Guilt and the nontraditional student - is it healthy?

Guilty Feelings and Nontraditional Students...

Yes, nontraditional students DO feel guilty about being back in school sometimes.

Some nontraditional students feel guilty because they seldom get enough time with their kids or family.

And if they do their homework or projects, home projects and family get the back burner.

Women seem to have this guilt more than others, and have even more the more traditional their role is in the family.

From the J. Benshoff and H. Lewis article, women who are going back to school can worry about these things:

"*feeling guilty about not "being there" for their children;
*concerns about quality and expense of childcare;
*feelings of responsibility for maintaining their role within the family;
*making compromises in careers due to family considerations;
*minimal individual free time;
*perceived lack of credibility when returning to college;(and)
*insufficient support from family for returning to school."

Cyr, who was a nontraditional student with a child, worried about her daughter being affected by her being back in school. She remarked, 

" I also have huge guilt over not being able to put her sports or scouts or some other extra-curricular activity with some of her friends, but I'd never be able to take a class if I did. I just keep telling myself that when I'm done, there will still be plenty of time for her to do all those things and things will be better for all of us in the long run." (From the CollegeNet Forum).

Amber Stephens at the Fisher College of Business hits on another point. She says that other people (and even pets!) can try to make nontraditional students feel guilty about going back to school too.

"Even when you’re not at school, you are still in school. There is always something to do. This means the ones you love will see less of you. They’ll be supportive. They’ll also find ways to make you feel guilty, even if they don’t mean to intentionally. Even my German shepherd works the guilt card, running to be with me whenever I’m home, always trying to burst in the door to sit by my feet. It’s pitiful, but I miss him too. I miss everyone. So plan your get togethers, picnics, parties and coffee klatches before school starts. Afterward, it’s a crap shoot."

She goes on to say that it's important to think about relaxing or having fun when you are back in school. I love it when she says: "Remember how much fun school used to be, like when we were kids in the ’80s…or whatever your decade of choice might be. After all, we’re never too old to be students again."

I can add to that. I think that feeling guilty is a huge time-waster. Nontraditional students need some times to just have fun and take some time off from studies.

Participate in some fun activities AT school just for fun, or go to a nontraditional student meeting once in awhile.

Taking some time for yourself may be a new thing, but I think it's healthy.

After all, feeling guilty can be a choice, and a time-wasting one at that.

Your thoughts? Leave them below as a comment. Thanks!

Some Nontrad links: The Nontrad site and blog Join Nontrads on Facebook Nontrads on Yahoo Nontrads on Twitter 

Article/Posting resources:

Nontraditional Students by James M. Benshoff, and Henry A. Lewis via Eric Education Reports

Guilt - from the 2003 issue of the Non-traditional Student News at the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg

Cyr's comments at the CollegeNet Forum  

Nontraditional Student? Here's What I Wish I Knew by Amber Stephens

The photo of a nontraditional student with a headache is from the Microsoft Clipart pages.


  1. I can totally relate! Guilt - it's all I ever feel!

  2. Aw! I hope you can stop that - my husband calls it "beating yourself up"... Some things have to give when you are back in school too.


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