The new ‘normal’
By Vanessa Swindell, director, Columbia College-Jacksonville
Have you noticed the incredible diversity of students at Columbia College? The students that attend the Jacksonville location come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, and that diversity brings tremendous richness to the classroom experience. Nearly all of these students fit into the “nontraditional” category. What exactly does that mean?
Traditional students have been characterized as those individuals who go straight into college after they graduate from high school, usually enrolling full-time, living on a residential campus and still financially dependent on their parents. Interestingly, these “traditional” college students no longer make up the majority of students in the United States.
Instead, the type of students now termed “nontraditional” — the type served by the Jacksonville location — are greater in number than the so-called traditional students. These folks are over 25 years of age, entered the workforce in the years following high school or served some time in the military, are financially independent and often enroll part-time. Non-traditional students have differing needs, expectations and challenges than their traditional counterparts, though.
For example, some of the challenges they face as a college student include:
- Feeling alienated from their peers who have already completed college.
- Experiencing financial pressure from increased expenses due to educational costs.
- Becoming engaged in the learning process due to many outside distractors, which can also make them less likely to persist.
- Uncertainty over how to efficiently manage their time — not sure how much time will be needed to succeed academically.
- Facing concerns about their math, writing, test-taking, reading and study skills because they have been out of school for a while.
- Undergoing stress due to the multiple areas of responsibility they have — family, child or elder care, social and community activities, work, etc.
- Having family members who may not be fully aware of the time needed to spend on their studies and also worrying about not spending enough time with their kids.
- May be a first-generation college student and not sure what to expect.
- Feeling concerns about being in a classroom again and may be reluctant to participate.
- Experiencing possible technology challenges with unfamiliar systems.
- Raising questions about whether the time, money and effort put into school will yield a good return on investment for their career path.
On the flip side, though, nontraditional students also have greater opportunities for success in pursuing their education due to these positive qualities:
- More life experience and greater knowledge about the real world around them, which places new learning in proper context so that it can be practicably applied.
- A strong desire to finish college and to complete it as quickly as possible — more focused and determined to achieve a postsecondary degree.
- Well-prepared to make the sacrifices needed to reach educational goals.
- Knowing exactly why they are in school and what they want to gain from it.
- Familiar with technology as it is used in the working world.
- Able to achieve better grades due to greater effort and focus.
- A family that is supportive and encouraging and feeling proud of setting a good example for their kids (or grandkids).
That’s why we are here — our job at the Jacksonville location is to help our nontraditional students overcome the challenges listed above and optimize their positive attributes so that they can succeed in achieving their educational goals. Columbia College as a whole is committed to helping this process by: offering different methods of course delivery (i.e., in-seat and online); scheduling classes in an accelerated format that allows students to progress through their program more quickly and achieve their degree sooner; making transfer credit policies that are student-friendly; connecting students to real advisors that can help navigate academic and financial concerns; and keeping tuition and fees affordable to reduce educational debt. You may be considered “nontraditional” in higher education, but you are definitely the type of student for whom we exist to serve here at the Jacksonville location!
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By Maria Haynie, Ready.Aim.Hire.
The magic age for getting a degree doesn’t actually exist. However, students who consider themselves “nontraditional” are concerned about how their age will affect their experience in the classroom. Let’s break down this make-believe age barrier:
Imagine the fictional college freshman, a fresh-faced 18- or 19-year-old, walking through a historic, bricked campus while the changing red leaves softly fall from the stately trees overhead. The image is beautiful and certainly will be found at the main Columbia College campus and elsewhere across the nation each fall, but it only represents 3.4 percent of the whole student body at Columbia College.
While many evening and online students may consider themselves nontraditional students, the numbers show that the actual Columbia College tradition is about them. The majority of students, 56 percent, were between 30 and 65 years old in 2015. Our students are more likely to find a classmate to have much more life experience than a student who may still daydream about last spring’s prom. In fact, the student learning alongside you is 2.5 times more likely to be in their early 30s than around 20. It’s also likely you’ll have more than one classmate whose children are in high school, or perhaps has a grandchild or two.
