Adult learners are known by a wide variety of names, including non-traditional students, adult students, returning adults, life-long learners, mature learners and many more. Such students have a wide variety of cultural and educational backgrounds, abilities, responsibilities and experiences.
No matter how different adult learners are, there are several defining characteristics that many of them share. When defining adult learners:
- They are usually 25 or older.
- They have delayed entering college for at least one year following high school.
- They are usually employed full-time.
- Often, they have a family to support.
- They are looking to enhance their professional lives or may be switching careers.
- They have more experience than traditional students, having already started a career or served in the military
In addition to these shared traits, many adult learners also share common concerns and challenges that may be holding them back from pursuing the next step toward their educational goals:
- They must balance a busy schedule that includes work, school and family responsibilities.
- They may feel anxiety about going back to school.
- They may be on a tighter budget than traditional students.
- Because they usually commute, they need the flexibility to take classes on campus or online.