Educational Options for the non Traditional Student

So you are in your mid 20’s, work full-time and maybe have a child or two. Your job is decent, however, you have hit the proverbial glass ceiling because your company requires an associates degree or higher to phase into a supervisory or management-related position. Or maybe you find a passion in another career field but have no work related experience. It is clear where you must go but how do you decide what vehicle you take to get there.

There are two different kinds of schools for higher education: Traditional College/University or Specialized Training Facilities such as Vocational, Technical or Business schools.

Traditional College/University includes state colleges or private four-year institutions with a traditional student body. Different from graduate students, undergraduates are those students who are right out of high school and do not have families of their own. These are the 18 and 19 year olds who graduate high school in May and enter college in late August or early September. A traditional four-year institution is pretty typical for these types of students and may do excel in such an environment, if they actually attend classes!

For the non-traditional student, however, this may not be the environment most conducive to their optimal learning and success. One of the largest fears of a non-traditional student is failure. You have to remember that they have not attended any formal learning setting for a number of years. A large, four-year university tends to alienate these individuals where there is a tendency to be treated more like a number, than a name.

The amount of personalized attention received at a traditional university is in many ways less than that found at a specialized training school, because the class sizes at traditional universities tend to be at least 10-20 students larger on average. Most private, specialized training schools have an average of 12-15 students per instructor, allowing much more face-time for the student with their instructor.
Specialized Training Facilities are designed with the non-traditional student in mind. A non-traditional student body includes those students with the following characteristics:

-Students who are parents themselves

-Married or Divorced

-Those who care for elderly parent(s)

-Military Veterans

-Returning to college after being in the work force

-Beginning college for the first time, but not right after high school graduation

-Those who are already employed full-time

-Distance education learners

In addition to the smaller class sizes, smaller schools are easier to maneuver in respect to finding classrooms and resources when needed. Students are able to get their degrees in less time than programs offered at a state college because of the elimination of unnecessary extra-curriculars like bowling, swimming or badminton. Because smaller, private career training schools do not have athletics, there is no chance of mysterious student fees going to buy new uniforms for the basketball team.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with state colleges or any four-year university. I myself flourished in this environment. I was also a traditional student. It is also important for a teenager becoming an adult to have the experience of being on their own and a university setting is a wonderful setting to grow as a person and I would not trade my college years for anything. However, a person must examine themselves to determine which environment would be more suitable.

The bottom line is that non-traditional students can get the skills they need to be successful in their chosen career field without the unessential amenities such as cafeterias, stadiums and classes which offer no real-world experience or benefit in the workforce like badminton.

Also, along with accreditations, private career schools can now offer the same education as a traditional school without the same time commitment. Accreditations allow these institutions to provide Financial Aid programs just like their state college counterparts.

So please examine your options before making a very expensive, but fruitful invest of your time and money to create a better future.