Adults who started college at 30+ in a sea of 18-year-olds... what are some positive and/or negative experiences as a "mature" and "non-traditional" student?

While I'm not 30+, I do still consider myself a non-traditional and hopefully mature student at age 24. To give some beef to that claim, I dropped out of my first go at university education when I had just turned 19 and immediately started traveling and working abroad. I've held professional, albeit legally gray, positions under the guise of being 26+ with a diploma. And then there's the general concentrated life experience you get just being abroad.

Anyway, prior to coming back to school, I was teaching mathematics at a university as a lecturer in Asia. So, as I'm sure you can imagine, finding myself an undergraduate was a tough paradigm shift. Truthfully, it was really fucking hard for the first semester. You go from being used to considering professors your peers to having to see them as superiors, people you can't really socialize with or have conversations outside strict social norms. I have good friends ranging up to 42 years old from cities I've lived in. Your classmates are nearly intolerable in the scope of their maturity in all aspects. They want to party, they want to blow off work, they don't contribute anything meaningful to class discussion - and you can't relate to them in the least. And it gets really lonely. Thankfully, my younger classmates respect me and get work done when they are put in groups with me.

I was intensely lonely my first, second, and even third semester. You try to extract value from classes, but your classmates don't care to participate and your professors only have so much time. You aren't really able to connect with kids fresh out of high school and it's not appropriate to get too friendly with professors. You have so many other concerns and interests outside the realm of school that finding the appropriate balance between everything is nearly impossible. I am, or at least was, a dedicated athlete. I also need to work to pay tuition and keep a roof over my head. My professors have high expectations for me due to my maturity. And trying to convince yourself to write that paper on the more controversial aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for a class, a paper which will only be perfunctorily evaluated once for <15 minutes, is really quite disheartening.

But you know what makes my semester? When I can push my younger classmates to ask pertinent questions and get them interested in the class. The professor is delighted, my classmates are engaged, and class has meaning outside of just satisfying a graduation requirement on the way to gaining a landscape A4 slip of paper.

/r/AskReddit Thread