Profile: Nontraditional Student Proves It’s Never Too Late

Profile: Nontraditional Student Proves It’s Never Too Late

Many college students don’t fit the mold of the traditional student. Nontraditional students did not start college right after high school, move on campus, and attend classes full-time. Some of these students are also wearing other hats – that of spouse, parent, and employee.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nontraditional students are those who:

  • Do not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year that he or she finished high school;
  • Attend school part-time for at least part of the academic year;
  • Work full-time (35 hours or more per week) while enrolled in school;
  • Are considered financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid;
  • Have dependents other than a spouse (usually children, but sometimes others);
  • Are single parents; or
  • Did not finish high school, but completed high school with a GED or other high school completion certificate.


To shed light on what it is like to be a nontraditional student, South Source talked with Linda Hunter. Hunter, 61, graduated from South University – Savannah this December with a bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies. She shares her inspirational story and offers advice to nontraditional students. 

South Source: Why did you choose your area of study?

Linda Hunter: The Legal Studies program at South is recognized by the ABA [American Bar Association]. I did not simply want a paralegal certificate, but a degree with a concentration toward Legal Studies.

SS: How has your college experience been, and are you balancing work and family too?

LH: My college experience has been wonderful. My children are grown, so the only family I have at home is my husband, who has been very supportive, and my little dog, Cholly. During my second quarter here, I began volunteering in the Academic Success Center as a tutor; since the third quarter, I have worked as a tutor under the Federal Work Study program. I also volunteer at a nursing home as a visitor and, until this quarter, volunteered as a tutor at the Royce Learning Center in their program for adults. In addition, I am doing a 120-hour externship this quarter at a law office. 

SS: What factors contributed to your decision to go to college?

LH: It has always been my dream to go to college, but the time was never right – until now. This was my time. When I started at South University, I was 58 – I’m completing my bachelor’s degree in only 10 quarters. I was able to be exempt from two classes at South; I also took several CLEP [College Level Education Program] tests.

SS: What steps did you take to get the most out of your college experience?

LH: My husband and I both agreed that the most important thing in our lives these past two and a half years has been for me to graduate with honors. I have made it a point to speak to everyone on campus. I try to meet every one I can, from the custodial staff to the chancellor. I believe you can learn from everyone, not just from books. 

SS: What fields or careers did you pursue when you first finished high school?

LH: I was a homemaker and stay-at-home mom, then worked at a variety of general labor jobs, e.g., McDonald’s, nurses’ aide, factory work, waitress. After that, I was able to get some on-the-job training to work at clerical jobs, including bookkeeping, office clerk, and, finally, legal secretary.

SS: What do you like most about your educational experience?

LH: I have enjoyed meeting a diverse student population and being accepted by them, not because I’m like them, but because I like and respect them. Most of them call me “Miss Linda.” 

SS: What were some of the biggest challenges?

LH: I have enjoyed the challenges of getting through difficult courses with high grades. Some of my biggest challenges were in the three math classes I was required to take, and the two biology classes. My biggest challenge of all was to believe in myself. Fortunately, many other people believed in me and convinced me to do the same.

SS: Do you have any advice or guidance for non-traditional students?

LH: My advice is to open up to change; don’t be stuck in the way you’ve always done things. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dreams.

Author: Darice Britt

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