non traditional students

(Ben White/Wikimedia Commons)

Being a nontraditional student is challenging. Most students participate in first year experiences like settling into the dorms, exploring UO’s Flock Party and eating late night dinners on campus where they are able to connect with their new community. Although I missed out on such experiences, I overcame these differences by finding strength in my independence. 


Walking around campus, I see a lot of students going through the motions, dozing off in class, riddled with anxiety. It makes me wonder who is here on their own accord and who is attending college to please their family. For me, taking time off of school wasn’t nearly as scary as the thought of disappointing my parents. I was terrified that they wouldn’t see my decision the way I did — as a temporary one. 


I have little regret moving from Bemidji, Minnesota to Eugene, Oregon in search of a new opportunity. Initially I wanted a break from school and a chance to make something of myself seperate from my education. However, after working two years in a local restaurant, the University of Oregon found me. 


Being a nontraditional student can take many different forms. According to the UO website, you may identify as a nontraditional student if you are over the age of 24, married, a transfer student or even taking time off. When I learned that I was among plenty of other nontraditional students on orientation day, I was excited. 


Yet, when I first applied to the university after taking two years off, I was flustered with all the meticulous forms and application costs. As a student who was solely responsible for my finances, I felt like quitting before I even got started. Instead, I thought about the future I wanted for myself and approached the challenge one step at a time. 


In an attempt to eradicate costly habits, I started with monthly budgeting. After paying for rent, gas, groceries and anything my cat needed, I was able to set aside any extra money for my savings. From there I worked an average of 50-plus hours a week so that I would be comfortable focusing on my studies when the time came. Throughout all of this, I still had anxiety over money, being accepted into the university and taking care of myself.  


The reality of doing something different than what society and your parents think you should do is absolutely terrifying. There is no “Dropping out of School to Find Yourself For Dummies” guide that I know of. I have learned to refrain from things like getting my nails done if I wanted enough money for groceries. Tough calls like this made me grow up pretty quick.  


According to Ashland University, being a nontraditional student can be beneficial for a handful of reasons. Individuals can become better at multitasking, gain more confidence, gain better abilities to plan and have more control over their lives. This helps make reaching goals much more attainable. 


Navigating uncharted territory is completely unnerving but has the ability to transform us. Experiencing something brand new is educational in its own way. Taking a break from school or even doing something different than our parents want us to do is monumental in developing our independence. When I felt like I was drowning, I took time to get some perspective and I learned how to swim.