Non-Traditional Students at Cleveland State University

Non-traditional students make up 15% of CSU’s undergraduate population, and have taken many diverse paths to get to where they are today. Graphic by Matthew Keyerleber

Adult learners- called non-traditional students- make up 15% of Cleveland State University’s
undergraduate population. Cleveland State defines adult learners as “…a new or
returning student entering college over the age of 25”.

After graduating high school, the next step in life often means college. For many,
however, life happens – or they choose a different path. This may consist of
working full-time, supporting yourself or a family, or simply not knowing what one
might choose to go to college for – if at all. Life can happen unexpectedly, making
education a last or no priority.

In some cases, one might decide to attend college directly after high school
graduation but take a hiatus for one reason or another. Others might find
themselves in community college before attending a university, as a way to save
money, figure out future career goals, keep up with everyday life, and a number
of other reasons.

Shaina Allenick, a non-traditional student studying Sociology at Cleveland State
shares her story:

“My family expected me to go to college after high school and I ended up going
to Ohio University for two years, however, I wasn’t stoked about staying in Ohio
at the time”, Allenick shared.

“I left Ohio University because I wanted to travel, make art and connections, and
work on my mental health,” she continued. After a few years of this, Allenick went
back to Ohio University to continue her education, but felt out of place as a
non-traditional student.

With the goal of continuing her education in mind, eventually Allenick settled in
Cleveland and enrolled at Cleveland State.

Since attending Cleveland State, Allenick has been able to explore different
majors, commute to campus easily on bike, join clubs, work on campus at the
Wolstein Center’s vaccination clinic, and take advantage of Cleveland State
amenities like the Rec Center and food pantry.

“Cleveland State feels like where I really wanna be right now, for someone who
spent a lot of time traveling that feels like a good feeling,” Allenick expressed to
The Cauldron.

Similarly to Allenick, I myself didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school –
as I’m sure many don’t. Life circumstances and mental health kept me from
continuing my education for a while.

Occasionally, I took classes at Lakeland Community College- while I figured out
other aspects of my life- to try to figure out what career I wanted to pursue, and
eventually got my Associates of Arts.

After graduating community college, I knew I wanted to continue my education
and receive a Bachelor’s degree. Cleveland State’s commuter campus,
comparatively inexpensive tuition, and transfer guide are some of the reasons I
decided to enroll here.

Cleveland State makes it easy for adult learners to re-enter their education,
whether their last step was high school, community college, or another university.

The Cleveland State website offers transfer guides from Lakeland Community
College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain Community College, as well
Degree Maps by major, and a major quiz for those who are undecided.

Additionally, Cleveland State partners with Lakeland Community College and
Lorain Community College in a number of majors. In doing so, students are able
to earn their degree through Cleveland State while attending either one of these
community colleges.

Once enrolled at Cleveland State, students also have access to helpful programs
for future education and career goals.

For instance, Career Services, a Cleveland State career resource, helps guide
students on their career path and development by offering career coaching, and
the option to speak with career

Other helpful career resources include Resume RX, Handshake, and

For me, Cleveland State allows me to continue my education later in life without the fear of judgment – internal or external. It’s accommodation to adult learners, or non-traditional students, not only makes me feel welcomed, but also excites me to go to school. The resources and amenities provided by Cleveland State help me to navigate and balance adulthood and academics. I know I will be proud to be a Cleveland State alumni.