Millennials. It seems like they’re everywhere. They define the trends of today (hello Snapchat filters and avocado toast). Headlines after headlines are dedicated to their lifestyles and life choices. They are even the largest generation, taking that title from baby boomers. For adults who are thinking about going back to school, dealing with these younger classmates may seem daunting. But fear not – it’s totally doable! In fact, as a non-traditional student, you are in some ways ahead of the game compared to your millennial classmates.
First, take a deep breath. Being an older student in a college classroom is not as rare as it used to be. Non-traditional students--those over 24 years old, who have kids, or are holding down a job--are more common than ever before. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the people who track this kind of information, 74 percent of all college students are considered non-traditional students. That’s three out of every four college students! So, if you’re worried you’ll be the only one who delayed going to college, has kids, or is working while going to school, take comfort that there are more of you than you think.
The classroom of today isn’t like the one you probably sat in last time you were in school. Technology is a big part of the college experience now, particularly in online college programs. A technology-heavy environment might seem like it’s better for millennials, who grew up with computers and smartphones, but there’s so much about college today, even online education, that favors older students. Online education is built to be flexible, which means you don’t have to show up at a set time. You can do the work when it works for you, fitting it around your job or other responsibilities. Your experience may also be more focused on the specific career skills you need, especially at online or career colleges. Tailored programs mean motivated, non-traditional students, like you, can earn the kind of education they need.
While age might seem like a drawback in going to school with younger people, the experience you’ve gained in life can help. Just as today’s technology-based classrooms fit your life better, it also fits your experience. The class work at modern colleges is often independent, meaning your maturity and experience balancing many different things in life can help you keep on track, whereas a younger student might be more prone to be distracted by social media or not be as motivated to finish. You’ve probably also developed more work resilience and have better financial management skills that’ll help you keep moving toward your goal.
Instead of being afraid of, or even annoyed, by Millennial classmates – embrace them! They’re probably ready to do the same to you. The Pew Research Center found that millennials respect older generations. According to a survey Pew conducted, most millennials said that older generations have a better work ethic than they do. So, reach out and ask questions of your younger classmates, they may be able to teach you a thing or two. And, you might end up doing the same for them!
The truth is age and life situation matter less these days when going back to school. What matters most is that you’re going after a dream you believe in, and that’s important no matter who you are!