Rachael Langston sits in class and takes notes every day like many other BYU students, but her background and perspective are slightly different than the average college student.
Langston, a mother of three, is the president of the BYU Nontraditional Student Association (NTSA), a program that supports students aged 30 and older with their educational goals. There are currently 1,304 nontraditional students at BYU, according to University Communications statistics.
“We are a small minority and do the best we can to support one another,” Langston said. “We’re also really diverse, and it’s so fascinating to hear the stories of why people came back to school and learn about their backgrounds and families.”
Langston said there is a wide variety of nontraditional students, including people who are single, divorced, widowed and married. Many nontraditional students also work full- or part-time jobs while balancing a school and family life.
Langston is married with three children and has a degree in music from Weber State University. She returned to school to get a nursing degree and to pursue a career in the health field.
“We’re really not that different from other students,” Langston said. “There may be a generation gap, but we’re learning just like other students. We’re struggling with tests just like they are, and we need to get help from teachers just like they do.”
Susan Martin is a nontraditional student who came back to school to finish the degree she started, but never got to complete. Martin is working towards her English degree with a minor in TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and editing. She has aspirations to work for BYU as an editor and also hopes to use her skills for church and community service.
Martin said nontraditional students add a valuable component to the educational atmosphere of BYU through the different life perspectives they offer.
“We’ve been through the ups and downs of life so we view things from a different way of looking at things,” Martin said. “Our viewpoint has a few more layers to it.”
Attending BYU gave her opportunities she couldn’t have had otherwise, Martin said. Her college experiences include being published in a national literary criticism magazine and participating in the English Language in Britain study abroad.
“It’s allowed me to continue to grow as a person and to grow in my faith,” Martin said. “Here I am getting to do all these things.”
BYU nontraditional student Sherra Schupple returned to school to get her bachelor’s degree in general studies. She said coming back to BYU helped her appreciate things that she took for granted the first time she attended the university.
“This is like being in a piece of heaven,” Schupple said. “When I was originally here in 1980, I just didn’t have the experience to realize how unique BYU is. To be able to express the gospel freely in classes is a spiritual strengthening opportunity that reaches every aspect of your life.”