Mrs. C Goes to College, or: Ask the Non-Traditional College Student

Today, after waiting seven months from the time I turned my application and transcripts in, I finally started class at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

This semester, I’ve got Introduction to Sociology and Introduction to Psychology on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve got World History I and Introduction to Mass Communication. Although I have an interest in social sciences, I did not pick this schedule; my university selects the schedules of all incoming students for their first semester.

Today, I walked into my Intro to Soc class early. As the rest of my classmates filed into the room, I noticed how young they seemed. And they are young; most of them are 18 and fresh high-school graduates. The only one in the room older than me was the professor.

Fortunately, Ship offers a non-traditional student organization for students such as myself. They define “non-traditional” as “someone older than 25 and/or someone whose last educational experience was five years or more ago”, although for the purposes of the NTSO, it’s the age that counts. (I’m 32, and I last attended college in 1997) This afternoon, I went into the lounge to study, and I was the youngest in the room, for a change.

So, if anyone is curious about the lives of older college students, ask away!


Congratulations on the beginning of a cool new adventure!

(I’ll come up with a question and mosey back later – just wanted to share my vicarious glee in your undertaking!)

Speaking as a very young college instructor (who looks even younger) – is there anything in particular you’d like your profs or TAs to know about interacting with older students? If so, what?

Also, what’s it like juggling school and parenthood?

Great question.

I would tell an instructor to be a bit more flexible in dealing with non-traditional students. We don’t live on campus, so we can’t always make late-night meetings (For me, it’s half an hour one way to school(. We have families that we have to take care of. I might be late or miss class because of a sick child. It’s not that school is not a priority, it is. It’s just that my sick child takes precedence over class.

Finally, we’re coming into the classroom with a wealth of experiences that most 18-year-olds don’t have. The upside is that these experiences enrich the discussion because they’re real; the downside is that since most kids don’t have the same experiences, it’s still hard for them to relate.

**Also, what’s it like juggling school and parenthood? **


Another good question. So far, I’ve been lucky with my schedule. All of my classes are over by lunchtime, so I can hang around the library or the NTSO lounge and study in peace and quiet. Future semesters may involve late afternoon or evening classes, so we’ll have to make arrangements. My mother-in-law has agreed to pick up some of the slack, so Aaron will be spending some quality time with Gramma. (Not that it’s a bad thing. :))

The issue that’s popped up so far is that some of the organizations I’d like to be active in meet late at night. I can’t skip these meetings, so I’ve got to go back to school for them. Fortunately, Airman has been very encouraging and supportive, and has agreed to stay with Aaron when I have meetings. In the future, I may even bring Aaron to some of these meetings, once he’s old enough to sit still. My department secretary wants to meet him. :slight_smile:


Oooo, another older student! Cool! 41 YO math major (San Francisco State University) checking in.

My questions: What’s your major, or have you thought of one yet? What do you think of the returning adult program support so far? And most importantly: bought a school sweatshirt yet? :smiley:

My major is communications/journalism, with an emphasis in broadcasting. I’ve always been interested in that particular field, so it’s what I’m pursuing. I’m planning to minor in political science.

As for the returning-adult support thing, there is a campus group. We’ve got our own study lounge in one of the dorms, complete with computers and telephone, and there are some activities just for us. Other than that, we’re pretty invisible.

No sweatshirt yet, but I, Airman, and Aaron all have T-shirts!


All right, now log out and try again. :slight_smile:

I apologize, Coldie. Last night, I thought I was the last person to use the computer, so I didn’t bother to check it to see who was logged in. Mea culpa.


No problem, and no apologies necessary - I just thought it was funny. :slight_smile:

Ahh yes I remember being an OASIS as my school called them. (older than average student in school)

Good luck to you!! :slight_smile: Someday I will graduate from somewhere!

Everything was structured for people living on campus even though most of the school commuted.

I loved listening to them in the caffeteria talking about how unfair it was that mommy and daddy wouldn’t send them to spring break this year or that the car they were given wasn’t cool enough.

One thing in my school was that the kids seemed to think they didn’t need to study or do homework. Then they would gawk at the older students who always seemed to ace stuff.

