Non-traditional college students encourage others to build their own path

Students of all ages, younger and older, come to Baylor to receive an education. Katy Mae Turner | Photographer

By Raylee Foster | Staff Writer

The traditional trajectory of academics in America is attending elementary school, middle school, high school and, for some, going to college. Some students at Baylor follow a different path. Although these students are sharing the same campus and traditions, they are doing such at a different age than many traditionally do.

According to College Factual, almost 40% of Baylor students are 18-19 years old, nearly 37% are 20-21 years old, approximately 14% are 22-24 years old and almost 12% are 25 and over years old.

Waco senior David Edwards, falls into the latter category. Edwards is currently 27 years old and is pursuing a major in International Studies. He said he attended McLane Community College for two years after high school before deciding to join the Coast Guard, where he worked for four years before going back to college. He said a large factor in his decision to return to higher education was being able to graduate with his friends.

“A lot of it had to do with — in the most childish and humorous way — just being able to go to college with some of my buddies who did join the military right out of high school,” Edwards said.

When he decided to return to school, however, the pandemic hit and his plan had to be postponed. He said adjusting to the social atmosphere of college took some time but he is glad to now be approaching graduation in May.

“Other than the student veterans at Baylor, I didn’t really talk to anyone for my first year, just because I was like I just wanna do my degree, do my school work and get out,” Edwards said. “I was feeling ostracized for a little bit and being awkward about it, um, that was interesting.”

Edwards also said younger students entering high school should follow their passions. He said in his experience, the first time attending college was not fulfilling what he wanted out of life, and found what he really wanted at the time in the Coast Guard. He said he encourages students to “find their own route.”

“A lot of [18-19 year old’s] are like ‘I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m doing it because my parents wanted me to, that’s the classic clique of college, especially at Baylor,” Edwards said.

Some college students are on the other end of the age spectrum. Though a very small amount, there are students who attend college before being legal adults.

Renton, Wash., freshman Emily Lew said she skipped a grade and is currently 17 years old. She said though it doesn’t affect her in most day to day activities, there are moments where being younger becomes relevant in her life.

“It’s been good with friends but it is hard when I can’t go to Melody or do age restricted stuff with my friends,” Lew said.

Lew said she is studying Health, Kinesiology and Leisure Stu (HKLS) and said her age doesn’t affect her in the classroom and that most professors don’t know the difference between her and other students. She also said she makes an effort to match the age range she is surrounded by.

“I feel like I have to act more mature sometimes,” said Lew. “But nothing’s really different for me besides people being shocked by how young I am.”

Lew said she hasn’t met anyone else her age yet at Baylor, but it has not affected her college experience so far.

Lew and Edwards both said they encourage students to do what is best for them, and follow their hearts.

Being a part of the nontraditional age range should never be a deterrent for attending college, Edwards said.

“I don’t really have any other advice aside of find something that you like, and chase it, that’s the biggest thing,” Edwards said.