According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 74% of all students meet at least one criterion of being a non-traditional student. And, the number of non-traditional students across the country will continue to grow. Schools that obtain a better understanding of the obstacles faced by non-traditional students will be able to better serve their needs.
Who are the non-traditional students?
The definition has changed over time, and there is no blanket term that can properly identify an entire segment of people, but the Association of American Colleges and Universities used these characteristics to help define “non-traditional”:
- Financially independent from parents or guardians
- Has one or more dependents
- Is a single parent or caregiver
- Does not have a traditional high school diploma
- Delayed or are delaying postsecondary enrollment
- Previously enrolled and postponed pursuit of a degree
- Attend school part time
- Employed full time
Knowing the obstacles that non-traditional students face can help you better engage with them.
More than one-in-four students are taking care of a child at home, and about half of the students in the U.S. are employed and financially independent from their parents or guardians (Source: Alexandria Walton-Radford, Director of the Center for Post-Secondary Education at RTI International). These circumstances make it necessary for schools to contact students outside of normal work hours.
Best practices for texting non-traditional students:
- Text conversations should still be casual but a bit more elevated in professionalism (i.e., fewer emojis).
- Utilize merge fields and ensure information is relevant, useful, and as personalized as possible for the adult recipient.
- Be prepared to respond outside of normal work hours.
- Recruiting based on outcomes should be more about the ability to start quickly and graduate quickly with a bonafide degree.
- Be very clear and deliberate in texting. They care more about getting the help they need, for example, with completing applications.
Meet them where they are.
Helping non-traditional students succeed goes beyond communication. There are several ways in which your school can appeal to this growing segment. By making school events family-friendly and offering alumni mentorship programs, you can set your school apart from the competition.
Want to learn more about increasing retention for non-traditional students? Download the full guide here.
*Alexandria Walton-Radford, Director of the Center for Post-Secondary Education at RTI International