Adult Learners


Adult Learners

Adult learners, also known as nontraditional students, are defined as college students over the age of 25. Although much of the advice and resources are the same as for younger students, adult learners may have additional considerations.



Attending or returning to school is an important decision. All students, including adult learners, should first:

  • Decide why. There are many reasons to go to college, but adult learners may have more specific goals to update their skills in their current industry or to change career paths. Explore career options online and talk with professionals in your chosen career.
  • Explore colleges, degrees and programs. Learn more about the types of colleges and degrees and if possible, visit a college near you. Talk with college admission staff to determine the best program or major for your goals.
  • Know the requirements to get in. At minimum, adult learners will need a high school diploma or GED to attend college.
  • Learn how to pay. Adult learners may also be able to access additional funds such as:
    • Independent Student Status: Most adult learners will not need to report their parents' information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and therefore may be more likely to receive federal financial aid.
    • Employer Tuition Assistance: Many companies offer some funding for their employees to take classes or get a degree.
    • Scholarships: There are specific scholarships for adult learners and returning students.



Adult learners may be juggling work and/or family responsibilities in addition to taking classes, so consider looking for colleges that offer:

  • Flexible Class Schedules: Look for classes that meet evenings, weekends or other times or consider online or hybrid (partly in-person, partly online) classes.
  • Childcare: Colleges may offer free or discounted childcare on campus (for example, at the library) or have on-campus housing for families. The Oregon Student Child Care Grant can help pay for the cost of childcare while in school.
  • Credit for Prior Learning: Some colleges may give college credit for skills or learning gained outside the classroom or on the job, thus decreasing the number of classes needed to earn a degree. Many colleges also give college credit for passing scores on College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams.
  • Additional Support Services: Colleges may offer specific programs or resources for adult learners.