At school, every student is sold the traditional route to higher education. Finish school at 18, move away from home and study at university full time before entering the world of work.

But this route is ineffective for a lot of students who could benefit instead from going down a non-traditional route to advance their career. Not going to university straight from school is often seen as a mistake or a sign that a student isn’t or won’t ever be ‘academic.’ 

Which is a load of hooey.

It’s time to start seeing non-traditional studying as an equally viable option. It’s time to embrace and feel proud of our non-traditionalism.

In this episode you’ll learn why going straight to university does NOT always work, the reasons why it can go wrong, and in what situations it would be more effective to return to education later in life and/or in combination with work.

I’ll share more of my non-traditional journey and the reasons why going straight into higher education wouldn’t have worked for me so why I chose the non-traditional route instead.

I’ll walk you through the six key advantages of being a non-traditional student. I share my story as well as the experiences of six other students who’ve kicked tradition to the curb and taken their own unique higher education path.

Ways to listen:

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • The difference between a traditional and non-traditional student [02:36]
  • Statistics for non-traditional students [03:43]
  • Reasons why I didn’t become a traditional student [04:35]
  • Reasons FOR going down the traditional route – situations where it can work [07:22]
  • Reasons AGAINST going straight to university [09:12]
  • The awesome advantages of being a non-traditional student [15:21]

Listen to the full episode to discover all this goodness, but here’s a summary of some of the key points.

Reasons for being a traditional student:

  • Maintain the flow of education and learning and continue on to higher education without losing momentum.
  • If you’ve known for a while the exact career or field you want to work in then it could make sense to dive straight into higher education.
  • If all goes well, you’ll graduate in your early twenties and then start your career.
  • You get to create incredible memories and friends by moving away from home.

Reasons for going the non-traditional student route:

  • If you don’t have clarity on an exact career or field you could end up completing a degree you don’t like or use in future.
  • Course decisions are often influenced by parents which may not reflect their child’s wants or motivations.
  • Without experience in a field, it’s possible to start studying a subject before realising it’s not right for you.
  • Higher education is bloody expensive so it’s important to choose a suitable course you’ll enjoy AND be in the headspace to achieve grades good enough to start your career.
  • You’re probably not going to make cracking life decisions in your teenage years – so why are important education and life choices forced upon us as children?
  • A lot of stigma and shame is placed on students who veer away from the traditional route, creating education scars that can show up all throughout life.

Reasons why I studied as a non-traditional student:

  • I didn’t know what I wanted to study so I likely would have just picked anything.
  • I wasn’t in the right headspace to research careers, rack up extracurriculars or complete any work experience.
  • My personal life was chaotic – friendship issues, my first proper boyfriend and a death in the family – so my full focus wasn’t on my studies.
  • I had a fixed mindset. I thought talent was way more important than hard work so whenever I met a challenge I gave up or took it to mean I wasn’t good enough – rather than take the growth mindset view that I can increase my intelligence and abilities.

6 awesome advantages of being a non-traditional student:

  • Work experience – for further clarity on your course choice, getting ahead when applying for job roles, and helping you apply theory to practice in your course.
  • Life experience – increased resilience, skills and confidence.
  • Earn while you learn
  • Higher motivation because you’ve CHOSEN this. flexible education – study when, where and how you want.
  • You don’t have to put your life on hold – further your education while racking up work experience and earning money.


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