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3 Great Tips for Non-Trad College Students

Updated on November 13, 2016

Heading back to school after years or decades of work can be challenging, not only because you’ve been away from the classroom setting for a long time, but because that setting has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. If you’re going back for a degree there are a lot of new challenges, and to get the most out of your time and money there are a couple of tips that you should take advantage of.

Skip the GRE If You Can

The GRE and the GMAT are simultaneously difficult, and a poor indicator of how a student is going to do in college. If you’re doing your master’s as a non-traditional student, you're going to find yourself at a disadvantage when taking these tests because they cater heavily to abstract classroom learning that has very little practical application. Being away from the school environment for a while means you're likely to not be as used to dealing with those types of questions anymore.

Many colleges now have at least some programs that no longer absolutely require applicants to take a standardized test. The most common majors that we’ve found that make these kinds of concessions are in fast-growing high-demand fields like nursing, business, and social work. They usually don’t outright remove the requirement, but they allow applicants to circumvent it by granting exceptions to students with a GPA above a specific level.

Make Friends With Your Local Librarian

Librarians are your friends, and they can make all the difference when you’re trying to put together a paper. While the people at your local library probably don’t have as in-depth understanding of your field, they’re expertly trained researchers with excellent formatting and writing skills. Be nice to your librarian, bring them coffee, and chat about what you’re trying to work on. From vetting or helping you find obscure sources, to looking over a draft, you can really benefit.

Besides generally being full of helpful people, libraries offer a bunch of free programs that refresh old skills and provide new ones that can come in incredibly handy when you’re trying to muddle your way through school.

Befriend The Other Students

One of the biggest problems that non-traditional students face is the age gap between them and the average college student. Regardless of this it’s essential that you find a way to relate and get involved in college life the same way that younger students do. The reason for this is that it’s essential to build a community of people who are engaging with the same academic material as you so that you can cooperatively think about and digest the information. This social learning is especially important because it allows you to go over your and other people’s ideas repeatedly so that you can ensure that you really understand what you’re learning, rather than just memorizing enough information to pass a test or write a mediocre paper.

Photo Credit: Flickr Commons


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