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8 Tips to Empower Non-Traditional College Students

June 20, 2024

When people think of college, they often picture students in the traditional 18-22 age range. However, a significant and growing portion of the student population is comprised of non-traditional students. Non-traditional students can include those returning from military service, part-time students, parents, or those simply seeking a degree later in life. These students bring diverse experiences and face unique challenges that require tailored support to ensure their success and well-being.

In this blog, we explore eight tips designed to enhance the experience of non-traditional students on your campus and ultimately, improve retention.

1. Promote Regular Health Screenings

Encourage regular health screenings for non-traditional students. Given their often busy schedules outside of school, providing these services on campus offers significant convenience and ensures they have easy access to essential health care.

These screenings can help detect potential health issues early, allowing for timely intervention. If your campus doesn’t offer them, partner with local healthcare providers to offer on-campus screening events for blood pressure, cholesterol, vision, and hearing, etc.

2. Create a Supportive Environment

Ensure that the campus environment is accessible and inclusive for all students. This can include:

  • Installing ramps and elevators for easy mobility
  • Offering plenty of seating areas throughout campus
  • Ensuring accessible restrooms and gender-neutral bathrooms
  • Offering assistive listening devices and captioning services in lecture halls and event spaces
  • Creating family-friendly spaces and childcare facilities for students with dependents
  • Offering flexible class schedules and online learning options for part-time students
  • Providing military-specific support services and spaces, such as lounges or resource centers

Learn more about creating an inclusive college campus here.

3. Encourage Physical Activity

Physical activity is vital for maintaining health at any age or stage of life. To accommodate the diverse needs of non-traditional college students, consider organizing a variety of inclusive and accessible exercise options such as:

  • Low-impact exercise classes, like yoga, tai chi, & walking groups
  • Schedule classes at various times to accommodate students with other obligations such as full-time jobs or dependents
  • Ensure fitness facilities are accessible and offer adaptive equipment for students with disabilities
  • Create a welcoming gym environment with clear signage, approachable staff, and supportive policies for students who may feel intimidated or out of place
  • Offer virtual fitness classes and resources for students who may prefer or need to exercise at home

By implementing these strategies, you can foster a welcoming and supportive fitness environment that encourages all non-traditional students to stay active.

4. Foster Mental Health and Well-Being

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Ensure that your campus offers  counseling services tailored to the needs of ALL students. For instance, create support groups for parents enrolled at your school where students can share their experiences and connect with peers. Additionally, provides resources for stress management and mindfulness practices.

Need help connecting students to resources available on your campus? Download our guide: 22 Innovative Ways to Promote Campus Resources.

5. Nutritional Support and Education

Nutrition plays a key role in a healthy life for all college students. Offering educational workshops on balanced diets and nutritional needs tailored to student’s diverse needs can be highly valuable.

For example, host a “Healthy Cooking on a Budget” workshop for students with families or a “Quick and Nutritious Meals” session for part-time students with busy schedules. By addressing the unique nutritional requirements of these students, you can support their overall well-being and academic success.

6. Professional Development and Lifelong Learning

Encourage all non-traditional students to engage in lifelong learning and professional development. Offer workshops, seminars, and courses that cater to their diverse interests and career goals (and ensure evening or weekend sessions are available to accommodate working students and those with family responsibilities).

Colleges can also create opportunities for mentorship programs where experienced students, such as veterans or older adults, can share their knowledge and experience with younger peers. Additionally, virtual career fairs and networking events can connect non-traditional students with potential employers and widen their professional networks.

7. Promote Social Connections

Evidence shows that social isolation and loneliness can significantly harm health, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, anxiety depression, and more. Social connections are vital for emotional well-being.

To support this, colleges can host social events and activities, encouraging interaction among all non-traditional students. This can be achieved by creating family-friendly events like campus picnics or movie nights to accommodate students with children.

Additionally, support groups or social clubs specifically for veterans or working students can be invaluable in fostering a sense of community and providing peer support. Events like book clubs, cultural outings, and volunteer opportunities can help build a supportive network and foster a sense of belonging among non-traditional students.

8. Utilize Technology for Health Monitoring

Technology can elevate the support and well-being of all non-traditional college students. Colleges can provide regular informational and training sessions to help students become comfortable using health technologies, catering to different technological literacy, schedules, and availability.

Make sure health tech tools are accessible for all students, offering adaptive features and support as needed. Additionally, promotes virtual health consultations and telehealth options for students who may have limited access to on-campus health services.

Key Takeaways

Supporting the health and well-being of non-traditional students can enrich your campus community. By implementing these tips and utilizing available resources, we can help to create an inclusive, supportive environment that promotes a positive college experience for all.

Discover effective strategies for linking students to essential resources by checking out a recording of one of our recent webinars, Connecting Students to Key Resources: What, Where, and How.