This study explores the lived experiences of older students who work and have family responsibilities while attending an undergraduate program full-time. Research indicates that this segment of the student population is the only one that is growing today and is projected to grow in the future; this also is the largest the group of students that does not finish their studies in spite of the many services aimed at supporting students' academic success. This study critically investigated the category of the nontraditional student and reviewed the literature about students' college experiences, including the limitations of its theoretical assumptions to describe and explain the nature of the college journey of older students with substantive life experiences. From the notion that learning is lifelong and holistic (Jarvis, 2006), this study combined a student-centered approach with a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology to respond to the following research questions: What is the lifeworld of undergraduate nontraditional students with significant life experience as they encounter college life? What resources sustain the college experience of undergraduate nontraditional students of and allow navigating the space of college life? What are the changes undergraduate nontraditional students live, the meaning they construct while encountering, and navigating college life? Themes that resulted from the analysis included the participants' experiences as essentially different from that of traditional students. These nontraditional college students bring skills and knowledge that they deploy on behalf of their specific academic goals. The pace of their lives is fundamentally different from the traditional university student's sense of time; they are self-sufficient, making decisions and navigate obstacles. Their new identity as students is re-negotiated with the identities they live outside of campus and they establish ad hoc relationships with members of the university community.
Cintron Delgado, Rosa
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Education and Human Performance
Education; Higher Education
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Julio Maturana, Marcelo, "The Unheard Voices of Nontraditional Students in Higher Education: Learning to Become a Student" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5980.