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A Non-traditional Student’s Guide to Roanoke College


By Amanda Wright


I transferred to Roanoke College after graduating from Virginia Western Community College in 2012. Like you, I attended visit days and orientation, but several thoughts clung to the back of my mind: would I adjust and fit into Roanoke College knowing that the majority of students were traditional students? Did I want to fit in, and what would it look like if I did?

There are a few key differences between a public college and a private college. First, non-traditional students are the norm on a public college campus. Second, you could choose the style of class that you wanted to attend. The majority of my non-science and a few science classes were conducted online. While there were chances to interact with other students regularly in the online classroom and a regular classroom, an introvert could get away with never having to form any friendships of substance during the entirety of their college career. You went to school, focused on homework, worked part-time or full-time, and went home only to get up the next morning and do it again.

However, that is not why many non-traditional students chose Roanoke College over Virginia Tech. I cannot speak for everyone, but I would claim that location, quality professors, and the variety of experiential learning options for undergraduates trumped anything that VT could offer. Besides, non-traditional students don’t need the same types of relationships as traditional students, right? Many of us have been on our own for years or have families to tend to.

Here, I want to focus on the things that non-traditional students aren’t told before attending Roanoke College. The first is that in order to be successful at Roanoke College, you will have to spend the majority of your time on campus. In spite of the accelerated semesters, you will have group projects and research to work on in every class. Naturally, you will befriend the millennial generation through these projects and experiences. Let it happen.

While on the subject of befriending the upcoming generation, not a single one of them has asked me to go buy beer or liquor. What my young friends have done is take me to coffee when I am down and need to talk, they make me laugh constantly, and they have asked for my advice when they needed it. They celebrate my accomplishments as much as I celebrate theirs. I am proud of them as much as they are inspired by my gumption to attain my degree.  Much like siblings, we have fought like cats and dogs. There is only one good reason for that: we’re fighting for what is best for the other person and sometimes we disagree on the best way to reach the same goal.

I am going to tell you the same thing I tell traditional students; I encourage you to use all the resources available to you while you are here. We have a tutoring center which has been wonderful for further development of stress management skills. I received a free flu shot this past fall which has been a lifesaver. The Counseling Center will not turn you away if you need help. Your tuition covers all of these resources; use them.

One final thought: Don’t be afraid to get involved in campus activities when you can. You can always bow out of a commitment if your stress levels become overwhelming. Academic clubs are always a solid choice if you have time constraints, but would like to develop a professional network. Look at your hobbies and see if there are clubs on campus that fit. Some non-traditional students have created a Veteran’s Club and a few belong to the Firearms Club. I chose the path of student government, communication, and jazz band. You have options, you have choices, and I guarantee, you will not be alone in your college education.