Being a nontraditional student has been an experience that I have enjoyed. Going back to school was a big step for me and I had been very worried about making that step. I was afraid with the amount of time that it had been since I had graduated from high school and was uncertain of being able to succeed with good grades. Once attending classes I found that I was still capable of being a productive student.
The instructors have been very patient and have made me realize you are never to old to go back to college. With the uncertainty I had experienced and the nervousness that I felt, the instructors made the experience of attending college a great relief. With the diversity of the students and their ages, I feel I have experienced a greater aspect of what the business world will be like. I feel a since of great accomplishment as each semester ends. Learning new skills in my field and building my knowledge has given me more confidence.
As classes have become more challenging, I have had to study harder and have found I can overcome these challenges. As I overcome these challenges, I find that I look forward to the next challenge and the one after that. Going back to college has given me the opportunity to express myself and to believe in myself. I know that I can establish myself in the field I have chosen and become a success in this field. It has been very difficult being a divorced woman with two teenage sons but, as I have become more knowledgeable in my field I can see my sons becoming proud of their mom. With the experiences I have had attending college and overcoming obstacles, I hope to have showed my sons that anything is possible!- L.F., age 40.
I decided to begin college again in the summer of 1999 by taking a Shoreline Ecology class through Linfield College at the Oregon coast. This was a one-week "hands-on" class and the course description sounded really interesting. My husband and I each took one week off from work -- we drove to the coast and set up camp at Beverly Beach State Park outside Newport, Oregon.
Each morning, my huband dropped me off at the meeting site and he met me again after class was over. Each evening, we made dinner over a campfire (or went to town) and I then studied by Coleman lantern and slept in a sleeping bag in a tent. This was part of my great experience!
Unfortunately, shortly before class began, I had knee surgery to remove torn cartilage, and I missed the lecture part of the class held at the main campus in McMinnville. The professor gave me the name and phone number of a fellow student, who was really kind and shared her lecture notes with me.
During the field trips at the coast, I was required to keep a journal and draw and classify every organism, plant, animal, bird and fish that I encountered. Even though I can only draw stick figures, I pretended I was an artist during class and I drew everything in sight. I told myself not to be afraid! I made up for my crude drawings by identifying features and writing extensive descriptions.
Since I knew I would be in the tidepools and thought I might slip on mossy or wet surfaces, I had my knee surgeon order an elaborate knee brace for stability. I looked like "Robocop." One morning, we were going to a tidepool in an area known as Boiler Bay. It is down an incredibly steep slope and I was really worried about my knee holding up, even with the knee brace. Three male students roped me down the cliff face and were very gentle and patient with me. It took me a really long time to get down and then in the afternoon, to get back up the cliff face. Another older woman was helped by the same students, too. It helped that the professor just assumed that we would find out way down - and he was right not to coddle us.
I was amazed to find out that my fellow students were as old or older than me, and even traveled greater distances to attend the class. Three students came over from Bend, Oregon! We students were so enthusiastic!! We got up early to study the organisms in the low intertidal zones, drove to sand dunes to study plants, put boots on and slogged around in muddy flats, visited an oyster farm and the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and generally spent all day together. We ended up in teams helping each other in the different classifications of plants, animals, birds and fishes. We became good friends and exchanged addresses and phone numbers.
I have spent time with some of my fellow students and I know that they feel as I do because they have articulated their thoughts. I am more dedicated and have a clearer vision of the college experience than when I was younger. I am also very proud to say that I have a 3.9 cumulative GPA while continuing to work full-time as a paralegal. My employer is very happy that I am back in college. He believes that one should be a 'lifelong student'.- P.E., age 44.
Here, you'll find tips and advice for writing admissions essays and personal statements when you haven't been in school for some time.
Returning students can be especially apprehensive about the essay portion of the application package. It may have been years since you wrote an essay, and now you're being asked not only to write but to write in the particular style that is effective in the college selection process. However, you can manage this situation like a pro by following our expert tips for returning students.
1. Highlight your experience
When working with returning students, one of the biggest concerns they tend to have is about being a non-traditional student and competing with traditional students. In fact, colleges are looking to create a diverse student body, and they are genuinely interested in including returning students. The reason for this is that you can contribute to classroom discussions and study groups in a way that your traditional counterparts cannot.
When writing your essays, emphasize that you have the organizational skills and dedication needed to excel in college. Most of all, let the admissions officers know that you, as an adult, have confidence that you have chosen the right path and are fully committed to completing your degree program.
2. Remember to show instead of telling
This advice applies to all applicants, but it is especially important for returning students. With more background on which to draw upon for your essays, you can paint a more vivid picture of your skills and potential. Skills from your personal and professional life can translate well to the collegiate environment, so help the admissions officers see how you have formed a strong sense of self and a meaningful set of abilities that you can use as a student.
3. Focus on your adult life
While the seeds of your reasons for returning to school may have been planted when you were younger, the admissions officers are much more interested in who you are now. It's fine to mention briefly moments from your childhood or adolescence, but these should be limited to a phrase within a sentence. Instead, use experiences and situations from your adult life that reflect your character and passion for your chosen program of study.
4. Help the admissions officers understand why you are returning to school
Why now? The admissions officers will look for a cogent answer to this question. Have you reached a plateau in your current career? Are you looking to change fields? Were there circumstances in your past that are now resolved, giving you the ability to focus on school?
There's no reason to be anything but honest in your response here. If you were downsized, let the admissions officers know. If you were working in a certain job out of necessity but are now pursuing your dreams, tell them. Show the admissions officers that you now have time in your schedule to dedicate to school.
5. Show enthusiasm for the school/program
Take the time to thoroughly research each school before you apply. In addition to the school's website, you might want to write a couple of emails to professors whose work interest you as well as reach out to administrators to answer any questions you may have. Also, most colleges have a non-traditional student union, and you may want to get in contact with them to understand their perspective of the school.
6. Don't avoid talking about your adult responsibilities
As a returning student, you might not have the luxury of leaving a job, family or mortgage behind to pursue your studies. In your essays, you can write about how the program is perfect because you can continue in your career. If you are moving with a family, help the admissions officers see that your partner/children are supportive and enthusiastic about the opportunity.
7. Reach out for help
If you feel that you still aren't sure about the content of your essay or the quality of your writing, seek out some other opinions. Is there someone at your work who has recently returned to school? Someone who graduated from your chosen program? Professional help is also available, whether you would like step-by-step help or just a final polish to ensure that your essay is error-free.
Wait, don't go!
Sign up today and get exclusive tips and get a head start on your college experience! It’s our gift to you.