Non-Traditional Students

Students who delayed enrollment, enrolled part-time, work full-time while enrolled, who are a student parent or a single parent, or do not have a high school diploma.

Group of students laying in a circle

Tips for Advising

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, 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 point, the College of Continuing and Professional Studies offers options for flexible degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. 

There are 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:

  • non-degree
  • student parents
  • part-time/returning learners
  • senior citizens
  • veterans
  • and others

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.  

Considerations for Returning Learners

  • They 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 lay out a degree program and how that might fit the student’s life can be reassuring 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 and Professional Studies 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, there 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. 

Further Resources

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Academic Success

Similar to first-year students, non-traditional students need early exposure to U of M academic policies and added guidance in relation to course selection and credit load in their first term/year to ensure steady degree progress. Encourage students to bookmark the following sites and reference these resources, especially if there’s a history of W or non-passing grades. Discuss college or department-specific benchmarks for enrollment in consecutive studies such as math, science, and languages, and determine that appropriate prerequisites are in place toward placement exams.


Typically, those not yet admitted tend to think of UMTC as one, unified institution. Both students applying as first-year or transfer students may find this information on the UMTC transfer process by CCAPS helpful.


Advisors in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS), especially its Individualized Degree Programs (Inter-College Program/ICP, Multidisciplinary Studies/MdS as well as their Applied & Professional Studies degrees), tend to see a higher proportion of non-traditional students. Call the CCAPS Information Center at 612-624-4000 and ask to be referred to an advisor who works with non-admitted, non-traditional, or student veterans--or provide the student with the CCAPS contact information.


Non-traditional students, especially those working full-time, are more likely to create a shadow system (e.g., Excel spreadsheet) to track their academic progress than routinely review their APAS report. Advisers need to explain how the University uses the APAS toward degree clearance. Encourage appointments at each enrollment queue if students are unlikely to self-monitor this record.

Career/Internship/Post-baccalaureate Study

Non-traditional students should be encouraged toward career services advising along with a timeline similar to full-time/traditional students. Often, non-traditional students are so focused on balancing school with other responsibilities that post-baccalaureate planning is delayed to their final semester. College-specific career center advisors offer a range of services to assist non-traditional students in their exploration of employment or graduate-level study.


Non-traditional students may self-disclose a need for affiliation with the Disability Resource Center (DRC). Others, especially those with an affective or learning style diagnosis, may feel a sense of stigma and reluctance to seek accommodation. Especially if there’s a history of W or non-passing grades, it’s important to determine the reasons for such a pattern. If DRC affiliation will bolster academic success, encourage DRC contact as early as possible.  


If there is a gap of two or more years in college-level study, non-traditional students may be eager to complete their degrees as quickly as possible, especially if their access to part-time financial aid is limited. Yet, it’s important to assess the student’s other responsibilities and explain the number of study hours typically required for academic success.

  • Those who are best served by part-time enrollment should be counseled as to financial aid implications and asked to complete a 13-credit exemption request.
  • As needed, help students navigate the Course Search tool in order to find courses with schedules or formats that permit a balance between academic and work/family life.


Non-traditional students who are admitted, or planning toward admission to a degree program, should be encouraged to complete the FAFSA as the majority of them will be eligible for some form of financial aid. Once a student’s FAFSA information has been transmitted to the University, a One Stop counselor will be able to assist the student with their individual financial situation and give a better understanding of remaining aid eligibility. Students should also review the One Stop website to review how to receive financial aid at the University.

Students should be aware that their enrollment level will affect their aid eligibility. The minimum required enrollment levels for each type of aid are outlined on the One Stop site. Admitted, part-time students (i.e., those planning to take fewer than 13 credits/term) will need to submit a 13-credit exemption request so as not to be billed for full-time tuition and fees.

Non-traditional students should understand that there will be aid offered to them automatically based on their FAFSA. Beyond that, there’s also a significant amount of aid they can seek individually. One example of this would be to look into scholarships. Students can use the UMTC Undergraduate Scholarship Search Tool to find their scholarship matches and they should also talk directly with their college to find out if they are eligible for any collegiate scholarships.

Since the College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS) supports a large percentage of non-traditional students, its financial aid information may also prove to be useful as it breaks down aid offered to students based on their FAFSA, versus aid that students will need to apply for or take action on individually to receive. CCAPS also has scholarship options specifically for non-traditional students.

