Nontraditional Student Spotlight

Vaishnavi Josyula
Mercury Staff

College life doesn’t look the same for one student, and every individual adapts and navigates UTD with different backgrounds and learning styles.

Picture the typical college student. Perhaps you think of an 18 to 22-year-old living on campus and attending classes full time. But how about someone who’s over 25, a former homeschooler or a student enrolled full time in two universities? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 29% of college students nationwide are over 25 and 40% are considered non-traditional. As such, UTD is home to traditional and non-traditional students alike.

Jason Ajwani

Jason Ajwani is a 26-year-old senior majoring in neuroscience who transferred from UTSA to Austin Community College before joining UTD. Ajwani received an associate degree from Austin Community College after failing his first year at UTSA. However, he found it crucial to get a bachelor’s degree for his dream of going to medical school, leading him to attend UTD.

“All the perseverance and dedication I had been used to giving to studying in addition with my ADHD medication propelled me forward,” Ajwani said. “I registered for 12 hours during a summer semester which is essentially ‘academic suicide,’ in addition to working about 20 hours as a pharmacy technician. I had found peaceful places to study on campus and friends to do it with. I ended up making straight A’s and gave myself the confidence to move forward with my journey to finish my degree, take the MCAT and get admitted to med school.”

While he is an older student, Ajwani said he finds UTD students to be welcoming and accommodating despite the age difference.

“I think that students here are very scholastically driven, which may come off as anti-social,” Ajwani said, “but if you try to talk with anyone around here, you’ll be met with a warm conversation. Generally, students have been receptive and kind when I tell them I’m 26, so anytime I want to make conversation, I know that I won’t be judged.”

Adrian Lewis

Mechanical engineering junior Adrian Lewis was homeschooled all his life. Before attending UTD, Lewis took the SAT and received a GED. Lewis chose UTD as it was the closest university to him. While Lewis started off college online — due to the pandemic — and had setbacks due to Crohn’s disease, he said he found it easier to transition from being homeschooled to experiencing college life through online classes.

“I don’t think that transition could have gone better,” Lewis said. “Academically the transition was good. I had a solid math foundation and continued without much of a bump anywhere. The timing of the pandemic worked out to ensure that I slowly transitioned into real-life classwork at the same rate that the college was itself.”

While Lewis was homeschooled and started college during the pandemic, he said the online nature of classes eased the transition to his social life as well.

“There wasn’t really anything all that different from what I’d done before… [so] overall, the transition there was quite soft as a result,” Lewis said. “Upon coming out of online-only over the past year, it’s been pretty good. The college is, well, a bit asocial to put it bluntly, and I found myself either fitting in with that or even exceeding the average social-ness in some friend circles.”

Jasmine Kaur

Junior Jasmine Kaur is a full-time student at two universities: Arizona State University as an IT major and UTD as a political science major. Kaur started working at Starbucks her freshman year and made use of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a program that paid for most of her tuition if she got a degree from ASU online. While she took time off from UTD for a semester to catch up with courses at ASU, she would graduate from UTD in five and a half years. She said she is able to pursue her passion in the cybersecurity field by enrolling in both universities as she has a background in both IT and policy.

“Most of my classes from UTD transferred over… and because ASU is completely online, it’s convenient to juggle work, UTD and ASU,” Kaur said. “It was hard in the beginning but once you get into it, there’s a rhythm and you just get along with the rhythm. It’s hard [to manage time], I’m not going to lie, but I got super into bullet journaling and that’s how I keep track of all my assignments too.”

Since online classes at ASU inhibit Kaur from socializing at the university in person, Kaur said she focuses more on her social life at UTD as some of her friends are a part of the Starbucks program as well.


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