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Nontraditional Students

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While some students choose to pursue higher education directly out of high school, many others choose to join the military, trades, or direct employment. Those who return to a degree program later in life as adult learners are considered “Nontraditional Students”. While university is often associated with students ages 18-24, it may come as a shock to learn that as of 2021 only 38% of students in undergraduate programs were ages 18-24!

Nontraditional Students, because of returning to education later in life, may face unique challenges. Being parents, ensuring job financial and insurance security, and a feeling of displacement among their peers are only some of the challenges that may be faced. Some questions that Nontraditional Students may face include, but are not limited to:
  • How will I balance all my responsibilities?
  • Can I change careers at this point in my life?
  • Do I have to settle for my current job?
  • Will companies want to hire me?

It can be reassuring to know that Nontraditional Students make up most learners in higher education. To ensure successful career outcomes following your graduation, please feel free to review the resources below:


Purdue Span Plan – The Span plan is home to Nontraditional student services here at Purdue University, ensuring that all students are provided with an equitable opportunity for success. Among their various resources, they also provide an on-campus office and a family friendly study space on campus. 

5 Reasons People Don't Switch Careers (Even When They Should) - Knowing when to take the leap regarding a career change can be a list of hard signals to recognize. This article calls out the signs of when to take a career change, and dives into the logic behind them. 

7 Career Change Obstacles and How to Overcome Them - Making a career change often comes with considerations and obstacles that may cause hesitation or even withdrawal from the idea altogether. In this article, some of the main obstacles in changing careers are identified and solutions are provided to potentially overcome them. 

9 Ways Volunteering Can Be a Step Toward Changing Careers - To begin the process to making a career change, it can be hard to acquire all of the skills required to enter a new field overnight. This article discusses how volunteering, a low stress and flexible activity, can give one the skills and exposure needed to a field to begin a career transition. 

Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) - The ANTSHE is an organization who believes in supporting adult learners. Through research clarity, providing scholarships, and teaming up with institutions across the United States, the ANTSHE is a core member of the informal network of support for Nontraditional students. 

College for Adults - College for Adults is a resource designed for adults pursuing higher education for the first time. They focus on every step of the way, starting from placement tests and college applications all the way to late-stage steps such as career planning. Their career planning resources focus on ensuring adults can discover a wide variety of career paths, exploring occupations, and self-exploration in the career path journey. 

Interns Over 40 - Interns Over 40 have assisted over 1 million people enduring career transitions through opportunities to get involved. Involvement includes education on career change, answering your questions, and how to approach the career change process as a Nontraditional Student. 

Making a Career Change at 40 - Making a career change at later stages in life can be a difficult idea to consider. Although not all candidates for this will be aged 40 or older, this article investigates the considerations and steps to take regarding a career change. 

NEW Solutions - NEW Solutions aims to promote an age-diversified workforce through enhancing opportunities available to individuals 55 and over. To accomplish this, they work with federal agencies to provide skilled and experienced workers to fill positions in a variety of fields and career expertise. 

USEEOC ADEA - The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided information on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which forbids age discrimination in ages 40 or older. This webpage gives general information on the legal protections regarding age in the workplace, allowing job candidates and employees to be informed of rights in the workplace. 

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