/film and earn a minor in journalism. The two-year institution did not have many of the classes I needed, so the Radio/TV/Film and Journalism programs at UW-Oshkosh were highly recommended to me. I am now a full-time student one year away from a degree.

When returning to college, one has many things to consider. Some of these factors can be a big issue, while others may not be as critical as they seem. With one year away from my degree, here are the challenges I encountered:

 Financial Obligations

As one grows older, the amount of items you make payments and the number of bills you pay only increases. Other than dealing with appendix cancer, this has been my biggest obstacle while being a full-time student. I am still paying on a house I am trying to sell and have car payments, but with assistance from financial aid and various other loans I am living a dream.

Becoming Part of the Campus Community

This can be one of the biggest obstacles to many non-traditional students. Do not be afraid to say “hi” to students younger than you. You will be surprised how much they can make you feel part of the campus community. Getting involved in organizations, especially those connected with your major, can help you feel like a part of the university. The non-traditional student office at UW-Oshkosh can provide you with information about various ways to get involved.


If you have a long way to commute or are unable to pay monthly fees to rent an apartment, the UW-Oshkosh campus does provide housing covered through student loans. Usually, adult students are placed in a housing community with other adult students and traditional upper classmen. Many people within the community are friendly and make you feel at home.

When it comes down to making the final decision, weighing the factors may help. There are many other factors to be covered and if you wish to find out more, check out my YouTube video.

From my experience, the only way to be successful in returning to college is to have the “mindset” that you want to return. The desire is what makes your learning experience satisfying.


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