In the Seattle area, there are over 750,000 people who’ve completed some college but not yet earned a degree.

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In the Seattle metropolitan area, there are over 750,000 people who’ve completed some college but have not yet earned a degree. Many things can get in the way of completing a degree: job opportunities, family obligations, college readiness and limited finances are just a few. But no matter what the reason for taking a break, life changes substantially, with many people juggling working full time and balancing family obligations. A traditional college experience may no longer be an option.

How do you find a program that is flexible enough to adapt to a busy lifestyle? Here are some key questions to ask.

How flexible is the course delivery?

There are three different ways that course content can be delivered: fully face-to-face, fully online, and a hybrid, or blended, model, where most content is delivered online, but there are some required face-to-face class sessions.

Face-to-face courses tend to work best for traditional students who live on or near campus and do not need to work full time while going to school. Fully online courses provide adult students with the most flexibility, but many struggle to complete these courses because it is easy to let it fall off the radar. It’s also a more isolated experience. Fully online courses tend to work best for students who live far from campus and who are self-starters and can keep themselves motivated even without face-to-face contact.

Research shows that adult learners have the highest success rates in hybrid courses. Hybrid courses deliver most content online, but have occasional face-to-face sessions, allowing students to network with classmates and their instructor and engage in project-based learning in a community setting.

What student support services are available?

Ask about what kinds of student support services are available, and about when they are available. At many universities, offices supporting students are only open from 8-5, making it difficult for working adults to fill out paperwork, visit the financial aid office, and meet with faculty and advisers. Look for a program that offers extended hours and one where staff are hired specifically to support adult learners.

What is the policy for credit transfers?

Before choosing a program, ask both about the transfer credit policy and about what kind of credit the new program offers. Make sure the credits are transferable in case you need to relocate before graduating. Ask specifically whether the new program’s credits would be transferable to other universities. Also, be aware that there is a difference between college credit and CEU (continuing education units). CEU credits do not count toward a degree nor are they transferable.

Make sure to carefully check out any for-profit schools. At many for-profit schools, the credits are not transferable to other institutions.

What kinds of student advising programs are there?

Universities frequently use one of three adviser models: professional advisers, faculty advisers, or a hybrid model where students are assigned both a professional adviser and a faculty adviser. The hybrid model offers access to both a specialist on university policies, forms, deadlines, and procedures (the professional adviser) and a subject matter expert (faculty adviser) who can give career advice, suggest specific courses to take in order to meet academic and professional goals, and give advice on preparing for the job market.

Is the faculty dedicated to adult learners?

Ask if the program has full-time faculty dedicated to the program and if those faculty members have experience teaching nontraditional students. Adult learners have different needs and experiences than traditionally aged students. Some programs serving adult students “borrow” faculty from across campus. While these faculty members are subject matter experts, they may not have experience teaching adult students. Look for a program that hires full-time faculty specifically to teach adult students.

Above all, look for a program that is centered on students’ academic and professional success. Adult students have many more demands on them than traditionally aged students. It’s important to find a program that understands these demands and whose faculty, staff, and administration are there to support students as they complete their college degrees.

The School of New & Continuing Studies broadens access to Seattle University’s transformative education by offering innovative and flexible programs for adult students.