What is a nontraditional student anyway?

Lety Good

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a nontraditional student can be classified as one if the student does not immediately continue education after graduating from high school, attends college only part time, works full time, is financially independent, has children or dependents other than a spouse, is a single parent, or has a GED.

USC Upstate’s nontraditional student community makes up about 25 percent of the student population. You may have seen these students in your classrooms and around campus. Although the views on nontraditional student usually entail defining them as older college students, they are just typical students with a lot more going on in life than most.

Jennifer “Jenn” Farr, a 38-year-old senior at Upstate and president of the Upstarts group on campus, shares her insight on the distinct life as a nontraditional student at Upstate. After attending several colleges and universities, in and out of the state, such as Belmont University in Nashville, TN, College of Charleston, and Greenville Technical College, she experienced some good and some not so good adventures that led her to enroll at USC Upstate. As an IDS major and a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, she states that one of her best experiences, with the exception of Upstate, was at Greenville Tech because of the way the school is equipped to satisfy the needs of students of all ages. Farr explains, “I was able to take necessary and challenging classes from excellent professors in a way that worked best for me.”

One of the biggest issues Farr states that a nontraditional student at Upstate experiences is the lack of online classes. On top of juggling full-time jobs, marriage, children, and much more at once, they also have to drive several miles to attend class. Farr says, “…Attending classes regularly can be difficult. Online classes help to ensure students receive a quality education in a way that best fits their needs.”

However, she affirms that she has experienced very few negatives being a nontraditional student at Upstate and states, “Personally, I love being a nontraditional student! I have lived enough life that I can now truly appreciate what I am learning… I have made a lot of friends on campus, both my age and younger, and most teachers understand the complex lives of nontraditional students.”

Farr hopes that as a nontraditional student and as a leader on the campus community she can show the students of Upstate that the community of these students is just like everyone else. They desire to accomplish the same ultimate goal: graduate college with a degree. It can certainly be intimidating for a nontraditional student to walk into a university filled with 18 to 20 something year olds and feel “outside the box,” but Farr suggests, “We focus on the things we have in common, rather than dwell on our differences.”

  • To better suit the needs of these students, Upstate offers Non-Traditional Student Services to students who are twenty-five years of age or older, are married or who are parents, are veterans of the armed forces, are working full-time and attending college and are college or university graduates and are returning to school.