Identity-Based Resources: Non-Traditional Students

Non-Traditional or Returning Students 

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The US Department of Education states non-traditional students are the fastest growing demographic today. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) “a non-traditional student is someone who does not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year they graduated high school. They have spent time in the working world, even if just part time, for at least a year after high school and are considered financially independent in financial aid eligibility. Nontraditional students may not have initially finished high school, but instead received a GED or other high school completion certificate. They usually have a dependent or dependents other than a spouse and work at least 35 hours or more each week while enrolled in classes.”

As an individual who identifies as a non-traditional or a returning student, your identities and skills bring strength and unique experiences into a workplace environment. Employers highly value the maturity and workplace savvy that non-traditional or returning students bring to the workplace, including time management, team work, and project completion.

When entering the workplace, it is important to have awareness of, and strategies to deal with, the following:

  • Navigating career changes
  • Gaps in employment
  • Tailor skills from previous roles to a new field
  • Age discrimination
  • Work/life balance

Career Advisors will provide individualized support to help identify and explore your career interests, values, and goals. Please reach out to to book an appointment with your career advisor to discuss strategies for entering the workforce.

Job Search Recommendations:

When assessing your qualifications consider all your experience, including academics, work experience (paid or unpaid), non-traditional experience (caretaking, stay at home parent) and community involvement.

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) completes an annual survey across a variety of employers (over 2,000 employers were surveyed.)  This survey identifies the key attributes employers want in their employees: 

  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical/quantitative skills
  • Communication skills (written and verbal)
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Detail-oriented
  • Technical skills

Working with a career advisor can help you highlight your value to an employer in a resume, cover letter and interview.

HIghly sought after skills of a non-traditional student: 
  • Life experience outside of higher education
  • Previous career experience
  • Unique professional and academic perspective
  • Possess greater self-awareness

Make an appointment with a career advisor to incorporate your work experience and education into a streamlined resume.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination: Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Illegal Interview Questions:

Federal and state laws prevent employers from asking questions that aren’t related to the job they’re hiring for. Unless these questions have anything to do with the job requirements, they shouldn’t be mentioned during an interview.

Illegal interview questions concern:

Criminal record. You can’t be asked about arrests without convictions or involvement in political causes, but interviewers can legally ask about any convicted crimes only if they relate to the job duties.

  • For example, if you’re interviewing for a job that involves guarding a priceless piece of art, the interviewer can ask if you’ve ever been convicted of theft.

If you choose to respond, you could tell the interviewer:

  • “There’s nothing in my history that would affect my ability to perform the duties of this job.”

How do I respond to illegal questions?

If you are comfortable doing so, you can respond to them, but only acknowledge the intent of the question in your answer.

  • Gracefully steer the conversation elsewhere.
  • Keep your answers short, broad and general.
  • Redirect a question to your interviewer.
  • Reenforce to the employer that you have the skills and abilities required for the position.

You also have the option to not answer and could state:

“This question does not relate to my ability to perform the job.”

To learn more, see:  8 Inappropriate Interview Questions and How To Tackle Them Like a Pro

If an employer continues to ask inappropriate questions, you might want to consider what that would mean to you on a daily basis at this job. Discuss these things with a career advisor or family member.

Discrimination in the workplace

If you experience discrimination once you have started a job, here are some tips and information about dealing with employment discrimination


On-Campus/Community Resources:

General Resources:
Resumes For Non-Traditional Students: 
Job Search Resources: