First at Four: Going back to school? Q&A with advice for 'non-traditional' students

First at Four: Going back to school? Q&A with advice for 'non-traditional' students

Going back to school will give you a boost in life but all of the paperwork and expenses are daunting to think about.

UNCW Assistant Dean of Students Stephanie Ganser talked today on WECT News First at Four about advice for non-traditional students.

QUESTION: If someone is interested in going back to school, where should they start?

GANSER'S ANSWER: I would encourage any student to do research on the type of program or major they are interested in and if the 2 for 4 year schools offer that program.  At UNCW, students can be undecided in a major, begin to take courses in many disciplines, and then declare their major after a semester or so.  For overall questions about the college or university, Admissions websites and staff members are a great place to start.  I would also encourage students to go on a campus tour, or a virtual campus tour to get to know the campus environment.  If students are looking for online programs or a majority of classes offered online, those are specific programs and class content and format should be confirmed before enrolling.

Q: What sort of financial aid is available for someone who has been out of school for a long time?

A: At UNCW we encourage all students to complete the FAFSA, which is the free application for federal student aid.  This is through the US department of education and it will determine the amount of financial need a student has. Students can receive grants and loans through the FAFSA.  Students are also encouraged to apply to private loans. At UNCW, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships has a list of over 700 external scholarships that students can apply to. UNCW also offers financial aid for summer classes.

Q: What if someone earned some college credits years ago, and are now looking to finish that degree?

A: When students have transfer credit, when you apply to UNCW you have to submit your transcripts with your application materials. The office of the registrar will review the transcript and award credit based on the grade that was earned and the type of class. UNCW also offers elective credit for military experience. I would encourage students to contact the office of admissions at any 2 year or 4 year school if they have questions about transfer credit because it varies by each institution.

Q: What if someone is nervous about going back to school because they are worried about how traditional students will react to them in the classroom?

A: Nontraditional students have a lot of experience and knowledge that is helpful in the college classroom. I would encourage students to get to know their faculty members and visit them in their office hours. Students should also connect with their classmates to form study groups to prepare for tests and papers.

Q: What sort of resources does UNCW provide to help non-traditional students during their time there?

A: As an Assistant Dean in the Office of the Dean of Students at UNCW, I support off-campus, non-traditional, and graduate students. So if a non-traditional student at UNCW needed additional support or had questions, they can meet with me individually.  I also create programs for non-traditional students. For example, last week I hosted a program for UNCW students who are also parents. I brought lunch for the students and they had an opportunity to network with each other. I would recommend all students, including non-traditional students to seek the University Learning Center to get support in their writing, math, and tutoring. Lastly, I would recommend utilizing the Counseling Center, as their services are free and confidential at UNCW. There are many resources at UNCW, and we want students to advocate for themselves when they have questions or need support.

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