Welcome to the norm!

By Erika Thomas, director, Columbia College-St. Louis

Erika ThomasHave you noticed the incredible diversity of students at Columbia College? The students that attend Columbia College-St. Louis come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Diversity brings tremendous richness to your educational experience.

Did you know: none of the Columbia College-St. Louis students fall under the definition of the “traditional” college student? Traditional students are characterized as individuals who go straight into college after they graduate high school, around 18 years old, 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.

The Columbia College-St. Louis student body would be termed as “nontraditional.” They are considered the new norm. They are greater in number than traditional students. Nontraditional students are adult learners. These students are over 25 years of age, entered the workforce in the years following high school, financially independent and often enroll part time.

Nontraditional students are unique. They have different needs, expectations and challenges than their traditional counterparts.

  • Examples of some challenges they face as college students include:
  • Uncertainty over how to efficiently manage their time — not sure how much time will be needed to succeed academically.
  • Facing concerns about their math, speech, writing, test-taking, reading and study skills because they have been out of school for a while.
  • Undergoing the stress of juggling multiple areas of responsibility in their life — family, child or elder care, social and community activities, work, etc.
  • Feeling concerned about the cost and possible technology challenges.

On the other hand, nontraditional students also have greater opportunities for success because they have more life experience and greater knowledge about the real world around them, so that it can be practically applied. They have a strong desire to complete their degree — they stay focused. They know why they are in school and what they want to gain from it.

My sole purpose at Columbia College is to help nontraditional students overcome the challenges listed above and optimize their positive attributes so they can succeed in achieving their educational goals. Not only will I guide you, I’ll root for you. I was once a returning student — just like you. However, I didn’t have Columbia College as an option. Nontraditional students, you have a place to finish your degree: Columbia College-St. Louis. Welcome to the new norm!