Everyone who has spent some time on a college campus will agree that “non-traditional” students are different. I am one of them and unless I live to be 120 years old, I can safely say that I am slightly past my quarter-life crisis.

At my age it is important to share wisdom and knowledge so let’s generalize a little and explore why “old” students behave the way they do, shall we?

In short: We are well dressed, over-eager nerds who take all the good seats and are always ready for questions and comments.

  • We like to ask and answer questions.
    Why? After a certain age, speaking in public does not want to make you curl up in a fetal position anymore. Luckily for the rest of the students, awkward silence will be much less frequent and there’s always someone who can sidetrack the teacher with a question.
  • We like to get the good seats in the first few rows.
    A gradual loss of hearing and eyesight might be one reason but most of the time it’s just easier to pay attention and take notes. If you work, have a family and study there is often not much time to rewrite notes or join a study group.
  • We are usually better dressed. Not because we have better taste – unfortunately that has nothing to do with age – but because we usually come straight from a job with a certain dress code. Rolling out of bed and into the classroom becomes a luxury. But that’s another post.
  • We are often more committed and dedicated. Without getting too profound: Once you have applied for a few jobs, you realize that there is hardly a way around a decent amount of education. Yes, our parents were right. Once again. And if you sign the loan papers or work a full-time job to pay for your education you might as well get the most out of it. Even if that only means a great seat in the first row.

But kids, I also envy you. There’s a time and an expiration date for everything. I will never dye my hair in my school’s colors. I will never be Homecoming Queen or Miss Spring Break: I usually spend my breaks at work (and with all my clothes on). Running across campus naked? It’s one of those activities that are best performed in your twenties – mainly for aesthetic reasons. And those semesters abroad get more and more complicated to organize.

It feels weird if the professor or GA is younger than you are and group projects are always a bit strange and make me feel like a chaperone. When I am tired in class it’s usually because I was busy at work and had to study until the wee hours of the morning – very seldom is there a party involved. Being a non-traditional student takes a lot of the fun out of college.

So what’s the greatest advantage of being a non-traditional student? Being surrounded by mainly younger people makes it sound incredibly convincing when I tell people that I am only 25. I will proudly hold on to that precious number for a long time.

And if all else fails and I am getting desperate to fit in, I will dye my hair in all kinds of colors and spend every break in Florida. It will be great. I don’t have to worry about gray hair and I can look where I want to spend my retirement.

Isabelle Mitchell is from Switzerland (not Sweden). She loves coffee and chocolate and she can talk about movies and the weather for a very long time. Isabelle went to Film School in Denmark and Canada and is a Sound Designer, but she’s currently working on getting her BS in Advertising at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (Online Division). She’s planning on slowly taking over the advertising world one tagline at a time. When she’s not doing homework or studying, she works as a Marketing Assistant. You can find her on Twitter @isabellesagt or if you have a longer attention span, her blog.