(Source/Tribune News Service)
Non traditional students enter college with a huge advantage: They know how to work. They come to class focused, as they have experience working in the real world. (Source/Tribune News Service)

For many students college math is a daunting prospect, but for some non-traditional students, it can feel like a deal breaker. As a non-traditional student you have to put forth both time and effort, and your decisions are based not only your courses, but on jobs and families as well. It can get overwhelming quickly.

“A good starting ratio would be, for every hour spent in class, two hours spent on homework,” Kathryn Van Wagoner, head of the developmental math program at Weber State, said. A three hour a week class schedule works out to nine hours total spent on math, so that is six hours on your own time.

Add to this the stress of the coursework itself. Math is not easy for a lot of people and knowing that it needs to be done within the few hours you have to yourself can send you into a negative state.

Sources outside the classroom are more likely to sidetrack a “non-trad.” Family and work don’t disappear just because you decided to go to college. Prioritizing your time and staying positive and focused can be a challenge for anyone, let alone a working parent.

However, there is good news. Non-traditional students enter college with a huge advantage: they know how to work. They come to class focused from their experience working in the real world.

Below are some tips for keeping yourself on track outside of class.

1 – Have a good attitude

You can do college math. And, as cliche as it sounds, you should tell yourself that. “It’s the one time it is OK to lie to yourself,” said Van Wagoner. “Tell yourself you can do it, even if you don’t believe it.” Fake it till you make it. It works.

2 – Get it over with

A big mistake many make is putting off developmental math until the end of their generals. It is much better to start off with math, and not take semesters off until you complete it. “There are too many people who (are almost ready) to graduate and still don’t have their math done,” Van Wagoner said.

3 – Balance your workload

Another mistake is trying to get all your tough classes done early. Especially with math, take some fun or interesting classes rather than another difficult class at the same time. You don’t do yourself any favors by saving your art and music classes until the end of your associate’s degree. Van Wagoner: “Balance your schedule so you can get the brain power you need into the math”

4 – Make the time

Put time aside every day to do your coursework. If you are a morning person, make an hour every morning. If you are a night person, do it at night. If you have spare hours between classes, do it then. Be consistent. “It’s like a part-time job,” Debbie Cragun, coordinator of the Non-Traditional Student Center, said. “You aren’t making money, but you are earning a degree.” So treat it like a job.

5 – Give yourself a break

When the math hour is up, wind down, blow off steam and get it out of your system. Cramming for hours can be counterproductive, so try to take at least a little time off every hour to recharge. Consider some quick exercise, even just a walk or bike ride, to refresh your brain. Don’t be afraid to be greedy. Take that time, you’ve earned it and your brain needs it.

6 – Take advantage of people

Take advantage of study groups, the non-traditional student center, the hubs and especially tutors. Ask for help when you struggle, and don’t be shy about it. You have a job to do and getting help to do it is just good sense. “Start tutoring early,” said Cragun. “Even if Carl (Langham, the Developmental Math tutor at the Non-Trad Center) just tells you you are doing fine, get it started before you need it.”

The bottom line: You can do college math, and you will do college math. As a non-trad, you have already learned how to work. The only question is how you can get it done. Set yourself up for success.

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