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Working with Non-Traditional Adult Students

  • Be understanding of the student’s fears about returning to college.
  • Realize that many nontraditional students feel inadequate and out of place in the college setting.
  • Address fears and support the student’s choice to attend college.
  • Be respectful of the student’s circumstances – working part-time or full-time, daycare issues, etc.
  • Encourage discussion about why the student is here. What are the student’s motivations?
  • Suggest the student complete placement exams rather than relying on ACT or SAT scores that may be five or more years old.
  • Explain the importance of building a strong foundation of coursework and knowledge vs. “wasting time” in courses like MATH25.
  • Reinforce that even an 18-year old student can be nervous and fearful.
  • Help the student recognize his/her strengths through discussion of life skills.
  • Be respectful of the student’s skills and how he/she feels about those skills.
  • Try not to encourage a nontraditional student to register in courses above his/her perceived ability, but at the same time recognize life skills and how they might apply.
  • Encourage student to be realistic about his/her course load.
  • Take the time to discuss support services available on campus. (Example: Career Center, Counseling Services, support groups, Women’s Center, Cultural Center, Student Involvement, etc.)
  • Encourage involvement on campus to help the student feel connected.
  • Discuss types of courses where most students are successful – success in the first semester for nontraditional students is CRITICAL!
  • Recommend finding a mentor on campus.
  • Encourage regular advising visits to address issues as they arise.