Frequently Asked Questions: Non-traditional Students
You’ve probably heard the buzzword “non-traditional” used to describe students recently. Educators are discussing how to serve non-traditional students, and policymakers are discussing how education might be changed to do so.
But what is a non-traditional student? Are you a non-traditional student? If you’re considering taking the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ to earn your high school equivalency, the answer is probably yes.
Questions About Non-traditional Students
What is a non-traditional student?
According to NODA, an association dedicated to orientation, transition, and retention in higher education, non-traditional students are defined as any student who is “not a first-time, full-time, straight out of high school, college student.” In other words, non-traditional refers to a wide range of people. This range can include students who are attending college part-time, returning to college after a break, commuters, veterans, working full-time while enrolled in classes, adult students, students with children, and students who have earned a high school equivalency rather than a high school diploma.
This term is constantly changing, especially as educators and policymakers continue to discuss the non-traditional student.
- How do schools view non-traditional students?
Non-traditional students are rapidly becoming more common on campuses. In fact, they are quickly becoming just as common (if not more common) as traditional students. Educators are increasingly aware of the needs of these non-traditional students. According to Stephen G. Pelletier and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, many colleges and universities have implemented programs to address non-traditional students, and “state initiatives are also working to tear down barriers that adult students face.”
Schools do not ignore non-traditional students, or assume their needs are identical to traditional students. If you would be considered a non-traditional student, and you have been considering returning to school, now is a great time to do so.
Questions Asked by Non-traditional Students
- Can I get financial aid as a part-time student?
Many non-traditional students have to attend school on a part-time basis because they work full-time, they are parents, or they are juggling other responsibilities. Additionally, money might be a concern for these students. According to Kelsey Sheehy of US News, financial aid is available to part-time students. Though she notes that schools often give scholarships only to full-time students, federal loans only require part-time enrollment.
- Is the FAFSA a waste of my time?
The FAFSA is a financial aid system that uses a family’s most recent tax returns and other information to determine a student’s financial need. Non-traditional students can be awarded financial aid through the FAFSA application, and may even be introduced to new sources of financial aid they hadn’t previously considered. Non-traditional students should absolutely take the time to apply – and should apply as soon as possible.
- Do schools help with day care?
Some colleges and universities offer childcare for non-traditional students, which can make returning to school a reality for parents. When you apply for school, reach out to an advisor who can let you know if day care is available on campus or provide you with alternative options.
- What resources are available to me?
NODA has an extensive list of online resources for non-traditional students, which include articles about non-traditional students, sites dedicated to non-traditional students in general, and sites dedicated to adult learners. Additionally, the TASC blog features posts written for adult learners. These posts discuss the reasons why adults are returning to school, and the major changes in adult education. Explore these resources, and make an informed decision about the steps you want to take with your education after you’ve earned your high school equivalency.