One of the cool things about being a nontraditional student is my “place” on campus. Many nontraditional students have a difficult time because of their older, working, parent status and that is understandable. I, too, used to feel invisible and out of place, but I have come to this “middle” that I really like. Where is the middle?
I am young enough to get along with my peers.
And even if I am not “young” I have something in common with them — I am a student. While I still sometimes struggle with communicating with my peers, I have found that overall, I truly enjoy getting to know them. At 35 years old, I am like a middle child of sorts — I am no longer a “kid” in my twenties but I am also not “old.” Of course, as I get older I start to question the notion of “old” anyways. But I digress. I have met some really fantastic students during my time in college — people who have changed my life just by talking to them. This generation coming up behind me has a stigma of being lazy and/or entitled attached to them, but I disagree with that stigma because I have met some forward-thinking, motivated students just barely hitting their twenties. This experience has changed my mind about believing in the power of a generation as either good or bad. I think that each generation can possess both. Regardless of a generation gap between me and my peers, I still find them interesting and fun to be around.
I am old enough to have something in common with my professors.
On the other side of this “middle” are my professors. There is something kind of cool about being an older student because professors, most times, recognize this in you. The other day I shared a bit of my life outside of college, past and present, with a professor, and I think it surprised him to learn that I knew the history of my family, that I too had lived in a home that always had more people than what is “normal,” and that I was not simply a traditional student, but an adult with just as many outside responsibilities as he. I literally saw him look at me differently when he learned more about me…it was for a lack of a better word, cool.
On this same note, I have been told by a few professors that they enjoy having nontraditional students in their class because they recognize the motivation that these types of students have. They can count on them (most times) to get their work done even though they have a plethora of factors that can make it difficult to do so. Somehow, we get it done. I have also been told that we bring a different view to class discussions, helping shape the class.
It’s important for nontraditional students to know that they have a place on campus, that their contribution to the classroom is important. And also for traditional students to know that we really like them, that we see the good in them and have a hope for their future.