Non-traditional Students

Non-traditional students account for increasingly large numbers of total student enrollment on college campuses, and K-State is no different. In 2007, approximately 23.4% of all KSU students, both undergraduate and graduate, were in the non-traditional category.

What is a non-traditional student? If you are one of these, you would be included:

  • 25 years of age or older
  • Married
  • A parent
  • A veteran
  • Returning to school after an absence (usually 3 or more years)

The website suggests that the typical college student (full-time, late teen or early 20s, and living on or near the campus) is becoming less of the norm across America’s campuses. This website goes on to say that the non-traditional student is enriching our university system. Non-trads bring with them life experience, dedication, determination and often, a deeper desire for learning than their younger counterparts!

Being a non-traditional student is not without its difficulties, and if you are one, you may be experiencing some stresses and challenges that are unique.


Many non-traditional students experience doubts and fears about their ability to do academic work at the college level. Don’t be afraid to express these concerns to someone. College campuses have many resources to support student academics, such as free tutoring, help with writing and even classes in effective studying! Here are some suggestions for getting the academic support you need:

  • Ask your advisor or someone from your Non-Traditional Student Office how to connect with campus resources, or browse your college website for a list of available services.
  • Make contact early with your professors. Express your concerns and ask them to clarify their expectations, share samples of the kind of work they expect, and to give you feedback if you aren’t achieving at the level they expect.
  • Colleges generally expect you to advocate for yourself, so it may be up to you to make the initial contact, but once you do, you should find a full network of academic assistance services.


Non-traditional students are generally balancing studies with other commitments. Marriage, parenting, work and maintaining a home compete for your time and this can create stress! Because you have a strong desire to be back in school, you can make it work, but you may need to make some adjustments.

  • Try to carve out specific time for your academic work. Let your family know that this is necessary for you to be successful, and set some boundaries about interruptions and distractions.
  • It may be easier for you to focus on your student identity while you are away from home, so you may want to allow an extra hour or two on campus, or at the library, for reading or studying. If that’s not possible, set aside a place in your home for this.
  • When you are with your spouse or children, try to give them your full attention so that they will understand that you are trying to set boundaries too!
  • If you are parenting, your children can often be enlisted to help you with household chores and you will be teaching them something about work and goal setting as well.
  • Make a little time for self-care! What refreshes and energizes you - walking, exercising, reading for fun, romping with pets or children, an evening out with your spouse or friends? You may think you no longer have time for these things, but in actuality, when you take a little time for yourself, you may have a better attitude for tackling the school work.


You have made a big commitment to further your education. Reasons may be varied, but you are investing time and money to do this. Hopefully you have support from those who are close to you. If you don’t find support from family and friends, it may simply mean that they are “afraid you will change and that will mean change for them.” Turning to others for support may be something to consider.

  • Non-Traditional students may turn to each other for support! Make connections in your classes, or through the campus adult or non-traditional offices.
  • Personal Counseling Services offers individual or group sessions for all students, and they are happy to discuss any issues related to mental health and academic success.
  • Build relationships with your academic department. They want to keep you in their programs, and they have experience in helping all students to be successful.

As a non-traditional student, you have a wealth of experience and knowledge that you are bringing to campus and to the classroom. When you face challenges associated with getting your education, remember that you are not alone in this endeavor and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it! 

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