The description of a college student has significantly evolved over the years. No longer does the description of a typical student fit the profile of a post high school graduate and young 20-something. In today's classrooms you'll find students of various ages. A couple of decades ago the term was “nontraditional”, but these days adult college students are highly represented in college demographics right alongside their younger counterparts.

This trend is expected to continue. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between the years 2000 and 2012 the enrollment numbers for both students over and under age 25 each increased 35 percent. Projections expect age 25 and older students to continue to rise. 1

Back to school
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More and more adult students over the years have headed back to college for a number of reasons. It may be they need to update skills to maintain employment or it could be they've hit the plateau in their fields and need additional education to remain competitive. Another reason more adult students are found in the classroom is increasingly due to the expansion of learning opportunities that are offered. With the flexibility offered by schools these days, students can successfully balance a family, job and school due to the various programs available from most universities.

If someone you know has taken the plunge and gone back to school to pursue that long-awaited degree, you may be wondering what you can do to support him or her as he or she pursues educational goals. There are several things you can do to help. 

Lend an Ear

Many adult students decide to embark on their educational journeys with feelings of inadequacy, low confidence and, usually, a bit of fear. Simply being there to lend an ear to offer an outlet to express these feelings is a terrific way to support and boost his or her morale.

Additionally, you can be a bit of a cheerleader too. By providing reassurance you can really help your non-traditional student family member or friend a great deal. Just knowing there is someone standing on the sidelines rooting will mean a great deal to an adult student.

Offer to Babysit

Many older college students have children and this may prevent them from pursuing their college dreams because they have difficulty balancing being a parent with taking classes. If you are able, make an offer to babysit.

Even if you can't babysit on a regular basis, even once in a while will mean a great deal. For instance, if you occasionally offer to babysit, the student has extra time to study, work on a research paper or even have some "me" time to wind down. Students who are balancing classes with their parenting responsibilities will really appreciate this kind of gift.

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It's often difficult for adult students to balance the demands of home life with school life, offering to help out either regularly or from time to time can help - a lot.

Help with Quizzes and Tests

When an adult student first begins attending classes it can feel overwhelming. After all, chances are it has been several years since he or she has had to be graded; this fear of venturing back into tests, quizzes, essays and other performances can cause a lot of stress.

To help reduce some of this anxiety, you can help him or her with quizzes to aid in learning the material to become more confident about taking a test. Create flash cards or simply sit down and quiz him or her on the material until he or she feels certain about knowing the concepts needing to be learned or details that need to be memorized.

Offer to Proofread Work

College students are typically assigned many papers (or presentations) in most classes over the course of a semester. These will entail a lot of research and then pulling the material all together to hand in to the professor or a presentation to the class. Any kind of proofreading is a tremendous help to many adult students. You can offer to read their work to give them an extra set of eyes, especially if it has been a long time since he or she has had to write. Also, for those classes which require specifics, such a statistics or dates, that second set of eyes can check to see figures are in order.

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Helping students (of any age) proofread papers is a great way to help.

Help Find Resources

Colleges offer many resources and support services to help students succeed, but these aren't always well-publicized. Adult students, who have been out of the educational loop for a long time, may not know where to start. Even if you can't assist with quiz preparation or proofread papers, doing the research for them to find the resources and support services can really mean a lot. 2

Time to Study

Often adult students have a family, job or other responsibility and time management may be a challenge. If the adult student in your life is a spouse or other person you live with, you can help by making sure the student has a quiet time and place to study, do homework and prepare for tests.  If you make a concentrated effort to make sure they get some peace and quiet in order to focus is a terrific way to give them a hand. Maybe run some errands for him or her to help alleviate pressures or time constraints. Any help that can be offered to provide with work-life balance is a great gesture to make.

Any offer of help you can provide to an older college student is bound to be appreciated. The best way to find out how you can support him or her is to simply ask and then provide whatever encouragement or assistance you are able to offer.