Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Catherine L. Polydore


According to the Hussar and Bailey (2017) the number of non-traditional students on college campuses are expected to rise, closing the size of gap in enrollment numbers between traditional and non-traditional students. Though, the non-traditional student has traditionally been defined as students aged 25 and older, this study used Horn and Carroll's (1996) definition, as students who possess certain characteristics that make them vulnerable to academic problems (i.e. delayed enrollment, part-time enrollment, financial independence, full-time employment while enrolled, having dependents, being a single parent, or not receiving a standard high school diploma). Horn and Carroll (1996) further used these characteristics to describe the minimally, moderately, and highly non-traditional student. This study looked at married students, aged 25 years and older, with dependents, or the moderately to highly non-traditional by Horn and Carroll's (1996) definition. The intention of this study was to gain insight into why these 'non-traditionals' pursue a four-year degree, the challenges they face, as well as the factors which contribute to their success. The researcher conducted this phenomenological study by interviewing six undergraduate students at a Midwestern, mid-sized university. The participants were asked questions in one semi-structured interview meant to capture their experiences about being non-traditional undergraduate students. Our findings confirm previous research which found that non-traditional students have unique experiences because of their non-traditional status, yet demonstrated that there is still more to be done to help them assimilate into the college culture.