You’ve seen us milling around campus. You probably evenhave us in your classes. So, who are the non-traditional students?What the heck does non-traditional mean anyway? And what kind ofdiversity can we bring to Eastern that will benefit allstudents?
Well, for our purposes, non-traditional means a student over theage of 25 or a student with children.
Why are we here? We want to learn, but we also want toteach.
It’s amazing the kinds of knowledge and information that anon-traditional student can provide in the classroom setting. Wemay be young with children or older with teenagers at home. Wecould be veterans or grandparents, single mothers or fathers,divorced, widowed or newly married, but we all have one thing incommon: we possess an understanding of the importance of education,possibly an even better one than the traditional student.
Perhaps we have lived out in the world, seen places, beenplaces, experienced birth or death. We may have achieved, dreamedand been let down. We may have worked low-paying jobs, or lived onfood stamps and welfare; perhaps we’ve sent children toschool or to war and seen them come home again.
We are the most diverse group of college students, and althoughwe have come to further our knowledge of things, we have also cometo teach, to share our experiences and lessons learned. We bring agreater understanding of the learning process and a greaterappreciation for those who are willing to inform.
At first, most of us feel out of place in a college setting. Welook around at the younger students talking about parties and dormlife and we feel old, out of date, but proud that we found themotivation to return to school.
We attend classes with open minds and open ears, willing to dowhatever it takes to provide a sound future for our children andourselves.
We worry about getting good grades, like other students, butmore than that we worry about the crying child we left at daycare,or the parent-teacher conference we will attend later, or how wewill afford groceries and the heating bill.
All of these things help to shape the diversity we bring toEastern.
If you could sit and listen to one non-traditional student tellhis or her story, you would be astonished at their ability toovercome hardships and create a new direction in their life. Someof us have struggled and come through the other side of divorce,custody battles, wars and drug addictions. We return to school witha newfound focus and determination that is hard to find in otherstudents.
As a non-traditional student here at Eastern, I feel a littlemore in tune with others who are similar to me. I’m curiousabout their struggles and how they have made it back tocollege.
As for myself, I am twenty-two years old, divorced, with aneighteen-month-old son and another baby coming in February. I amstill young, my journey has been short, but there are manyexperiences and lessons learned that I now take with me ineverything that I do.
I bring such an enormous appreciation for higher education andknow that I am here for all the right reasons.
I attended college previously, but I was too eager to get onwith the rest of my life to stick with it. Now, four years later, Ireturn with a less rushed feeling and a sense of calmness. I have anew focus this time around and a goal in mind.
Before, college was just something that one did after highschool; it’s the next step, right? I just went without everthinking about the fact that I didn’t really want to go.
I ended up dropping out and beginning the life that I sodesperately wanted: marriage and children. That fell apart when,after only a year of marriage, my husband gave up on us. I hadsuddenly become a single mother with no prospects for a steadyincome, no place to live and no way to provide for my son. I knew Ihad to return to school, so I did, and I am truly enjoying it.
I am now more focused than ever before and I know that no matterhow frustrated I get, I’ve got to stick with it, not just forme, but for my children.
As non-traditional students, our life experiences have motivatedus to accomplish something greater, something that is more than adesire, something that is actually a need.
We need to provide for our families, we need to get off publicassistance and we need to regain that confidence in ourselves thatmay have been lost somewhere in our lives.
We may be any age, any race and from any cultural background,but we are all striving to achieve the same goal.
So, feel fortunate that you have chosen Eastern as the backdropto your college education, and perhaps you could even take a littlelesson from the non-traditional students in your classes.
Celebrate the diverse crowd around you.