Student Survivors: Nicolai Loner

March 31, 2016 - Nicolai Loner

Tips for Non-Traditional Students by Nicolai Loner

Coming back to school after a period of longer than 5 years can be stressful.  The longer you are away, the worse it gets.  Your brain doesn’t quite work at the capacity of the younger students, you are not able to stay up at night, and the list goes on.  You may feel like there is no one else in your shoes, no one else that has kids, no one else that has real adult responsibilities.  Thankfully, you are in good company.

As they grow older, many people find that they are unhappy with the status quo.  Some people have reached a glass ceiling at work. Some people never went to college in the first place. Others just desire a change of scenery.  Whatever the case may be, life has brought you to a place where you are able to return.  Some of the feelings that you may encounter are stress, anxiety, depression and more stress.  Not only do you have to deal with the pressures of school, but you are also no longer under your parent’s roof.  You have real responsibilities now. 

You have to worry about doing well in your classes in addition to taking care of the life you have built.  It is tough out there for the non-traditional student.  When you finally manage to register, pay your tuition, buy your books, you have to actually have to go to class!  The first thing you notice is that your peers are so …YOUNG.   You start to search around for a face that bears a gray hair.  You search for someone that mentions their kids or spouse.  You lean into conversations hoping to hear someone say their age so that you can match it up to yours.  That’s when the depression may set in.  Part of being a human adult is making social connections.  When you are in a room without any common interests, it just adds to the anxiety that comes with taking courses.  There is HOPE!  In my experience, I have met many people along the road that have made this transition pleasant.  There are a multitude of student organizations that are catered to the non-traditional student.

Another bonus in being an older student is that you can relate more to your professors.  They will actually take you

seriously!  The thing that sets you apart from your peers, is that you have made a conscientious decision to return to school.  YOU chose this and you are determined to make your mark.  Don’t for a minute think the professor hasn’t noticed this.  You are who they look towards to set the bar for the class.  You are the person they recommend to students who struggle.  You will be more successful because you WANT to be there. 

Don’t be afraid of the choice you have made.  You will be the better for it. Remember that if you are ever sad or stressed about your decision, there are others there to help.  We exist in every discipline and every department.  We range in age from 25 to 80 so don’t ever feel alone.  You will ROCK this degree!

About the Author

Nicolai Loner is a self-proclaimed non-traditional student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of New Mexico. Nicolai works three awesome jobs on campus. He serves as a Peer Learning Facilitator in Dr. Habel-Rodriguez’s Chemistry 122 course. Nicolai also leads a section of MatLab under Steve Peralta and works as a TA for CBE 101 with Dr. Abhaya. Nicolai has a lot on his plate but manages to succeed at all he endeavors. For this and many other reasons, STEM Gateway is proud to showcase Nicolai in this month’s addition of Student Survivors.