Step 1: Read
Review the “Categories of Students” reading below. Do you recognize categories here that you yourself belong to? That friends or classmates belong to? Are there categories that you might add to this list?
Categories of Students
You may take classes with students from many walks of life. Which of these categories best describes you?
Traditional undergraduate students typically enroll in college immediately after graduating from high school, and they attend classes on a continuous full-time basis at least during the fall and spring semesters (or fall, winter, and spring quarters). They complete a bachelor’s degree program in four or five years by the age of twenty-two or twenty-three. Traditional students are also typically financially dependent on others (such as their parents), do not have children, and consider their college career to be their primary responsibility. They may be employed only on a part-time basis, if at all, during the academic year.
Nontraditional students do not enter college in the same calendar year that they finish high school. They typically attend classes part-time due to full-time work obligations. They are more likely to be financially independent, to have children, and/or to be caregivers of sick or elderly family members. Some nontraditional students may not have a high school diploma, or they may have received a general educational development degree (GED).
International Students and/or Nonnative Speakers of English
International students are those who travel to a country different from their own for the purpose of studying in college. English is likely their second language. Nonnative speakers of English, like international students, come from a different culture, too. For both of these groups, college may pose special challenges. For example, classes may at first, or for a time, pose hardships due to cultural and language barriers.
First-Generation College Students
First-generation students do not have a parent who graduated from college with a baccalaureate degree. College life may be less familiar to them, and the preparation for entering college may not have been stressed as a priority at home. Some time and support may be needed to become accustomed to the college environment. These students may experience a culture shift between school life and home life.
Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities include those who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders, blindness or low vision, brain injuries, deafness/hard-of-hearing, learning disabilities, medical disabilities, physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and speech and language disabilities. Students with disabilities are legally accorded reasonable accommodations that give them an equal opportunity to attain the same level of performance as students without a disability. Even with these accommodations, however, physical and electronic campus facilities and practices can pose special challenges. Time, energy, and added resources may be needed.
Many students are employed in either a part-time or full-time capacity. Balancing college life with work life may be a challenge. Time management skills and good organization can help. These students typically have two jobs—being a student and an employee. It can be a lot to balance.
While there are many advantages to living on campus, many students choose to live off campus and commute to class. This may be convenient or necessary for students who have a full set of responsibilities in off-campus jobs. It may also suit students who have the option to live at home with parents to avoid room and board fees. Many returning students are commuter students, too, and may come on campus only for classes. At some colleges, like urban and rural schools, commuting to campus may be the only option.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Note all the categories of students above that you identify with. Add categories as needed. (One suggestion for an addition is “student athlete”; can you think of others?)
For each category you noted, list challenges that are unique to that population when it comes to higher education. Some suggestions are provided as a starting point in the reading itself.
Step 3: Focus
Looking at the lists you generated, which seems most meaningful to you? Which reflects your unique situation at the moment? Which would you find useful to reflect further on, and find solutions for?
You may select one single category for your topic in this essay, or you can combine 2 or more groups as you see fit.