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  • Dr. Mario

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After many years of teaching non-traditional students, particularly online, I have realized that these students needed a different type of support to succeed in their studies. Some non-traditional students may not have been successful in the prior attempts at earning a degree. These students need help overcoming traumas attached to unsuccessful attempts at college in the past. The need for this type of support is often overlooked in higher education institutions. Additionally, non-traditional students benefit from having direct coaching on how to achieve academic success.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), non-traditional students meet at least one of these seven characteristics.

1. Delayed enrollment into post-secondary education

2. Attends college part-time

3. Works full-time

4. Is financially independent for financial aid purposes

5. Has dependents other than a spouse

6. Is a single parent

7. Does not have a high school diploma


The NCES has also expanded the definition to include age as the defining characteristic for this population: non-traditional students are over the age of 25 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). NCES’s definition provides context for the type of challenges that threaten these student’s academic success. Non-traditional students face challenges managing a work-life balance, paying for school, caring for children or family members as a single parent, and overcoming educational deficits that impede their current academic pursuits.


My work with this student segment led me to develop coaching practices to help them achieve their academic goals and, more importantly, manage the way they thought about school and about themselves in the context of completing school. I learned that a fair number of my students had fallen into self-imposed negative thinking traps about who they were and what they could achieve. This negative thinking caused undue stress, demotivation, and frequent dropping out.


It’s no secret that students who withdraw from school are unlikely to return. Moreover, these students often acquire massive debt as a result of not completing their degrees. In our current economy, non-graduates make up a hefty slice of the student loan debt crisis our country is facing. Accepting this fact awakened me and led me to figure out how to help students avoid these thinking patterns. Stress, burnout, huge debt are not requirements for graduating, and students can avoid both if they learn how to manage their thoughts about their learning experience.


I created this blog because I want students to get out of their heads so they can complete their degrees and continue achieving their goals. I also want to show non-traditional students how to attain a Zen-like learning experience. Most importantly, I want these students to apply the theory of thought management to adopt mindset approaches that will help them avoid dropping out, repeating courses, and straying from the path to graduation. This blog is also helpful for professionals who work directly with non-traditional students, including teachers, administrators, and support staff. Additionally, traditional students could benefit from applying the principle of thought management along their quest for graduation.


My first post introduces the concept of thought work and managing your mind. Later in the series, I’ll discuss the process in greater detail. Along the way, I’ll share some hacks to help students manage coursework and degree programs in hopes of shortening their paths to graduation. So, let’s dive into the concept of thought work.


How to Use This Blog

I want non-traditional students in both face-to-face and online education to use this blog to develop thoughts that will help them complete their programs and graduate on time. Repeating courses costs too much time and money, especially for students who are paying for their education out of pocket. By applying the techniques in this blog, students can learn how to navigate the challenges of academic learning, practice resilience, redirect their thinking, and reframe obstacles as opportunities for personal and professional growth.


Here’s a sample of what I’ll cover:

  • Building awareness as a foundation for practicing thought work

  • Harnessing the power of presence (personal and intellectual) to create lasting impressions along your academic journey

  • Leveraging resources to solve complex problems and develop a challenge management framework

  • Applying a social media influencer model to networking


Attending college is hard, and if you’re taking online courses, it’s even harder. Online courses require precision time management, discipline, and focus even more than a face-to-face class. Non-traditional students must balance education with many other areas of their lives, like work, taking care of their families, entrepreneurial ventures, networking, social connections, and so much more. This blog will help you manage your thoughts so you can think about school more strategically to achieve your goals.


If you want to know more about how to manage your mind to achieve academic success and graduate on time, sign up for my monthly blog!

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