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What Documents do Non-Traditional Students Need for College Admissions

Ana-Marcela Lopez / I'm Ready to Finish College »

There’s no doubt that applying to college can be a hassle. If you’ve applied before, you might remember the essays, studying for the SAT, getting letters of recommendation, etc. Whether it’s your first time, or you’re back for more, there’s a lot to cover. But with patience and preparation, you’re likely to be getting acceptance letters in no time.

What is a Non-Traditional Student? 

The number of non-traditional students on college campuses is increasing, which also means that the definition of “non-traditional” is evolving. Most colleges agree that a non-traditional student is one who graduated from high school more than five years prior and has fewer than 30 transferable credits. Other factors include age, marital status, and number of dependents. According to a 2015 report by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), 51% of undergraduate students are 24 years or older, married, or have a dependent, which means that “non-traditional” is becoming the norm!

How is the Application Process Different?

Naturally, every institution has different requirements, so check with the admissions counselors so you know what to expect. Generally, however, the college application process as a non-traditional student is similar to that of a traditional one, with two key differences:

  • Financial aid: One of the key markers of non-traditional students is their filing status. As an adult who is 24 years old or older, you will be filing independently for financial aid. As an independent student, you will not provide your parent’s financial information. In addition to your different filing status, you should also be aware that there are a few differences in what kind of aid you are eligible for as an adult student, so research your options and consult the financial aid office at your school.
  • Exams: As a non-traditional student, you are not expected to submit SAT or ACT scores from your high school days. Certain proficiency exams like CLEP exam, for example, might be required.

What Documents Do I Need? 

Every school has different requirements, but you can expect several commonalities. As a non-traditional student, you will be expected to provide the following:

  • A completed application
  • A non-refundable application fee
  • Transcripts from your high school and any other institutions you attended
  • Proof of citizenship
    • If you are not a U.S. citizen, check with your institution to see what documentation to provide.
  • Immunization records

Transcripts and immunization records can be a hassle to retrieve, so make sure you have plenty of time to do so before admissions deadlines.

Going back to college after time away from school can be intimidating, but colleges are really stepping up to help this growing population of students who don’t fit the traditional mold. Any questions you might have can be answered with the help of an advisor, so never hesitate to reach out with any issues you might have during the application process; they are specially trained and happy to help you. College is no walk in the park, and getting there in the first place can be difficult, but just because you don’t fit the traditional mold, that doesn’t mean a college degree is unattainable.

Wherever you are in your college search, we’re here to help. Abound narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools that cater to non-traditional students and find the program that works for you.


More Helpful Resources:

Is My GPA Too Low to Go Back to School?

The Plan for Returning to College After Dropping Out

I’m an Adult Wanting to Finish College: Where Do I Start?

Will My Previously Earned Credits and Coursework Transfer

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