The New “Typical” College Student

The National Center for Education Statistics says today’s 17 million undergraduate students look a lot different than they have in the past. Almost 74% of undergrads are now considered “nontraditional,” meaning that they are financially independent from their parents, have a child or other dependent, are a single caregiver, lack a traditional high school diploma, delayed postsecondary enrollment, attend school part-time, or are employed full-time according to NPR¹. In fact, over 50% of students have at least two of these characteristics.

So, what does that mean in real terms? It means that about 50% of students are financially independent from their parents, 25% are caring for a child, 20% are least 30 years old, 25% take a year off before starting school, 47% go to school part-time at some point, 38% attend a two-year community college, and 44% have parents who never completed a bachelor’s degree.

Understanding and adapting education to fit students is crucial for their success. Alexandria Walton Radford, who heads up postsecondary education research at RTI International, says offering services like financial aid, advising or tutoring after-hours (instead of the typical 9 to 5), child care for student-parents, or extra parking for commuters are all things that can help address student concerns.

At Hawkes, our goal is to make learning more accessible to these busy, nontraditional students. We offer around-the-clock support so that students can easily contact us, even with their demanding schedules.  The tools within our courseware—such as step-by-step tutorials, videos, and error-specific feedback—help students learn on their own terms. Students can log into their accounts on any desktop or tablet, and with a 99.96% uptime, our system can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Plus, we work hard to keep prices affordable and offer lifetime access to the courseware, meaning students can always log into their accounts, and software updates are free. Learn more about the Hawkes student experience here.

Do these demographics fit with what you see in your classroom? How are you adapting to the new “typical” college students to help them succeed? Leave us a comment below to let us know!


[1] Nadworny, Elissa. “Today’s College Students Aren’t Who You Think They Are.” National Public Radio, National Public Radio, 4 September 2018, Accessed 5 September 2018.

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