Whether it’s marriage, divorce, children, age or multiple jobs, non-traditional students at Weber State University face various obstacles demanding their time and attention, which can impede progress toward completing a degree.
Mar Muster, a WSU public relations student, went to college right after high school but didn’t earn her degree immediately. Societal pressures like marriage and children got to her and going back to school didn’t seem like an option after.
Muster, who is graduating in December, said that balancing her school and home life was one of the most difficult things she had to do.
“I balance it as best as I can, but oftentimes I feel guilty that I can’t put 100 percent into school, kids and work all at the same time,” Muster said. “I’m constantly hard on myself. But trying to balance life is something I have to do.”
Like so many non-traditional students, there are usually motivating factors that lead them to pursue higher education. For Muster, it was a lack of support from her former husband.
“When I was thinking about going back to school, my husband at the time said to me, ‘I just don’t think you can do it,’” Muster said. “And right now, I have a 3.9 GPA and I’m graduating, so he was wrong. That whole experience taught me that I am smart, and I can do hard things. I’ve put in the hard work and there’s a good chance I’ll be successful because of it.”
Non-traditional students make up roughly 56 percent of WSU’s population. WSU’s Nontraditional Resource Center helps students schedule Smart Start appointments to help them prepare to go back to school and manage their finances. Smart Start also assists in leaving children at the local daycare center while the parents attend class.
First-generation and non-traditional student Meltia Hickman didn’t go to college right after high school but found success at WSU after following her late father’s advice to pursue higher education.
“My dad was so much into education because he wasn’t able to get one,” Hickman said. “After high school, I went to a trade school. My dad always said things like, ‘You don’t like what you’re doing, so go do something different.’ After my dad passed away, I felt like I needed to honor what he was telling me to do, so I went back to school.”
With a constantly-changing education system, those who continue to put off their schooling may not be able to use certain test scores they got in high school in order to receive financial assistance.
Since Hickman waited seven years to return back to school, none of the test scores she earned in high school counted toward receiving scholarships and grants.
“I literally had to start all over again,” Hickman said. “None of my scholarships were academic-based, so they all had to come from private donors or need-based organizations. I pretty much had to beg and plead in order to go back to school.”
She said that she wasn’t ready to go college right after high school and said she would’ve wasted whatever money that she got, partly due to the lack of preparation she received for real-world experiences.
“In high school, nobody prepares you for the other things that you have to deal with as an adult. You’re told you have to go to college, but you’re not taught how to pay for bills. You’re not told that your parents may or may not be able to afford for you to go to school and keep you in the house still,” Hickman said. “It’s very hard, especially when you don’t have outside support.”
Having lived in St. Louis, Illinois, Hickman described that going to college would have been a miracle for her and many other students.
“All we knew was to work. It was a miracle that I graduated high school. It was a miracle that I wasn’t pregnant in junior high,” Hickman said. “Nobody prepared me for that sort of thing. They think that you’re supposed to work, that you got it together. But you don’t.”
Both Hickman and Muster’s experiences as non-traditional students are part of the large percentage of adversities that half of the WSU populate have faced.
As graduation nears, non-traditional students face new challenges as they begin their search for careers in their chosen areas of study.