  • Jessica Haensch, CCAPS Scholarship/Financial Aid Coordinator, is happy to be a resource for any non-traditional students considering admission or enrollment via the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.
  • Mike Arieta, Academic Support Resources Financial Counselor, can be contacted by advisors of students admitted to other colleges.


Advising toward a four-year graduation timeline may be in a student’s best interest in relation to tuition/policy changes, yet such a pace and credit load might actually undermine a non-traditional student’s success at the undergraduate or graduate academic levels. Revisit information specific to Enrollment.  If non-academic responsibilities peak unexpectedly, a planned short-term Leave of Absence will better serve a student academically and financially than a transcript with chronic Ws or below “passing” grades.


Because non-traditional students may be balancing many aspects of life beyond academia, strategic email outreach or holds may be needed to ensure that such students meet with their advisor prior to the end of their last enrollment queue. At that point, the advisor/college can confirm status toward degree clearance. Advisors should also clarify college-related information on degree clearance and commencement or graduation reception events.

Information Technology Literacy

Technology is an integral part of most U of M functions. Even if a non-traditional student has made use of technology in a work setting, becoming familiar with UMTC technology expectations might take some time. Prior to engagement in their first term, help students avoid academic and financial problems by making sure that they’ve established their email account and are routinely accessing it. The U of M IT site’s “Getting Started Guide” provides thorough, step-by-step information on account management as well as IT assistance/locations/hours.

Share links to tutorials, such as those listed below, as relevant - being careful not to overwhelm students tech-anxious students at this early stage.


Colleges vary in their orientation requirements, especially for students admitted or readmitted spring semester. Work/family responsibilities, distance from campus, or prior enrollment/admission at the U of M-Twin Cities may be reasons why some non-traditional students may view orientation as an inconvenience. However, it’s important that they’re confirmed ready to engage in their first semester as an admitted student with, at a minimum, a phone-based or virtual orientation.

Returning U of M Students

Often when a student seeks return admission to the UMTC, their point of contact, or an advisor’s, is the College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS). However, if a student was in close proximity to completing their UMTC major/degree and wishes to complete that degree (i.e., within 15-semester credits), it may be best to encourage exploration of the student’s original college/major. CCAPS has a 24-credit post-admission residency requirement which may extend a returning U of M student’s timeline to a degree.

Students with Parental/Family Responsibilities

Sometimes it is clear that a student has parental responsibilities. They may be returning to complete their degrees after their children have reached elementary school age or may have expressed concern about the impact of child care in relation to educational finances or studies. Some students might have responsibilities for others in their family system, and see themselves as non-traditional. However, because of the nature of the responsibilities and the family members involved, they believe they are ineligible for services toward academic and family success.

Encourage students who are pregnant, parenting, or serving as a caregiver to the Student Parent Help Center. Student testimonials at the Student Parent Help Center (SPHC) are most often cited by “non-traditional” students and describe the myriad of ways in which Susan Warfield and her team have addressed issues ranging from child care grants to economic/food/housing support, holiday gift sponsorship, study space and community.

Transfer Course Evaluation

Frequently, questions arise in relation to transferable courses/credits. In order to determine the status of Admissions’ transfer evaluation, generate a What If? APAS - choosing Transfer Credit Report from the drop-down list of choices, after selecting a college affiliation. Generate a report - then a printer-friendly version of the APAS report. The Transfer Credit Report APAS provides confirmation of which courses have been evaluated and accepted toward credit. Credits not accepted, or in need of department-specific evaluation, will also be shown.

All religious studies transfer coursework must be evaluated by CLA’s Religious Studies program.

Here are key contacts within Admissions and their respective areas of expertise:

  • Margaret Gardner -  study abroad credit and non-U-system courses toward UMTC LEs
  • Emilee Hemme - UM-system transfer evaluation toward UMTC LEs

Undecided Students

For a variety of reasons, and at varying times in a student’s academic progress, they may experience a sense of disorientation toward original goals. When exploration of self in relation to major or career path is needed, and beyond the scope of traditional advising, the Center for Academic Planning & Exploration (CAPE) is available to help any enrolled undergraduate UMTC student. CAPE offers courses, short-term coaching, and online resources for students as well as staff/faculty. CAPE coaches receive regular training in relation to all UMTC colleges and majors/minors.


University Veterans Services, within OneStop, is the resource for admitted students.

Prospective U of M student/veteran questions can be answered within Admissions.

Susan Svatek is the liaison for student veterans enrolled on non-admitted status who are seeking advice toward admission. Non-admitted veterans can receive two months of tuition benefits.