Students heading off to college after high school graduation often pick a school based on its popularity or where their friends plan to matriculate. As a non-traditional student, you should put a little more thought process into choosing the college you plan to attend. Returning to school as an adult with other responsibilities can be challenging. Selecting a college that best fits your needs can ease the transition back to life as a student and make your time in school much more enjoyable.
School considerations for the non-traditional student
The reason you’re returning to school and your personal situation are two of the most important factors to consider when browsing college Web pages or visiting campuses. If you’re hoping to improve your career or perhaps head in a new professional direction, it’s important to choose a degree field that can increase your opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides occupational trends for just about every profession and the educational requirements that may assist your advancement in each field. Their Web pages can be an invaluable tool when deciding on a degree program.
A few other factors that should be taken into account during your decision-making process:
- Reputation–Do the professors and the department you’re considering have a good reputation within the career field? Earning a degree from a school respected for their curriculum and graduates can advance your career.
- Schedule–Does the school offer classes at night and on weekends? If you plan on working while attending school, this can be an important factor
- Student body–What’s the average age of the student body? This information is a good indicator of whether the school encourages the enrollment of non-traditional students and how many are currently attending classes
- Placement–What percentage of students in your degree program find employment in that field after graduation
- Online degree programs–A well known non-traditional student blog features a student who is working on a degree while living on an island off the coast of Maine. Many schools now cater to students with full time jobs who wish to continue their educations by taking online degree programs
- Class size–Smaller classes are conducive to better interaction between professors and students
- Parking accommodations–It may seem like a simple thing, but having to hike across campus from the commuter lot to your classes every day can get old quickly. Where are the parking lots in relation to your classes and is there enough parking or are the lots always full?
- Credits–Does the school allow you to transfer in any credits you may have earned from other colleges?
When you have narrowed down your school choices, take a road trip and visit the campuses if you are planning to attend a brick-and-mortar institution. Talk to a cross section of students to get their impressions of the school and the department for your field of study. Non-traditional students often stay on campus between classes so take a tour of the snack bars and library, and talk to a few students. Find out what they think of the school and the effort it takes to make non-traditional students feel welcome.
And if you are leaning toward an online degree program, attendance concerns will probably be limited to deciding where to set up your computer and study area in a quiet area of your own home.
This article was originally published in our free, 27 page ebook titled The Essential Guide to College for Non-Traditional Students.