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Report says non-traditional college students on the rise

While thousands of first-years moved onto campus Sunday and are beginning lives out from underneath their parents’ umbrella, a growing number of non-traditional students are also preparing to start a new section of their lives at Ohio State.
According to a recent report by the National Center of Education Statistics, non-traditional students are the fastest growing segment in postsecondary education in America. These students are typically older than 25, work full time while attending college and many are responsible for dependents or children.
“Before I came back to school, I had expected to face a lot of difficulties,” said 31-year-old Christopher Sheline, a recent graduate from American Military University. “Surprisingly, after I started my first semester, I also enjoyed the process of working through the many challenges. People around me are so proud of me now.”
Sheline previously attended OSU, but dropped out. He transferred to American Military and graduated in June.
While a boosted self-esteem is one of the benefits some describe of going back to school, there are other advantages available for non-traditional students.
“When people decide to go back to school, they usually have a pretty good idea what they want from their education,” said April Calkovsky, a career adviser at OSU. “These people are highly motivated to succeed in learning, which, combined with their previous experience, makes them look more desirable for potential employers.”
Data from the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success show that 32 percent of current undergraduate students across the U.S. are working full time, and another 43 percent have a part-time job. Calkovsky said these people are given a higher priority in the hiring process because they already know how to be appropriate in the work environment, what questions to ask and where to look for the answers.
“I always like to know what to expect from unfamiliar settings,” said Ludia Dorelien, a fourth-year in human development and family science. “I used to work full time as a receptionist before I came back to school. Now I am working part time for the university, and my boss usually says that she rarely meets students with such a high understanding of work ethics.”
But when it comes to the private life of non-traditional students, some took a more serious tone.
“I was getting straight As at college and constant praise from my manager at work, but I feel like I failed in the most important roles in my life – being a good father and a loving husband,” Sheline said.
While not being able to spend enough time with family might be a common frustration among non-traditional students, the Center for Postsecondary and Economical Success provides data that might help relieve their anxieties. The study showed that an increased level of education among parents correlates with improvement in their children’s reading and language skills.
“My 10-year-old son actually enjoys doing our homework together,” Dorelien said. “He asks a lot of questions about his school stuff, and I get to use all the concepts I learn from books on practice. I call it my little win-win.”
Whether or not people coming back to school as adults this fall can foresee all the obstacles in their path, some see a bright side to the set of challenges.
“I feel like I was given a second chance to start my life all over again,” Sheline said. “Yes, it took courage and stamina to pull through college. But now I can say that being able to serve as a good role model for my son and looking into the future with confidence, was well worth it.”

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