Non-traditional students discuss advantages of returning

Heather Collum sits in front of statue on campus

Time, money and life in general all have to work together in order for a college career to begin or continue. That combination does not always happen immediately after graduation.

At UNA there are a number of non-traditional students pursuing passions and fulfilling goals at an older age.

“In terms of adult students, there has certainly been an increase nationally, regionally and locally,” said Craig Robertson, director of the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Heather Collum, a student in the graduate program for Instructional Leadership, is one of those students.

“I started playing with the idea about five years ago, but the timing was not right,” Collum said. “I tried to start back three different times, and God closed the door every time. My girls were still small, and they needed me more.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Collum decided to concentrate on starting a family.

“I always knew I wanted to come back and further my education, but family comes first and even though this is a completely new chapter in my life, I do not regret waiting until now to begin this journey,” Collum said.

There are advantages to returning to college as a non-traditional student, Robertson said.

“The No. 1 advantage is maturity,” Robertson said. “The second thing that they bring with them is a lot more motivation and purposefulness. They know what they want to do, they know what they want to take, and with a little guidance, they are going to get there.”

Collum said she thinks an edge non-traditional students have is the right priorities.

“I know I have more wisdom than I did at 22,” Collum said. “I have better organizational skills and more confidence now that I have 16 years of experience in my career.”

Junior Patrick Syesta said he thinks having more focus is a plus for people returning as an older student.

“A lot of students don’t focus and as soon as that time hits, they’re out of here,” he said.

Advances in technology can also present obstacles for returning students, Collum said.

“I came to class the first night with my notebook and pen while everyone else had their laptops ready to go,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that at all.”

Syesta’s love for art drives him each day, while Collum’s faith helps her overcome obstacles.

“My goal is to further my degree and continue His ministry,” Collum said. “Teaching is a calling and I know if I am a principal in the future then I will have more opened doors to help students finish school and go further in life.