Full-time student, full-time adult

Maggie Shepeard

In many students lives, perhaps the idea of having a family and raising children may have come first, whether intentional or not.

About a year and a half ago, nearly 20 years after graduating high school, I took a look at my own life and realized there was a need for change; the same decision that brings many of the NMU non-traditional student population back to the forefront of this university.

According to the Northern Michigan University website, a non-traditional student is not necessarily defined by age (usually over 24); do you see the contradiction?

They are also defined as students who may have life circumstances different from the typical traditional student.

These circumstances include: parents, married, divorced, veterans or caring for elderly parents.

Some also may be returning to college after a period of time in the workforce, working in their home or entering college for the first time, not right after high school graduation.

What makes adult students unique from other students and similar to each other is the multiple roles they assume in order to attend college.

This semester at NMU, non-traditional students make up 13.6 percent of the student population, or 1,010 students, according to the institutional research section of the NMU website. (First generation students make up an additional 35 percent of the student population.)

In many students lives, perhaps the idea of having a family, and raising children may have come first, whether intentional or not.

Getting my degree at NMU offers options and certainly more employment opportunities that are not possible without the completion of a formal education.

For those of us who don’t want to face another decade of being unemployable, or for those looking for a career versus yet another hourly, dead-end job, finishing our education may be the only option.

Thad Ray, junior English major works in the multicultural education and resource office on campus, as well as attends classes full time, and he opted to wait for his daughter to get older before he decided to complete his education.

“I feel like having a mix of people in the classes is more beneficial. You have new students and then you have students who may or may not have previous college experience, who have a ton of real world experience,” Ray said.

I contacted the Housing and Residence Life office and moved into on-campus housing, as it was both convenient and affordable. There were no worries about the maintenance of owning a home, the utilities were included and the walk from campus housing is quite a short distance from Jamrich and West Science, not to mention most of the other buildings on campus that hold classes.

Taylor Ritchie, senior neuroscience major is not only enrolled in 20 credit hours this semester, but she is also a single mother of three young children. She also works in the neuro-pharmaceutical lab on campus.

“In my experience at Northern, my instructors have been both knowledgeable and helpful any time that I’ve ever run into an issue because of my parental roles and responsibilities. There are some daycares that don’t open until 7:30, when I have a class that starts at 8:00 a.m., but as long as I’ve discussed it with them, I have never had an issue with a professor not working with me,” Ritchie said.

Relating to Ritchie, focusing on my studies and getting back in the groove of having to be somewhere every day took a little while to get accustomed to.

With school and work though, I was able to find a manageable balance of everything and am delving into the beginning of my senior year with full force.

As we find the crisp leaves crunching under our shoes and our suntans fading, I hope that every student is as excited as I am at this time of year. It can be difficult, but the payoff definitely outweighs the sacrifice, in the end. When you look at all of the fresh faces of the students who could be your children’s ages, remember, we’re all in this together.

When you see another non-traditional student crossing your path, give them a little smile.

We all have one goal, one common ground and one fair and equal university that challenges us all to support each other in the world of higher education.