Some students may have noticed the difference between the younger students who come fresh and eager out of high school and the middle-aged college students with families who are trying to start a new life. Perhaps some of us have even laughed at how many of them don’t seem to follow the same norms as those of us who have spent our entire lives in school. Often, they come to class early, eager to learn. They ask questions frequently and without shame. They share personal experiences with the class often and seem to be friendly with most everyone.

Many people would consider coming back to school a difficult task because they might fit in or because of their other responsibilities, but I would argue that they are the most prepared and receptive of all of us.

People who have come back to school after already being out in the world have the benefit of having seen what it’s like to live without a stable career, whether in their own life or in the lives of their friends and families. They have come back to school for a reason, to gain an education and, ultimately, a job. They’ve developed a renewed appreciation for the importance of education.  Because of this, they have a stronger motivation to succeed in their classes. This may be why they often aren’t afraid to ask questions when they need clarification.

These returning students don’t have their parents breathing down their neck to attend school and maintain a certain GPA. They’re here because they want to be. They’re taking control of their destiny and deciding to live the life they want to live.

These returning students also have a greater scope of life experience to draw from. These experiences help them to make connections between what they already know and what they’re learning, thus increasing their ability to retain the knowledge. This experience also gives them a unique perspective to offer to class discussions which enriches their learning experience and the learning experiences of others.

This greater length of experience would also make it so that they know how their minds work better. They know how their brain absorbs knowledge, what’s important to them and what they struggle with. This would help them to develop study skills that are customized to their personal learning needs and, therefore, can sometimes achieve more success in their classes.

Since these students have not been attending school for their entire lives, I feel that they are not subject to many of the social pressures that come along with being a younger college student. They don’t tend to care about whether or not they’re wearing the latest fashions, where the next big party is going to be or what everyone else thinks of them. They have seen how little these things matter outside in the real world, and their sole focus is getting through school as comfortably and successfully as possible. This prevents them from succumbing to the distractions that many younger college students seem to fall prey to.

It’s also pretty nifty that nontraditional students have a retreat in the Shepherd Union Building at the Nontraditional Student Center, where they can gather to discuss their studies and drink free coffee.

Returning students generally already have an established household.  Unlike their younger counterparts, they generally don’t have to worry about such things as finding roommates, buying pots and pans, taking clothes to the laundromat, or other worries that come with launching out into the world for the very first time.

On the other hand, this perhaps gives them a great deal more responsibility to deal with than some younger students. There is always a trade-off.  All in all, though, it seems as though being a returning student has just as many academic benefits, if not more, than it does hardships.

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