Dear nontraditional student,

going back to college

You’re not alone, did you know that? I thought you might need to be reminded of that as you embark on an amazing journey of going back to college. My name is Audrey and I am a Communication Studies major. I’m 25. I’m married. I’m a commuter. I go to school full time and work after class every day. So, I get it. It’s not easy. I questioned whether or not I made the right decision to go back to school. Can you relate?

I don’t know your story. I’m not sure what led you back to college after a break in your studies. But what I do know is you made the right decision. And I am proud of you.

I decided to go back to school after taking four years off. I had worked full time in several office positions, but the time finally felt right for me to take the plunge and finish my bachelor’s degree. If you’re anything like me, the headache of transferring your credits over, getting financial aid and grants was enough to almost make me go crazy.

But here you are. Nearing the Fall semester and you may be feeling a little overwhelmed…and perhaps even wondering if everyone will look a lot younger than you…. or at least feel younger than you. I wanted to write to you and share some of the things I have learned since coming back to college that I hope will encourage and motivate you.

Your life experience matters

You bring life experience to the classroom. Share it. Your professors will so appreciate it and believe it or not, so will your classmates. You see the world differently now than you did when you were 18, 19, or 20. Let others in on that knowledge. Use your voice and share what you have learned.

Build relationships with your professors

Speaking of professors. Get to know yours! This really applies to all students, but as a non-traditional student, taking the time to get to know your professors is beyond valuable and worthwhile. My professors have even gone so far as to offer to help me find a job. They are a wealth of knowledge and are there to help.

Be proud of your age

Be proud of your age. Seriously. It didn’t take too long before the feelings of insecurity about by age wore off and feelings of pride replaced them. Be proud of where you are and the bravery you are showing by coming back to college after a break. I personally found people never shamed me for it or made me feel uncomfortable– they actually did the complete opposite, they fully encouraged me and accepted me and supported me in my journey.

Study hard

One of the advantages of going back to school at an older age is chances are, you care a lot more about your studies than you may have at age 18 or 19. Studying hard and engaging during class time will pay off. With the additional bonus of having real world experience under your belt, you’ll likely understand how concepts you are learning in class can be so applicable in the real world. Take the time to study and really understand the material.

Develop time management skills

There is a really good chance you are going to school full time and working at least part time if not more and carry a lot of other responsibilities on your shoulders. That is incredible, honestly. It is not easy having to study after you come home from work at night. But you are further developing the skill of time management. Life is only going to keep getting busier and learning to manage your schedule now will make the transition after college even smoother.

Be kind

Be kind to your classmates. You may think they seem a lot younger than you, and they probably are. But I have found some great friends who are much younger than me. I can learn from them as much as they can learn from me. Don’t forget what it feels like to be 18 or 19. They need friends and encouragement just as much as you do. We are all in it together.

Remember, you’re just like everyone else. I know some days it may not seem that way. You may not be going joining sororities or have the time to devote to clubs on campus. But remember, every student on campus has the same end goal – to graduate.

I hope you read this and feel encouraged by the decision you made to come to WCU. Keep your head held high, even on the tough days. You made the right call. Give it a few weeks and you’ll feel right at home here. It’s a wonderful university that deeply cares about its students and before you know it you’ll be walking down the aisle to receive your diploma.

The experiences you will go through and the education you will receive will challenge you and grow you in so many ways. It will expand your mind and you will leave a more well-rounded individual than before. Your time here at WCU, will change you, for the better.

So, congratulations on taking the first step towards the rest of your life. I am glad you chose West Chester University. You will not regret it. Soak it all in, study hard, and enjoy the experience because it goes by fast!

From another non-traditional student,