Being a “Non-Traditional Student” Could Just Mean You are Getting Old

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Marinann Castillo, Staff Writer,

I am classified as a “non-traditional” student. Just what does that mean anyway? It makes me sound like a rebel of some kind. That is so not me.

I have discovered that a non-traditional student is one who attends college part time, works more than 35 hours a week, has dependents, is a single parent, does not have a high school diploma, or is financially independent.

None of those qualifications fit me. I go to school full time. School is my job. My kids are grown. I am happily married, and I did graduate from high school. I am definitely not financially independent, but I would really like to try that sometime.

I am a non-traditional student because I am considered old. I prefer the word “mature.” And that is a fabulous thing because of all the perks that go with it.

Most people on campus are surprised to discover that I am not a teacher at UVU. And teachers get more respect. I do love it when younger students hold the door open for me. Perk.

A couple of months ago my husband and I were out to dinner. When we went to pay the tab, it was much lower than anticipated so I asked the cashier about it. She replied that she had given us our senior citizen discount. I wish I had a picture of her face when I told her that we weren’t senior citizens yet. She offered to put the discount back on our tab, but we politely declined. Another perk.

Usually, I am older than the professors I have. Thus, I sometimes allow myself to be a little sassier than I would be comfortable with if they had a few years on me. And I like sassy. Perk again.

I don’t feel old until I look at my body and my kids. How is it possible for me to have thirty-something year old children? And who is that old woman in the mirror every morning? It is kind of a shock.

A young lady in one of my classes was complaining how old she felt because she just turned thirty. Then she noticed that I had overheard her and she blushed. I just smiled back at her. Awkward. It is all about your point of view, right?

At school I have kind of become an adopted Mom to a handful of students, and I must admit I like it. The other day I had a “man child” in one of my classes ask me if I happened to have a sewing kit with me so he could fix a button that came off his shirt. Pretty sure he didn’t ask any of his buddies sitting next to him the same question.

I was at a dinner with some students and one of them asked me for my blog address. I told her it was “my groovy grandma.” As she wrote it down I realized that she couldn’t figure out how to spell the groovy part.  She looked at me and said, “We don’t use that word anymore.” Ouch. We both had a good laugh about it, but it sure did make me feel old. Yea, thanks for that.

Recently I rode an elevator with a couple that explained they were on campus to attend a lecture. Both of them were 94 years old. They were young at heart and full of life. I told them I want to be like them when I grow up.

Being a “mature” student gives me a unique perspective. I appreciate youth and age. I understand the joys and challenges of both. And I find that both can be as fun as you make them.

That is why this column is named “A View from Over the Hill.” When you are over the hill you begin to pick up speed. But don’t think of me as old. Just think of me as becoming a classic.