When most people look at me, they don’t see a 27-year-old student who has already taught English in the Peace Corps because I do not fit their stereotype of a non-traditional student. I’m in the “in-between” ages – too old to be a frosh and too young to be lumped in with the other older students. But the pre-conceived notion of what it means to be “non-traditional” is where the main problem lies.
Many assume non-traditional students are far older than most and want nothing more than to complicate the classroom experience with excessive questions and tangential stories.
The reality is that many of us are not “old” compared to freshmen coming directly from high school, nor do we wantonly crave the attention of our professors. More importantly, we are a nationally-growing student population.
Many universities are beginning to understand the importance of non-trads occupying their classrooms, adding income to the university and experience to the classroom that even some professors may not be aware of.
Non-trads can help facilitate the growth ESU wants, which can bring about lower tuition rates for everyone. No one, however, wants to come to a school if they are seen as a waste of time whenever they raise a hand to ask a question.
Instead of openly dismissing us non-trads, it is time to actively speak to them and perhaps learn more about your future career than what a tedious textbook has to offer. A lot of non-traditional students have experience in the fields you want to pursue, and should thus be seen as a vital resource.
Class is a time for us to display our chops, to engage the subject and inform the class that the lecture is only a small part of your education. You may gain some wisdom about a topic not normally covered.
And by doing this, maybe you will learn something you never thought about in class, such as what soup dish goes well with tuica, how Nixon acted in person or a firsthand experience in combat.