By Ellen Parham, director, Columbia College-Fort Stewart

Have you noticed the incredible diversity of students at Columbia College? The students that attend Fort Stewart 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 “non-traditional” 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 “non-traditional” — the type served by Fort Stewart — 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.

Ellen Parham

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 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 worried 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 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, non-traditional 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 Columbia College-Fort Stewart is to help our non-traditional 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 “non-traditional” in higher education, but you are definitely the type of student for whom we exist to serve here at Columbia College-Fort Stewart! Also, don’t forget to read the rest of the articles in this month’s newsletter in the column on the right!

Congratulations to our dean’s list honorees!
We are proud to honor the Fort Stewart members of the Spring 2021 dean’s list! A student must have completed 12 semester hours in a 16-week period and achieved a minimum GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0-point scale. See the list