Who Are Adult Learners?

Degree Programs for Working Adults

Defining Adult Learners

Who Are Adult Learners? 

Adult learners are known by a wide variety of names — including non-traditional students, adult students, returning adults, adult returners, mature learners and many more — and they have an even wider variety of cultural and educational backgrounds, abilities, responsibilities and experiences.

No matter how different each adult learner is, though, there are some typical characteristics that many of them share. When defining adult learners:

  • They’re usually 25 or older.
  • They’ve delayed entering college for at least one year following high school.
  • They’re usually employed full-time.
  • Many times, they have a family and dependents to support.
  • They may have started college as a traditional student but needed to take time off to address other responsibilities.
  • They’re looking to enhance their professional lives or may be switching careers.
  • They have more experience than traditional students, having already started a career or served in the military.
  • They’re more mature, independent and motivated than traditional students.

In addition to these shared traits, many adult learners also share some common concerns and challenges that may be holding them back from pursuing a degree.

  • They must balance a busy schedule between work, school and family responsibilities.
  • They may feel some anxiety about going back to school and may fear failure.
  • They may be on a tighter budget than traditional students.
  • Because they usually commute, they need the flexibility to take classes on-campus or online.
At Peirce, we’ve been helping adult learners achieve the dream of a college degree for more than 150 years. We understand your unique challenges and provide the flexibility you need. Read some of our favorite adult learner success stories to see for yourself.