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Choosing a College as an Adult: Lessons from a 30-Year-Old Freshman

September 29, 2010 By: Category: Choosing a College, Nontraditional programs

Today we have a guest post from S.B. Bryan, a writer and non-traditional college student attending Texas State University. His blog, 30-Year-Old Freshman, details the crazy world of a 30-year-old in a 20-year-old’s world, provides tips for surviving and thriving in college and at work, and explores the fascinating inner lives of llamas.

The world economy is in flux. Not only are many nations in the depths of a deep recession, but there are several industries — automotive manufacture, new home construction, and even administrative support services — undergoing changes that will leave many unemployed and facing the harsh reality that their specialized training is no longer needed. This means that more and more non-traditionally aged college students will be enrolling in colleges across the nation, but how can these students make sure to make the right college choice? There few things non-traditional students need to consider before choosing a college:


Photo by tim (the enchanter) 

  1. Campus Location—all students must consider location, but older students are more likely to have ties that limit their mobility: family, friends, and current careers may make it difficult for a student to leave the area that they live in order to pursue higher education.
  2. Community Involvement—there are many different groups on campuses that aid both the student community and the outside community. A prospering group of campus organizations are those that help non-traditional students acclimate to the college environment. Check your college choice to see if they offer such non-traditional student organizations.
  3. Physical Barriers—disabled students and even students that are older than average may find navigating certain campuses difficult. Will there be a great deal of hills and stairs, etc. to deal with? Of course, campus officials must make considerations for disabled students, but their ability to deal with physical barriers may be limited. I, for one, am a student at a university that was built on a hill—it’s beautiful, but the stairs and steps everywhere around campus can be a challenge on knees and a cardiovascular system that’s over a decade older than those that normally traverse the terrain.
  4. Ageism and Inclusion—like it or not, if your college choice is a traditional, physical campus, you will encounter some form of ageism. It may be complimentary: many of my classmates believe that I’m 22 and are shocked to learn that I’m 30, but I have to take such compliments with a grain of salt, as I realize these students have an erroneous concept about what 30 looks like. Traditionally aged students have also excluded me from some activities because of my age. While ageism is morally and ethically wrong, it’s based on stereotypes and we all hold some stereotypes. The trick is to open the younger person’s mind about what it really means to be older.
  5. Physical Campus or Online Education—there are many different ways to accomplish your dream of a college education. Your college choice may be that of a traditional brick-and-mortar college or an online institution. Online education can bring a tremendous amount of flexibility, but you may find that they miss the mark when it comes to providing the social interaction and leadership activities that are so important to the college experience. Also, keep in mind that the default rate of loans for for-profit college students—most totally online colleges are for-profit—are a dismal three- to four-times that of traditional non-profit colleges. In addition, you may consider that many state non-profit institutions now offer distance learning and online courses that may better fit your schedule.

Whatever your college choice, make the most of your college experience. While the lack of a college degree may be an obstacle to a better job, the lack of a college experience may be a barrier to a better, new way of life.

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