Confessions of a Nontraditional Student

Linguistics student Amy Schulz speaks of her experience as a non-traditional student at BYU.

PROVO, Utah—BYU is home to over thirty-three thousand students from over one-hundred countries around the world. Despite all this diversity, it can sometimes be easy to form a “cookie-cutter” mental image when thinking of a BYU student. While this may be the initial impression for people outside BYU’s campus, not all students are fresh out of high school or off a mission. Some have chosen to further their education later in life. Each of these nontraditional students’ backgrounds is different, which can lead to a very different experience when studying at the university.

Nontraditional students like Amy Schulz know this first-hand. After raising nine children, she chose to come to BYU and pursue a degree in Linguistics with a minor in Editing. Schulz has a passion for serving people, and hopes to teach others English with her TESOL certificate. “I just want to help people in some way,” Schulz said. “So I thought, ‘Wow, teaching people how to speak English… Everyone needs to know how to speak English!’”

When thinking about going to school later in life, students worry about the age gap between themselves and their peers. Schulz recalled how she worried her technological experience wasn’t up to par with the other students’. She noted how technology rather than age itself is the “great unequalizer” between traditional and nontraditional students. Although Shultz occasionally finds herself frustrated by complex and obscure technologies, she always finds ways to help her peers. Schulz acknowledges that her life experience and position prove more of an advantage than a hindrance. “I have a copy machine and things that [they] don’t” she noted, “So I’ll go home and make the copies for free, and [they] can make the PowerPoint in three seconds.” In the end, Schulz has found that these distinctions enrich her interactions with the other students.

Despite the differences she’s found between her and the other traditional students, any fears Schultz may have had about being shunned or alienated have since disappeared. When asked whether she’s found herself judged by her peers, Schulz spoke of the students’ kindness toward her. “I’m really surprised, constantly surprised, how nice all the kids are to me,” she said with a smile. “They are all so nice.”

With just a few more steps before she graduates, Schulz recalled difficult times in her pursuit of a degree. Although it was not always easy for her, she knew that the struggles were worth it in the end. For her, persistence was the key to overcoming all sorts of challenges. “Whoever doesn’t quit gets there, right?” She pointed out. “It’s not necessarily who is the smartest, but whoever just keeps going—that’s the key. So, I’m just not going to quit!​”

—Jensyn Eubank (English, ’20)