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Nontraditional Undergraduates by Susan Choy Essay

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Updated: Aug 24th, 2021

The article Nontraditional Undergraduates is a great resource to those interested in learning about the classification of students in our education system. Its definition of nontraditionals is wider than most readers would expect. Were readers asked to define the term before reading this peace, most would define it as part time students. It, however, turns out that a traditional student possesses one of the following characteristics: delays enrollment, attends part time, works full time, financially independent, has dependants, is a single parent, or doesn’t have a high school diploma. Though it has a scope 30 years (between 1970 and 1999), the article further expounds on the future of on nontraditionals in American universities.

According to the report, this group has grown by 72 percent in three decades, whereas the growth of student population grew by mare 28 percent. Nontraditionals are expected to expand further. This growth is slowly influencing academic institutions’ education procedures so they can meet the rising special demand. Some institutions have developed evening and weekend classes and distance learning programs that are more flexible to nontraditional students. Such flexibility is likely to influence the transfer of many students form traditional to nontraditional class, which will force institutions to keep innovating.

The research question as to students comprising of nontraditional undergraduates are was well connected to the problem, purpose statement, and contents of the article. Different aspects such as age group, definition, interconnection between several characterizes how they enroll, how they cope with school work or family, and how institutions are designing new systems to accommodate this fast expanding group of students. This aspect of connection between thesis and contents is covered in the next section. Other sections address the weaknesses of the paper and suggested areas of improvement, this writer’s overall impression of the article, the usefulness of the study to educators and the education history, and the suggested research on the topic of nontraditional undergraduates.


The article’s strengths are exemplified in several sections. First, the use of factual statistics makes the article very authoritative (Henn, Weinstein & Foard, p. 108). Were it not for the statistics utilized, other contents would have been less effective in convincing readers on the assertions made therein. The statistics are further represented in graphical format that makes it easy for readers to analyze data themselves. Readers wishing to do further analyses beyond what is covered in the article can easily do so. Second, the style used to present statistics is also clear, which makes it easy for readers to understand.

The wider scope covered by the article lives the reader with clear understanding of many issues surrounding nontraditional students. Third, despite the article being written for education experts and players in the industry, its technical language has been toned down for other readers (St Joseph College Center for Academic Excellence, 2001 p. 3). This is a successful way of ensuring that even people like new players in the industry, policy makers, researchers, journalists, enthusiasts, and even students of this industry can get the message contained therein.

Weakness and Suggested Improvement Areas

There are, however, some areas that could be enhanced in the article. For instance, authors explained how nontraditional students deal with balancing school with work or family, but never compared them with how traditional students balance school work and other activities, such as part time jobs (under 35 hours) or extracurricular activities. Also the article mentions that the proportion of nontraditional students increased significantly between 1970 and 1999 but never mentioned whether students were transferring from one classification to the other and the rate that the transfer was taking.

Overall Impression

Different definitions of nontraditional took me aback; I never thought of such a wide definition of the group. Students I previously thought were traditional, like those working part time in their colleges, were classified as nontraditional. Further, I never thought that the traditional students could make such a big slice of student population.

The article enlightened me on a significant section of student body that I have been ignorant about. Its deep background if this student body provided wealth of information that is hard to come by from other sources. The extensive use of statistics and diagrams made it easy to grasp various comparisons that were contained in the article. The choice of writing style to present statistics made it easier for the reader to understand. Also covering of many aspects of this group of students and a wider scope that covers from 1970 to 1999 and beyond aided in better understanding of issues addressed in the article.

This Study’s Usefulness to Educators

The information contained in the article has importance information to educators, because it will enable them to understand the students they are dealing with. An important aspect of teaching understands students. This forms the basis for enabling professors to help each student individually. Owing to the decreasing size of American college class sizes, it would aid in knowing and understanding students needs (Keil, & Partell, p.12) for various reasons.

First is because of the economics of teaching. Just like in commercial relationship where the seller has to understand customer needs, do the professors need to understand their customers, in this case students. This will enable educators provide the best education possible.

Understanding the trend of the increasing nontraditional students in colleges will further enable educators to prepare themselves in using the means of education preferred by most nontraditional students. This will specifically include an understanding of current technology that the students might use to access class materials. For instance, the popularity of online class materials among nontraditional students will require educators to know how to post and download materials online.

Owing to different definitions of nontraditional students used in different institutions, educators will now see that this group’s population is bigger. There is high possibility that many institutions recognize just a couple of characteristics of this group as what forms nontraditionals in their institutions. Knowing more about the group could make educators to include other characteristics in defining their nontraditionals. This shall be followed by investigating educational processes that would serve their new characteristic well, which would result in better provision of services. All the new information gathered from the article will further ease educators’ job as they will know better ways to serve students.

Suggestion for Future Research

With regard to the increasing improvement in information technology, institutions have been providing educational materials online for all types of students. Professors are increasingly starting to provide lecture notes online other than the traditional handouts before classes began. Students nowadays read assignments online and also submit their completed work via email on school’s online portals. This is the same mode used in distance learning, which many students are increasingly being accustomed to without their knowledge. Researching on the “future of distance learning technology on traditional and nontraditional students” would thus be an ideal research topic (O’Malley & McCraw). This study should also include the impact so far that distance education has had on traditional students.

The other important are of research would involve measuring how different universities classify their nontraditional students; classifications on the article are purely based on researchers’ criteria. The results should be measured against the retention and graduation rate of nontraditionals in these institutions. This research project should further measure the different teaching processes applied by different universities lead to positive results.

When all these are read by educators in respective institutions, implementation of better procedures might follow. The result: better ways to educate nontraditionals for institutions, and improved graduation rates for the students. Such results are likely to increase enrollment rates for potential nontraditional students, which would lead to more graduates and more educated America.


Henn, M., Weinstein, M., & Foard, N. (2006). A Short Introduction to Social Research. London, UK: Sage.

St Joseph College Center for Academic Excellence (2001). Language, Tone and Audience. West Hartford, Connecticut: Center for Academic Excellence.

O’Malley, J., McCraw, H. (Volume II, Number IV, 1999). . Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Web.

Keil, J. & Partell, P. J (2006). The Effect of Class Size on Student Performance and Retention at Binghamton University. Birmingham, AL: Binghamton University Office of Budget & Institutional Research.

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