5 things to look for in a college as a nontraditional student

nontraditional student adult learner on the floor with laptop typing with dog and notebooks


Considering a return to school as a nontraditional student can feel overwhelming. There are a lot of options for colleges to compare. And you’re likely juggling various other responsibilities, like a full-time job and a family.

But, like so many others, you want to finish what you started. You want to achieve this personal goal you set for yourself and get that promotion or career change.

In this article, we will be covering the most important elements to think about before you sign up for a return to school, including which questions to ask to uncover the information you really need.


5 elements for nontraditional students to consider

Easy enrollment

First, consider the ease of the enrollment process. A school that provides a high-touch experience, one with an engaged and supportive Enrollment Advisor, will give you the experience you’re looking for when returning to school as a nontraditional student.

Let them take most of the process off your plate with:

Ongoing support

Lastly, feeling supported as an adult learner is critical to academic success. You’ll want to look for programs that not only provide support for enrollment, but throughout your academic journey to graduation. An Academic Advisor will do just that.

Having an Academic Advisor can help you navigate the balance between work and family responsibilities along with the demands of school. They are also in place to guide you, and make sure you’re enrolled in the right classes for you to graduate on time. They even serve to connect you to the right departments and contacts to ensure you aren’t taking on too much debt.

The question to ask is: “What kind of ongoing school-provided support system will I have for the duration of my program?”


Watch the video below for a powerful story and example of the support Academic Advisors can offer.

Celebrate CityU: Lifelong Learners

Financial options

Having the ability to pay for your tuition with minimal stress is ideal, right? As a nontraditional student, money will always be a major factor when considering which college will be best for you.

Aside from the actual cost of tuition, you’ll want to think about whether the school has any Financial Advisor, and what kind of interaction you might have with the Financial Aid and Billing departments. Being able to interact with financial representatives is key to successfully financing your education. Also be sure to ask about payment options like plans, employer partnerships, and any available scholarships or tuition reductions.

It is always encouraged to complete your FAFSA, too! It doesn’t affect your credit, or affect you negatively in any way, but can provide information on if you qualify for loans and grant money.

Flexibility and credit transfer

Finishing school quickly can help you achieve your goals more quickly. And schools that consider your previous work training and experience (in addition to academic credit) can get you closer to the finish line fast. Consider options like Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), military training, and CLEP when making your enrollment decision.

Also, decide whether you’ll be needing increased flexibility options for your courses. Being 100% remote might work best for you if you experience fluctuations in work/home responsibilities throughout the year. Another great option is the ability to take some classes in person, or in hybrid or mixed mode. The hybrid option comes in handy when presented with what might be a more challenging course.

The questions to ask: “What are my options in terms of flexibility with my intended program?” and “What are the different modalities offered, and can I move between them as needed?”

Career relevance

It is important now more than ever for your intended school to have a strong alignment between academic programming and employer demands. When selecting your college, consider what skills and knowledge you will acquire that will be directly applicable to your intended career path or transition.

Additionally, be mindful of any available and active career services and/or networking opportunities within your program and the school at large.

The bottom line

Of course, there are other things to consider when making a return to finish your degree. The hope is that these main highlighted items (and most common pain points for adult learners), will help you find the right program and school for you in this stage of your life.

If you can identify what matters most to you and align your academic needs with what the school is providing, you’ll find success!

We’re here to get you there.


Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about one of CityU’s programs, please visit www.cityu.edu or call 888.422.4898 to speak with an advisor today.

Britney Taylor
Britney Taylor, MS
Having studied and worked in higher education for over a decade, Britney has gained a strong passion for empowering students toward graduation. Originally from SoCal, she’s currently living and working remotely in Atlanta. You can likely catch her at a spin class or watching the latest episode of 90 Day Fiancé.
Published May 8, 2023



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