When one thinks of a traditional college, the typical residential student body comes to mind. The traditional campus is a place where students are 18 to 22 years old, full-time undergraduates, and live on campus. However, the student population at DSU is anything but traditional; at DSU, approximately 18 percent of undergraduate students are 25 or older, and 65 percent of all undergraduates either live off-campus or commute. Many returning students are coping with balancing academics with responsibilities such as single parenting, family obligations, and full-time employment. In addition, they often feel "out of touch" in a classroom with traditional students. They often need help developing a sense of community, managing their time, planning career goals, and creating social networks.
Because these students are older and have more personal responsibilities, they often have a deeper level of maturity and stronger commitment to their education than many traditional students. However, you should be aware that these students may often lack confidence in their ability as students and may need much encouragement. In addition, some nontraditional students will have an unrealistic view of the challenges of DSU and unrealistic expectations about their abilities to handle both the rigors of DSU and full-time employment and/or family responsibilities. They may also face greater pressure to complete coursework within a specific time frame. These students need advisors who can help them develop realistic programs.
On the basis of the issues confronting nontraditional students, and keeping in mind that many of them attend on a part-time basis, the following is suggested:
- Accommodate advisees' schedules as much as possible to arrange appointments when they are on campus.
- Be accessible by e-mail or phone.
- Be aware of the pros and cons of options such as DDN courses, Internet courses, or credit by examination and discuss them with advisees as appropriate.
- Notify them of services available to assist them, including a nontraditional support group available through DSU's Diversity Services.
Being aware of the special concerns of nontraditional students and the services available to assist them will help you best advise this special population.