Advice from an Online Student, Part 1: The Benefits of Being a Non-Traditional Student

By Erika Heeren - November 19th, 2015

mentor pointing computer screen

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), non-traditional students now make up approximately 40% of the undergraduate population in the United States. As this population continues to grow, I think it’s time to take a closer look at today’s non-traditional students.

Online students (like those at CSU Global!) are considered non-traditional. As a CSU Global student, you might be stuck in an otherwise great career and need a degree to progress. Alternatively, you may have been very successful in another field, but you are looking for a change.

You may be a military veteran or military spouse who cannot attend a traditional program due to frequent geographic changes. You may be a parent who is working toward a better life for your family. You might even be running your own business, and just need to learn to grow your business more efficiently.

Regardless of your background, you have a substantial range of opportunities to enhance your academic experience: even without a traditional campus.

First, let’s take a look at the benefits of being a non-traditional online student.


This will forever be my favorite facet of my CSU Global education.

I’ll explain why: I work full-time, I’m a mom, I’m a military spouse, and I run my own business. I also wanted to continue my education, but I lacked the set blocks of time required by traditional brick-and-mortar schools within commuting distance. As an online student, I can study on my schedule. I have the freedom I need to accommodate my work schedule, my family life, and my coursework (with proper time management).

Many of the students I’ve spoken with share similar stories of juggling life, responsibilities, and the desire to earn their degree. The flexibility of your CSU Global degree program will help you succeed in this endeavor. You get to shift your program to fit your life as it is now, not the other way around. While you do have assignment deadlines, you have a great deal of freedom on how you work through your lectures, reading, and assignments. You have the option to work ahead on your studies through the weekend, or spread it out across the week.

You can tailor your schedule to work for you!

 “Instant” Real-Life Application

A recent study shows that a majority of employers place high value on an employee’s ability to apply academic learning in real-world settings.

For those of you who currently work in a field related to your degree, this gives you an excellent advantage! You have the enviable opportunity to take the initiative and talk to your employer about your academic goals. You don’t have to go and seek out new ways to use your degree, because you have the perfect set of opportunities right where you are!

As you progress through your degree program, find new ways to use what you are learning in your day-to-day operations. If you are learning something that is outside of your job description, even better! This is your opportunity to show your employer how much you are growing professionally and increase your value to the company; no interview jitters necessary!

If you are looking to move from your current career, or if you’re starting out completely from scratch, look for volunteer positions or internships to complement your degree.

The flexibility of your online program at CSU Global will help you schedule your education around your life, leaving room for professional development.

We’ll discuss various methods of finding these applied learning opportunities in Part 3 of this series.

You Know Where You’re Going

While this is not true of every non-traditional student, many of the students I’ve met through CSU Global have a clear view of where they want to go with their degree. They either have experience in a certain field already, or have tried other avenues and finally found their passion in a new career direction.

With this focus, you can make informed decisions on your education, professional application, and personal development. Instead of aimlessly taking courses (and wasting tuition money), you know the courses that you are taking can be applied to a career you can be excited about. The typical post-graduation uncertainty is lessened by a highly employable combination of education and experience. That means you can walk into those future job interviews with confidence!

What if you have work and life experience, but you’re not sure of your desired career path? CSU Global offers career coaching and other services to help you match your experience, interests, and ambitions to your dream career. Talk to your advisor for more information on this feature.

Stay Tuned

I hope this has shed some positive light on the benefits of being a non-traditional student. Stay tuned to The Global Broadcast for tips on leveraging these advantages and making the most of your online education experience!

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