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How College Programs for Adults Differ from Traditional Programs

How College Programs for Adults Differ from Traditional Programs

A generation ago, college was an immediate post-high school step reserved for young people hoping to get a great start in the world. Now, more and more adults recognize the value of starting or completing a college degree. 

Seventy-four percent of college students are now nontraditional students — either those over the age of 25 or those with children and families of their own. At some schools, adult students comprise the majority of the student body, bringing years of career and community wisdom to their coursework. 

College programs for adults cater to the unique needs of adult learners, blending a wide range of scheduling and coursework options to help you customize a program that brings a brighter future within reach. 

Finding Your Job vs. Finding Yourself 

Freshly minted high school graduates have a lot to learn about the real world. Certain fields of study, such as philosophy and psychology, may be totally new. They might have little or no experience with people who think differently from them or lead different lifestyles, and they may have little idea of what they want to do with their lives. 

The standard college experience is designed to help these young people grow into well-rounded adults who are ready to take on whatever the world throws their way. Students take a variety of classes to help them choose the right major, spend time debating ideas with professors who challenge them, and often live in dorms with people who are very different from them. 

For traditional college students, there’s a strong focus on finding yourself and your place in the world. For this reason, many students choose classes and majors that feel interesting to them, not necessarily those that will lead to a lucrative or recession-proof job.

In contrast, programs for returning learners are designed to help you settle into a career that works for you by building upon what you have already learned. The emphasis is no longer on teaching you about the world, because you’ve already lived in it. You’ll spend less time refining your study skills, uncovering your interests, and focusing on basic principles related to your field of study, and more time honing the skills that can help you thrive at work and in your community.  

More Financial Aid Options

Most high school graduates are still classified as dependents for financial aid purposes. This can limit financial aid options, especially if their parents have a relatively high income but are not able or willing to contribute to a college education. 

As an adult, you have far more options. Your financial aid award is no longer tied to your parents’ earnings, but your own. In addition, financial aid options have changed a lot in the last few years. You have more paths to funding school than ever before. 

Schools that cater to adult learners understand that people often leave school for financial reasons. They know you may have defaulted on a student loan, may struggle with credit issues, or could be living paycheck to paycheck. 

They work with each individual learner to find a financial aid package that meets your current financial needs without saddling you with debt you’ll never be able to repay. You may even be able to reach out for help with consolidating debt and other payment options after graduation. 

Yearning to go back to school, but don’t think you have the time? Read our  guide, What to Expect from an Online Degree Program, to see if it’s the right  fit.

A Faster Track to Graduation 

For first-time college students fresh out of high school, college may be the first taste of freedom away from mom and dad. Many relish the experience, enrolling in after-school activities and taking their time to graduate. 

By the time you’re an adult, you know that time is money — and the longer you spend in school, the higher your tuition bill may be. Schools that cater to adult learners work with you to help you graduate as quickly as possible. At SNU, for example, bachelor’s degree candidates can get up to a year of credit for what they already know with our prior learning assessment. And that’s on top of any transfer credits for which you qualify.

Flexible Scheduling 

Traditional colleges offer classes during the workday, with maybe a few classes scattered into the evening. For people with jobs, children or other responsibilities, this may not be realistic. 

Schools catering to adult learners offer many more options. At SNU, you can choose between online learning and taking classes just one night a week. Students also enjoy rolling enrollment so they can start sooner and graduate more quickly, without waiting for arbitrary enrollment dates to finally roll around. 

Greater Independence 

You’re an adult. You already know that the real world is tough. You’ve probably mastered some skills to manage whatever challenges you face. You know how you learn best, which study skills you struggle with, and what sorts of environments help you thrive. You don’t need someone else standing over you telling you how to do things or admonishing you about the challenges of the career world. 

Programs catering to adult learners offer greater independence, allowing you to manage your time in the way that works for you. That often involves online classes, more flexibility to meet with your instructors and greater control over your schedule. 

Choosing the Right College Program for Adults 

There’s no one-size-fits-all program that will work well for the needs of every learner. The challenges of a single parent may be quite different from those of a childless executive returning to school for an MBA. Although some learners may want to graduate as soon as possible, for others the priority is going to be taking just a few classes so they can fit school into a packed schedule. 

Don’t just rely on a college’s assurances that it can meet all of these different life needs. Some things to ask as you compare options include: 

  • How much time do I have to spend on classes and school work each week? 
  • What are the biggest challenges I face? Childcare? Transportation? Financial constraints? 
  • How much will the program cost me, and can I afford this price tag? 
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce the total price, such as applying for scholarships? 
  • Who will be my support system? What sort of support does the school offer to adult learners? SNU’s cohort model offers built-in support from day one. 
  • What sorts of career support does the school offer? Are instructors leaders in their field who know what the working world demands? 
  • Can I take classes online or at night? 
  • What is the graduation rate? 
  • What is the average starting salary of students with the degree I have chosen? 
  • Is the degree I have chosen the best option for my career? 

SNU’s innovative adult learner programs are tailored to the unique challenges adult college students face. We understand you have a life outside of school — kids, a job, seemingly endless responsibilities and time management struggles. We also know that a college degree can make the life you have look much more like the life you want. 

Our flexible programs help you graduate more quickly, while learning from experts in the field who fully prepare you for the career world. To learn more about what we offer, check out our comprehensive guide, “What to Expect From an Online Degree Program.” 

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