Supporting the seasoned student

Older college students shouldn’t be looked down upon; they can help their fellow students.

Editorial board

The overwhelming majority of students at the University of Minnesota are only a few years removed from their time spent as teenagers. However, when we enter the University community we have to interact with fellow classmates who have long passed the days of pepperoni faces and awkward hormonal imbalances: the older generation of college students.

We see a smattering of them in our classes; we are impressed or intimidated by their diligent note-taking and sometimes mistake them for teachers. Although we sit beside them in lecture, listening to the very same drone emitting from the professor, we somehow see nontraditional students as inherently different from us. Born into a generation intensely aware of the gender and racial prejudices our parents faced, perhaps ageism is now the societal hurdle we face.

Rather than ignoring older students or focusing on how their age might be closer to our parents’ than our own, we should treat them the same way we treat other classmates. Students who are returning to college after years spent away from the classroom already face difficulties readjusting to the unfamiliar environment. Being open and inviting to them will go a long way in making their adjustment easier, and their significantly longer life experience can benefit us, too.

The fall 2012 enrollment statistics for the University listed 4,349 total students older than 35. As students we need to get rid of the rigid concepts of time and age and embrace a diverse community with an older — and perhaps wiser — student body. While our older classmates don’t get college credit for life experience, rather than treat them with disdain, we should value what they bring to University classrooms.