Graduate student Laura Farrell in the classroom.
By Christine Csaky
As you walk around campus, you may pass 18-year old freshmen, 21 and 22-year old upperclassmen, and a lot of people who look like your parents. Are those people professors, other Kean employees, or are they your classmates?
In 2011, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 2.5 million college students were over the age of 24.
Marsha J. McCarthy, Director of the Kean Media Relations Department, reported that in the fall of 2013, 3,291 of Kean’s 12,516 undergraduate students were over the age of 25.
Many of these non-traditional students are parents who work full-time and squeeze a few classes per semester into their weeks. Mary Sterenczak, who graduated from high school in 1992, returned to college in 2010. Sterenczak was recently divorced and had a 13-year old son when she chose to return to college.
“My proudest moment was walking in graduation in May,” said Sterenczak.
Alisha Dawkins returned to school at age 33 and finds that her biggest issue is being away from home four days a week. As a mother, wife, and full-time employee, Dawkins finds herself doing homework on her lunch break and on weekends.
“I work full time and go straight to class afterwards,” said Dawkins. “I have a strong support system at home and at work.”
According to Professor David Levine of the Kean School of Communication, Media & Journalism, mature students have been in the real world, understand how it works, and are skilled writers and thinkers.
Many students who previously earned a bachelors’ degree, find that a master’s degree is required to reach their full earning potential or for promotions.
Laura Farrell, a Kean graduate, graduated from college 23 years prior to applying for the masters’ program at Kean.
“I’ve worked in communications for most of my life and always wanted to fill that practical experience with an academic background,” said Farrell.
Farrell believes that a master’s degree will help her as she continues her career.
“I recommend going part-time or taking a gap year if you don’t feel focused,” Farrell said.
Farrell urges younger undergraduate students to appreciate college, which is something she wishes she had done when she was able to attend full-time while working toward her bachelor’s degree.