Being a Full-time Non-traditional Student on Campus

James Yates / Learn More About Finishing College »

If you are thinking about going back to school after years away from it, it’s time. The years and doubt were growing that higher education was going to be a reality in my life. The tears were real, the fear was crippling, but the excitement of opportunity was greater. My past education experience was full of hardship and laziness. It was easier for me to live in that identity than it was for me to try. I heard my whole life that I was not smart enough and I was not talented enough to make it to college, so I settled for a life of manual labor. It wasn’t until I was 32 years old and 15 years out of high school that the opportunity of higher education became a reality. All those old emotions of not being good enough or smart enough set in. I remember that they made me take the ACT, and as I practiced, tears rolled down my face because I kept failing the practice exams

A couple of weeks later, I got a letter in the mail that said, “Congratulations! You have been accepted into the University of the Cumberlands.” Excitement and pride turned quickly into fear as I realized I was about to be a 32-year-old freshman. On the first day of my English Composition class, I failed the pre-test and told myself, “See what you got yourself into? It is just like it used to be.” But I didn’t give up, and a few days later the professor did something that I had never experienced with any teacher in my life, she sat next to me and said, “You look lost. How can I help you?” For the first time, I had someone who believed in me. I was a grown man in a freshman class being taught like I was the only student in the whole school. That was the day I started believing again. 

I would be lying if I told you going back to school was easy, because it is anything but. It is not easy to go to school, work a full-time job, schedule classes around a work schedule, be surrounded by students who are half your age but know twice as much as you, all while still trying to have a normal family life. It may be hard, but I can tell you it is worth it. And not only is the hard work worth it, but you are worth it. You are the only thing that is stopping you from achieving success in college.

All my professors have shared with me that many of their non-traditional students actually end up doing better in their classes because they have a purpose. I have found out that is a very true statement. Being a non-traditional student is awkward at times, because you feel like you are the only one who cares about being in class, like your real-life stories don’t align with class discussions, or like you stand out like a sore thumb due to your age. The thing about those thoughts is that they are all in your head. If I can do it, I guarantee that you can. 

I started this process not knowing if I could score high enough on the ACT to get accepted to having an overall GPA of 3.89 three years later. Now, I find myself one year away from graduating with three degrees and becoming one of three people in my family to ever graduate college. If I can do it, I know you can. Believe in yourself, do not get in your own way, do not be too hard on yourself, have fun, and prove yourself wrong. Before long, the only thing you will be nervous about is trying not to trip as you walk across that stage to receive your diploma. Go get it, because it is never too late, and you are worth it.


Meet our Ambassadors!

If you are interested in getting involved in our Student Ambassador program, contact Erin Pettus at

Learn More About University of the Cumberlands

The University of the Cumberlands is dedicated to helping students build a “life more abundant.” The campus maintains a small, tightly knit community that encourages a connection of research with practice. Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, UC propels its graduates out into a world of possibility. With a University of Cumberlands education, students are equipped for their career goals and prepared to lead and serve in a global community.

This vibrant Christian community thrives on the basis of every individual’s motivation and character. Through service to others, students embody the heart of Cumberlands each and every day.