Adult Learners Advising Community

The Adult Learners Advising Community serves advisors who spend a significant portion of their duties serving adult students. Through the sharing of information and experiences, our community assists advisors and administrators in understanding, addressing, and advocating for the unique needs of adult learners. Resources, found under the ‘More Links’ section on the right side of the page, focus on the following critical areas for adult learner success:

  1. support for their learning development;
  2. student and academic services convenient for adults;
  3. networking and community building opportunities;
  4. strategies for balancing work, life, and school responsibilities;
  5. motivation to complete their programs.

Adult Learner Steering Committee

  • Elysa Smith
    Elysa Smith Chair 2023-2025 Franklin University Region 5
  • Becky White Events 2023-2024 Riverland Community College Region 6
  • Douglas Luke Scholarship 2023-2024 College of the Holy Cross Region 1
  • Juanita Bushman Scholarship 2023-2024 Salt Lake Community College Region 10
  • Justin Kyle Bush Website Lead 2023-2024 University of Wisconsin-Madison Region 5
  • Kari Simpson 2023-2024 Franklin University Region 5
  • Katie Sup Rezac Communications 2023-2024 University of Nebraska at Omaha Region 6
  • Rebecca (Becky) Helms Communications / Events 2023-2024 Troy University Region 4
  • Shannon Johnson At-Large 2023-2024 Temple University Region 2
  • Stephanie Fahey Scholarship 2023-2024 Old Dominion University Region 2

Community Objectives:

  • To have current, accurate information on the website
  • To assist & promote the community’s interests
  • To allow members who are not able to attend conferences in person, the opportunity for professional growth
  • To promote the group’s strengths & encourage sharing within the group in a more compatible environment for many members

Two Things About Working with Adult Learners

According to members of this Advising Community, the following are two key needs to keep in mind when working with the adult learner population.
  1. Adult learners need the utmost flexibility from their advisors and institutions. 
    1. What methods are available to conduct advising appointments? 
    2. What offices hours are provided for your students? 
    3. What classroom options are available? 
    4. What course options do they have? 
  2. Adult learners need to feel like they are being respected and receiving good customer service. 
    1. How quickly and accurately do you respond to students’ needs? 
    2. Do you take the extra step to help an adult learner find information, ask more in-depth questions, and plan their curriculum? 

Who is an Adult Learner?

While there is no consistent definition of who is considered an adult learner, there are various factors to consider in determining how you or your institution want to define this student population. If conducting research or implementing a policy, the term should be defined for that particular use. Here are some of the typical characteristics that often apply to many “adult learners”:

  • 25+ years old
  • Students who do not fit the typical profile of the 18- to 22-year-old full-time undergraduate (Giancola, Munz, & Trares, 2008)
  • First-time college student 21+ years old (Davidson & Holbrook, 2014)
  • Returning to school after stopping out
  • Juggling school with work/family/life responsibilities
  • “Any student, regardless of age, who has adult responsibilities beyond college classes, and for whom those adult responsibilities take priority in times of crisis” (NACADA’s Advising Adult Learners Commission)
  • Students of any age who are “married, handicapped, racially or ethnically diverse, female, or part-time” (Kasworm, Polson, & Fishback, 2002)
  • Unemployed and seeking a new avenue in life (Varney & Peck, 2012)

Common terms to name this population include

  • Adult Learner
  • Non-Traditional or Post-Traditional Student
  • Adult Student
  • Returning Adults
  • Adult Returners
  • Mature Learners