You may have noticed that not everyone in your college classroom is your age, especially if you are taking a night course. Adult learners are a growing presence in post-secondary education. Some schools (such as Phoenix University, which you’ve probably seen ads for) openly cater to these students. But what exactly is an adult learner?

Adult learners are in a subset of nontraditional students. By definition, anyone age 25 and over is considered an adult learner. These students often have full-time jobs and/or families. They may have needed to take a break from their education, or perhaps they went directly into military service or the workforce. If your school is attempting to cater to them, you might see late night classes with some letters tacked on; for example, my university called those classes “Continuing Education on Campus,” or “CEC.” Online classes are also useful for adult learners, as they allow for work and childcare more easily than having to go to campus. However, that does not mean that you won’t see adult learners in your daytime classes as well.

Approximately 38% of all post-secondary students (both undergraduate and graduate) are adult learners. Many of them are seeking degrees; others may be enrolled in a few classes to try and learn something for job opportunities. Still others may take a class or two on topics that interest them. These are just a few reasons that an adult learner might be enrolled in classes on campus.

It is important to recognize these students as the population of adult learners continues to grow. In fact, traditional students only make up about half of the post-secondary student population. Nontraditional students, of which adult learners are a large part, have increased attendance in the past few decades. The average age of adult learners is 35, although you will find them all over the age spectrum and from all walks of life.

Adult learners can be highly beneficial to classroom discussions. Their life experience gives them a different way to apply what is being learned, as well as seeing things from a different perspective. They are often fun to talk to outside of the classroom as well; you never know what kind of background someone has until you get to know them. They can offer a fresh perspective on topics that your traditional college student might not have thought of since a traditional student probably has not done much outside of school yet.

Students, young and old, can use College Raptor to discover individualized college matches, personalized net price estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid at schools around the country.