Enrolling in college as a nontraditional student can be overwhelming. Aside from the normal worries students face, like meeting new people and navigating financial aid, we nontraditional students juggle other parts of adult life, such as a mortgage, childcare or a full-time job. When we begin classes, it’s easy to feel out of place and alone.
As a student in my thirties, married with four children, I felt overwhelmed and afraid when I decided to go back to college. Navigating new technology, going through the admissions process as a first-generation college student and sitting in classes with students just a few years older than my oldest child, I immediately felt discouraged and out of place . I quickly realized I wasn’t alone. My perspective on my college experience shifted from just hoping I could complete my degree to feeling at home and excited about my time at Charlotte.
My first, and biggest, piece of encouragement is to realize you are not alone. The faculty and staff at Charlotte want you to succeed. From the Office for Adult and Evening Students to Veteran Services, to the Career Center to your professors and department faculty, there are people to help you through it all. Within my first week of classes I was able to reach out to a professor in my department who became my advisor and mentor. The faculty were eager to offer guidance beyond their normal advising schedule.
When I say you aren’t alone, that doesn’t just include resources from the University. You are in great company with other nontraditional students at Charlotte . Talk to the students who sit with you in class. You’ll discover others in your position, and you’ll find out that many traditional college students are all about making new friends. I’ve made connections with my fellow students who have been there to study with me and help me with newer technology. Many have become friends. One of the most pleasant surprises since going back to school was how accepting the student body at Charlotte is. My fellow students don’t see the age gap between us. Make friends during your time at Charlotte! They’ll be among your biggest cheerleaders.
Communicating with the departments at Charlotte and with your professors can be so helpful. Most professors I have had were understanding of my nontraditional student status. They have worked with me when the needs of my family have come up. They have even welcomed my child into the classroom when I had to juggle parenting and being a student. I just had to take a moment to communicate and they were there to help.
I came to Charlotte for an undergraduate degree, hoping to keep my head down enough to get through it. I had no idea that the resources provided by the University, the faculty and staff, and my fellow students would open so many doors for me. Employment opportunities on campus, mentorships, guidance and friendships have led me to enroll in graduate school and further career opportunities. Do not be afraid to reach out when you are feeling lost or overwhelmed. The people at Charlotte want you to succeed and know you’re capable of great things.
From: April Ryley ‘22