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5 Types of Nontraditional Students


Though some assume that most or all college students are recent high school graduates, there are several different types of nontraditional students attending colleges today. A traditional college student is someone who enrolls on a full-time basis right after high school and someone who starts the fall after finishing high school. Non traditional college students include anyone who does not fit this mold.

No High School Diploma

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one defining feature of a non traditional student is that the person does not have a high school diploma, but has some type of certificate instead. Many states allow students to drop out of high school once they turn 16 and meet some other basic requirements. Those students can enroll in a program and pass a test to earn a GED, which is the equivalent of a high school diploma. Any student with a GED is a nontraditional student.

Single Parents

Non traditional students include single parents, too. A man or woman may have a child while in high school and care for that child, which takes time away from studying and doing college work. Single parents can include those who have children while enrolled in a college program and those who take a break from school to raise their kids. Going to college as a single parent is fairly difficult because those parents need to find time to do their work, hold down a job and still take care of their kids.

Part-Time Students

A full-time student is one who takes a minimum of 12 credit hours of classes in a semester. Most schools charge a flat tuition rate that allows these students to take the minimum credits or a maximum of 18 credit hours for the same price. Part-time students can take a single credit in a semester or take up to 11 credits of classes, but they pay a tuition rate based on the total number of credits taken. Those who take fewer credits are nontraditional college students.

Those Who Took a Break

American high schools often recommend that students enroll in college right after finishing school, but in other countries, students take a long break after secondary school. They often spend a year doing volunteer work, working a full-time or part-time job or doing some type of volunteer work. This gives them the chance to learn about different subjects, gain some experience and get an idea of what they want to study in college. The different types of nontraditional students include those who take a break after high school. This break can last for a year or several years, and some students may spend a decade or more working before they go back to school.

Independent Students

To get financial aid, students must fill out the FAFSA and include information about their parents’ incomes to determine the financial aid they get. Independent students use their own financial data but need to prove that they are independent of their parents. These nontraditional students cannot live with their parents or have their parents help them in any way. Those under the age of 24 must either be in the military, be emancipated from their parents, have dependents, or be legally married to qualify as an independent student.

Not every incoming freshman is a recent high school graduate with little to no real world experience. Many of the students attending college today have children, spouses and/or jobs. Some of the different types of nontraditional students include those who have a GED, those who took a break from school and those considered independent students.

Relatedl resource: 50 Best Colleges for Adult Education 2017-2018