Do you Know Who Your Students Are?

This is an interesting question about who is attending your institution these days.

people passing gray building
Photo by Andrés Gerlotti / Unsplash

When we think about an undergraduate student, what comes to mind?

Traditional and conventional wisdom held that college students are recent high school graduates, living on campus, taking Humanities courses (thanks to the Ancient Greeks), partaking in some liberations (libations?)-especially on the weekends and graduating four years later (we hope).

In fact, I know they missed the mark because the description above does not reflect the students that used to walk into my office for help with their financial aid package. Of course, I was curious like George, so I went and did some research –thanks to English 102-to find out the characteristics of nontraditional students and why it is important.

I am not shocked that there is a lot of research that has been conducted on this subject, and researchers agreed on seven characteristics according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Nontraditional students must meet one of these characteristics:

  1. Delayed enrollment in postsecondary education;
  2. Part-time attendance;
  3. Financially independent from their parents;
  4. Having dependents other than a spouse (Sounds familiar, right?);
  5. Being a single parent; or
  6. Lacking a traditional high school diploma.

Knowing the nontraditional characteristics is important because the students who have these traits can be vulnerable to challenges that can have a negative effect on their college experience.

The NCES stated that 74% of today’s undergraduates have at least one of these nontraditional characteristics. As school officials, it is vital that we know the students so we can address their unique concerns and offer the best services that align with their needs.

For instance, they might be responsible for child care or have lack of adequate child care, have trouble getting to class due to unreliable transportation or unexpected health issues.

Offering innovative services such as flexible scheduling, online courses (or expanding them), career center resources or personalized instruction will help them balance attaining a degree while working and managing their family responsibilities in order to move into their careers.