Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nontraditional Success

I was just reading Deb Peterson's blog about "The Top Reasons Non-Trads Don't Succeed". There is no question that returning to school as an older student can be a bit daunting when life is happening all around you. Our younger counterparts don't have careers, children, mortgages, marriages, aging parents, and other responsibilities of adulthood. The top reason Deb sited for Nontrads crashing is the inability to balance family, work and school. Been there, done that and survived it. My #1 tip for survival as a nontrad is to find a support group - online, on campus, in the community. No one but another nontrad can relate to all the balls we must constantly keep in the air. I have previously likened this delicate balance to juggling chainsaws.

I will soon be graduating. I won't be totally out of the nontrad community though, because I will still be taking classes - not for a major, but for fun and to keep myself "sharp". I love learning - it is truly a lifelong process.

So how does a nontrad succeed? Let me address the statistics from Deb's blog.

1. 30% of nontrads have difficulty balancing life, work and school. * Realize that your life is going to change as a nontrad. Sit down with your family and let everyone know that now is the time to step up to the plate. Your success depends on their willingness to help out - with household chores and with being more responsible for themselves.
* Start out small - at the community college at night. Don't bite off a huge chunk if you can help it. Start out with one class - on campus or online. That will get you and your family's feet wet and show you all what this (mom/dad going back to school) will look like.
* Learn to manage your time better. Don't waste time. Prioritize - at home and at work.

2. 26% had trouble with finances.
* Look into financial aid - grants, loans, employer match programs, community grant programs, etc.
* Set aside a little bit of money each month for future school expenses.
* Look for ways to save money, like textbook rental instead of purchase, or recycle/reuse your children's old school supplies.

3. 13% were ineffective at completing projects.
* Form study groups in your classes to help with your motivation. Spur each other on to do well.
* Find a support group - on campus, online, in the community. Share your experiences.
* Time management. Don't get behind on homework or projects
* Ask your prof for help. That's what the profs are there for. Use their knowledge and expertise.
* Use the on-campus resources - the Student Success Center, the Writing Center, the Math Lab, etc. That's part of why you pay tuition. Get your money's worth out of school!!

4. 9% had lack of commitment. If you aren't willing to work hard 24/7/365, then don't even consider going back to school. School will be a huge commitment for the next 2-4 or more years. If you're not willing to commit to that, then don't waste your time and money.

5. 8.6% had health problems or lack of support.
* An online program would be best if you are homebound.
* The online nontrad community is HUGE - tap into it! Many colleges and universities are also beginning to see nontrad support groups spring up on campus. Be a hound dog and hunt out those support groups! I had a one-woman support group in one of my instructors. My CS 102 instructor, Ms. Wallace Mayo, has been one of my biggest cheerleaders! I am soo grateful for her support.

What's standing in the way of you and success?? Let's talk about it! Deb Peterson at http://adulted.about.com is a great resource. So is Elizabeth Shepherd at http://non-traditional-student.blogspot.com. Being a nontrad is a huge commitment - of time, money and guts! Talk to your family and friends before you take the plunge. Make sure you have their support before you go forward. Ask questions about financial aid, classes, credit for work, etc. Your life will change in a major way when you decide to pursue that degree. Balance and commitment will ensure your success as a nontrad. Don't be afraid to follow your dreams. Stay tuned . . .

1 comment:

E. Sheppard said...

Thank you for mentioning me here. I loved this posting! I will share it. There truly is so much to being a nontraditional student, and a lot of sacrifices go into it. A person must be serious about it. I totally agree with you!