My favorite was seeing the assignments come in for a particular class. It was to be typed and there were supposed to be boxes in black around certain headings. I saw lots of blue and red and more ovals than I could have imagined. People cried when they got those grades back :wink:

Does Fonzie live over your garage? Is Baby Doors now gonna sprout red hair and freckles? Can I be Potsie?

I totally read this as “Introduction to Scientology”. :eek:

I don’t have a question for you, but I wanted to wish you good luck! Have fun! And learn something, darnit! :slight_smile:

I’m starting my non-trad classes tonight, so it’s good to see other Dopers dealing with later-age education. I’m just hoping that the adult age classes I’ll be taking will go better than the ones I originally took during and after high school.

My only question is: did the school charge you for a bunch of miscellaneous fees they normally charge traditional students, but you feel don’t apply to you? If you objected to those fees, did you manage to get them taken off?

Yeah, I was nicked for the extra fees. I wasn’t particularly happy about it, since some of them are designed to provide services to students living on campus. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to have them taken off, basically because I can use these services, as well. Some of this goes to student organizations I’m joining, so dues and other fees there aren’t an issue. And the health-services fee goes to the health center, so I can save time by not having to see my doctor for routine matters.

Ginger: :stuck_out_tongue:


MsRobyn, I started at Ship in '92, when I was 30. I felt a little uncomfortable at first, but you get used to it. It was a little easier for me cuz I don’t really look my age. Nobody ever believed me when I told them I was 30.

The NTSO lounge is nice cuz there’s rarely many people there and it’s nice and quiet. The Library is another good place. I spent most of my non-class time at those two and the CUB (shooting pool.)

Funny they’re still starting out with the same courses, Psyche, Soc, and World History I. Wait til next semester when you have to take Speech! That course scared me to death. It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought tho. I almost liked it in the end.

Anyways, best of luck to you!

Anybody else get hit with an International Learning Fee? I’m still trying to figure out what the heck it IS. I’m not from overseas. I’m not GOING overseas…

What do you think/ how do you feel when your professor or TA is significantly younger than you? Does it feel strange or annoying to have a younger person teaching you/ professing/ evaluating your performance/ assigning you a grade? Do you feel that they treat you differently? Some of the student/ teacher dynamic with younger students depends [?] a bit on authority of age–a kind of disciplinary/power expectation held over from parent/ school teacher and child/ student relationships-- do you feel that the age reversal upsets or problematizes the expected roles, or does it come out ok in the end, based purely on respect despite their young age? If the professor is around your age or closer to your age than to that of the other students, do you feel a sense of kinship or equality that the younger students aren’t privy to?

I don’t have TAs teaching any of my courses. The guy (or woman) in front of the class has at least a master’s in their field, and three of them have PhDs. I’ve seen very few young instructors, actually.

That said, the title of “Professor” gives them their authority. Between the unspoken social rules and the official university policies, I can’t exactly hang out with them and drink beer. (Not that I drink, but there are rules against socializing with instructors.) I see the relationship as being similar to a boss/employee kinda dynamic. Age is irrelevant; the relationship is clearly defined. Now, if I ran into one of my professors at the supermarket, I’d say hi and introduce myself. It’s only good manners to greet people you know. However, I’d be cordial but not buddy-buddy. My professors are not my friends; we have a working relationship that depends on detachment to work.

if6was9, I don’t have to take speech. I already took it, and transferred it in. Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!



Just to chip in an idea. Later on in the semester, see if you can’t have a study group meet at your house and have other students (obviously ones that you like) come over.

Getting off campus and getting reminders of what it’s like in the real world is great. I always liked the opportunities I had to hang out and see the worlds of the resumers at my college. (we called the non-traditional aged students resumers as they were resuming their education after having lived some life).

Besides, the other students should have to come to you sometimes.

One thing that is incredibly helpful to non-traditional students, especially those juggling work and school, is to have the full syllabus up front. This should include enough information about what’s required for the assignment so the student can work ahead. Almost all of my professors did this, but one doled out assignments piecemeal throughout the semester. I loathed that!

Traditional full-time students have basically allotted their time to school, but non-traditional students with jobs or families may have things like business travel or family obligations that they need to work put first. Most of them can and will work ahead to get everything done if they can.