The mix of ages in a learning community enriches the whole class with both mature and fresh perspectives. Many adult students share the common concerns about using technology or about getting the hang of school after being out of classrooms for a long time. The resources and technology used in our classes are designed to be user-friendly for all students: no higher education experience required to start.
At any age, going to college is no fairy tale. Earning a degree is hard work. But as an adult, older students have experience and responsibilities that can be resources and excellent motivation. You may have to use your imagination and get creative to fit school around your full and busy life, but the happy ending of graduation is attainable for any age of student.
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By Department of Student Success and Money Stacks
Taking classes over the summer can be a big help when you’re pursuing a degree. At Columbia College, you can take up to 12 additional hours over the summer, which could knock off an entire semester of coursework! That lets you complete your schooling faster and lessens the financial load.
But how do you know if taking summer courses is right for you? Columbia College’s Department of Student Success and Money Stacks has some pros and cons you might want to consider when deciding whether to trade in your swim trunks for syllabi:
- Keep up your momentum: If you had a good spring term and want to ride that wave into the summer, it might be a good idea to sign up for more classes so you can stay in an educational rhythm. If you’re a student that strives on structure and routine, you could benefit from forging ahead with your classes rather than taking the summer off.
- Be mindful of burnout: If, on the other hand, you’re starting to experience some education fatigue, sitting the summer sessions out might be the best option. Summer can provide a great opportunity to recharge with family time, vacation or just straight-up relaxation away from a school setting.
- Saving time can mean saving money: Getting done with school earlier could mean less interest on student loans to pay back. It also allows students an earlier gateway to the workforce or to looking for a promotion in their current jobs. But, along with these financial benefits, taking summer classes also necessitates some financial planning when it comes to allocating some of your funds and looking for additional scholarships of different ways to pay for the summer sessions.
- Make time for fun: A Monster.com article on the subject cautions that taking year-round school could prohibit you from taking part in some of the extracurricular activities you enjoy. You have to find a good balance between enjoying the college experience and getting through it in a timely manner.
For more guidance on how to make the most of your Columbia College experience, you can contact the Department of Student Success at (573) 875-7860 or email@example.com.
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By Grossnickle Career Services Center
The college is transitioning from CCNet, its previous career services software, to Handshake, a relatively new software that has been adopted by more than 160 colleges and boasts over 120,000 nationwide employers that have posted jobs through the service.
Students can upload their resumes, research companies, apply for opportunities and find out about career events through Handshake. The service allows students to connect with employers without the companies having to go through Columbia College in order for a student to access them. This makes for a powerful service that can help our students no matter what location they attend or what part of the country they’re searching.
An October article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explains it this way: “The company produces software that’s designed to replace the systems that colleges have long used to keep track of job postings and pass them along to students. For employers, it’s a way to easily mine talent and broaden the set of colleges where they send job and internship listings.”
Handshake is also very mobile-friendly and features an intuitive interface that will be easy to use. So students can utilize Handshake as frequently and simply as they do their social media applications on their phones!
For more advice on preparing for a career after college — or advancing in the field you’re in now — visit the Grossnickle Career Services Center webpage, call (573) 875-7425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By Ousley Family Veterans Service Center
What is Green Zone training, and what does it mean for you as a student veteran? The overall training objective is for faculty and staff to gain a basic knowledge and understanding of challenges faced by student veterans during their transition from the military to the college classroom. It also has the objective of providing resources available on campus and in the community to assist them. Faculty and staff members volunteer to attend training sessions providing information such as:
- Identifying student veterans
- Service components (active, guard, reserve)
- Deployment cycles and impact on families
- Traditional issues that student veterans face
- Other information veterans want staff and faculty to know
The training concludes with faculty and staff interactively participating in scenarios to apply what they learned to typical situations with student veterans. New Green Zone team members receive a window cling or a decal to display on their office door or on their syllabi. This helps student veterans to identify trained faculty and staff members. When a student veteran has questions, or just wants to talk, they have a resource in any Green Zone team member who can understand their issues and concerns. Team members are available to listen and assist, and they can help with a referral to the appropriate services as needed.
Veterans Service is excited to announce that 234 staff and faculty members across the college have received Green Zone training, with additional training opportunities planned for the future. Columbia College Veterans Service and Green Zone team members are here to empower student veterans to make wise decisions about their educational goals.
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