Nontraditional students experience college life

Rebecca Watts

First day of school, a girl named Anne Clarkson walks into class as she looks at 30 unfamiliar faces. She finds a seat quietly. No one wants to talk to Anne because she is 50 years old.

Clarkson is just one of the numerous nontraditional students at Missouri Southern. Welcomed or not by traditional students, the nontraditional students occupy about half of Southern’s student population.

Nontraditional students can be classified as anyone who has decided to come back to school not directly after graduating high school.

These adults range anywhere from 23 to 70 years old. All have different stories to tell why they are back in school. Some are supporting families, some are holding two jobs, and others are back for the experience they passed on long ago.

“I’m just so thrilled to be here,” said Clarkson, communications major. “I want to experience what I’d missed out on 30 years ago.”

After his duty in the marines, Paul Carter junior general studies major, originally returned to Southern so he could study to be a doctor. However, at age 42, he has found himself enjoying just the school experience and the variety the campus provides.

“I’m enjoying studying different religions,” Carter said, “and Project Stay helped me a lot in that.”

Some nontraditional students believe being older gives them “an edge” over other students. Jerry Williams, director of Lifelong Learning, said older students also make better students.

“I think [nontraditional students] have better time management skills and are more goal oriented,” Williams said.

Williams said the older nontraditional students want to keep coming to school to “delay physiological retirement.”

Clarkson is one of those students who wants to keep learning.

“I want to take one to two classes for the rest of my life,” Clarkson said, “just because I’m having a great time.”

“School keeps them active, and they have experiences they want to share with the younger generations in the classroom,” Williams said. “Regular students need to appreciate that.”