Non-Traditional Students

Students who delayed enrollment, enrolled part-time, works full-time while enrolled, is a student parent or a single parent, or does not have a high school diploma.

Tips for Advising this Population

In many cases, students returning to the University of Minnesota after an extended absence, or students who started a degree plan somewhere else several years ago and may be looking for new alternatives to their original plan.  For those returning to the University, their first stop is likely their college of last enrollment.  For those learners considering a change in their degree plan, or those seeking a new starting the point, the College of Continuing Education offers options for flexible degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. 

There is a wide variety of descriptors related to the non-traditional student population. The content on this page will likely overlap with information on advising for:

Drive & Doubt for Non-Traditional Students

Returning learners or students frequently described as non-traditional students bring a combination of drive and doubt to the process. 

Their drive may be based on a dream they set for themselves, or the demands they are feeling to change or advance in their careers. Many have built a solid foundation of accomplishment and are feeling ready to take on the goal of getting a degree.

Their doubt comes with the understanding that their lives, with regular jobs, or busy families can make the plan for returning to class a daunting task. How can the student cobble together an academic plan that meets their interests or needs? A plan where their work schedule can accommodate the extra time and energy needed to go to class, study and do classwork, find time for their family, pay for their education, and still have personal time to help keep themselves in balance? 

These learners often need a skilled academic advisor to help guide their journey through the key questions while also providing support and encouragement to achieve their goals.  

Here is a short list of considerations that are often important to returning learners.

  • The need flexibility.
    Adult learners have busy lives with lots of responsibilities.  They often need information that can show them how the degree/returning to school can fit into their busy lives. Taking the time to layout a degree program and how that might fit the student’s life can be confirmed for them.
  • Finding or designing a degree plan that works may be ideal.
    With the wealth of degree options the U of M offers, there are many different paths that can lead to degree and/or career success.  Exploring flexible degree options such as those offered by the College of Continuing Education or the College of Liberal Arts may be a preferred path for many returning learners.  These programs may also offer the most effective way to use prior credits that can transfer, thus speeding up time to degree completion.
  • The reputation and credibility of the University are important.
    Students value the reputation of the University of Minnesota.  Learners hear compelling arguments for online learning.  However are many learners who appreciate that they have access to an actual physical campus with faculty and student peers in a classroom.  For many a degree from the University of Minnesota has value.
  • Return on their investment is key.
    Adult learners are interested in their return on investment and career advancement.  Sharing information about career resources as well what you know about employment data and stories of recent graduates can be reassuring.