Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Scheduling is Everything for Non-Traditional Students

Guest Blog by Susan Elliott

Non-Traditional Student on Campus

Stepping onto a campus, of any size, after several years absence, or for the first time ever, can be a bit overwhelming. Fear is normal. It is also normal to feel like all the younger students are staring at you, and that you will never fit in. Don’t worry. You don’t have to fit in or be popular, this is not high school. You are in college to learn, fulfill your dreams and start anew. Relax, the chances are you will excel in your new environment.

Scheduling is Everything

Before you ever begin a class you have to create your schedule. Many students find this preparation the most confusing time of their school career. Non-traditional students must consider two things when selecting their class schedules, what else is going on in their life, and can they be reasonably sure that they can make it to their classes.

Children, spouses and work all make big impacts on your schedule. Many classes require a lot of outside studying. Can you commit to the hours needed for class preparation, projects and activities? If not, you better select a different class. Some teachers are more lenient towards non-traditional students, but they will still expect your best efforts. If you can’t give them, don’t bother.

Also, consider you time constraints. Do you have to be somewhere every Thursday, does PTO meet on Mondays? What about driving time, carpool? Does the class you’re considering conflict with any of these things? If so, you may want to choose a different class, or make a commitment determining what things you are going to give up during that particular class time. Don’t make these decisions on impulse. Carefully consider all your options before committing to a class.

Confidence Determines Success

The very first day of class the pressure may seem unbearable. Walk into class with your head held high, and with your most inviting smile on your lips. A smile can actually break the tension in the class. There are many students that are just as scared as you are.

Make eye contact with people. This eye contact may actually help you make friends. A person’s response will also help you to decide if he is a possible partner for any group projects that may be assigned during the class.

Notes are Key

On the first day of class you will always have an A. It is your job to keep it. Properly formulated notes can be the key to keeping high marks. Consider what the teacher is saying. You do not have to record everything he says.

If your teacher is fond of telling pointless stories, don’t take write them into your notes. It is a waste of paper, and it will also waste your studying time. Leafing through pages of notes to find a few lines of pertinent information is never fun. Record things that are related to the class or the things that the teacher says will be on the test.

Develop Your Own Note Taking System

Make use of colored pens, highlighters or computer software to keep track of important information. Programs like Microsoft OneNote are perfect for recording notes and important facts. The OneNote program allows the user to create folders for individual classes, as well as daily pages under a class heading.

Remember, you will succeed as a non-traditional student. Be your biggest cheerleader and keep on trucking!


  1. I agree. Scheduling is one thing that will help ensure success. I use a Franklin Covey planner my husband gave me as a birthday gift several years ago, but a $3 assignment notebook, a spiral notebook, or a pocket calendar would work just as well. Good advice!

  2. More and more students are finding Wiznotes to be useful software for taking notes. It allows students to not only take notes, but is a productivity tool to help them learn whatever they are studying.

    Eli Cohen
    Mesoraware (Wiznotes is a division of Mesoraware)
    (This was posted here because it is relevant to this article)

  3. Susan- what an outstanding post! You are really looking at some of the biggest fears that non-traditional students really have, especially regarding the confidence factor. Confidence doesn’t just affect making friends in your classes, it can affect your grades. In working with students for five years at American InterContinental University, I have found that the most successful students are the ones that ask the most questions, and speak up for themselves. You are getting this degree for YOU, and if you don’t understand something, who is it hurting most if you don’t ask for help? Everyone employed at your school is there to help you get the best experience possible. Be sure to ask for help when you need it- from help figuring out a schedule that works for you, to what options there might be for tutoring in that class you’re struggling with. If someone is trying to choose a school- find out what support systems are available to you. Your degree is yours alone, but there should be a network of people to help you get there!

    Bethany Irvin
    Director, Success Center-Chicago
    American InterContinental University

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  5. Yes you are right, fear is normal for those who are starting there studied again after several years absence. It looks like all younger students are staring at you. For such people distance learning programs are best option to choose. You can continue your studied at any age.