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By Robin Hester
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Non-traditional students at Camden County College say they are more focused on their studies the second time around but traditional students say they have the same mindset entering college fresh out of high school.

Students Austin Harman (left) and Sydarra Coats study and add last-minute touches to a research paper. By Robin Hester, CCC Journalism Program

Students Austin Harman (left) and Sydarra Coats study and add last-minute touches to a research paper. By Robin Hester, CCC Journalism Program

Non-traditional students at CCC are those whose ages are 22 and older. Traditional students are between 18 and 21. The reasons non-traditional students left school vary from family obligations to its not being worth the effort, but the situations have changed and they have decided to return.

Among the non-traditional students is Sydarra Coats, a 22-year-old liberal arts major, who is in her last semester at CCC with a grade point average of 4.0. Coats was 18 when she first enrolled in college straight out of high school. She attended Rowan University, majoring in communications and taking some business classes, and did not do very well.

“I was way less focused the first time around. It was a challenge for me to juggle school, work and have a social life. One prevailed over the other and I ended up doing terrible my first year of school,” says Coats.

Since then, Coats has taken time to get back on track and return to school after a year off. She says her first experience pushed her into being more focused on her studies now.

“Now I know my performance in school directly affects other aspects of my life, financial aid, career prospects, and most importantly, my confidence,” says Coats.

Among the traditional students is Austin Harman, an 18-year-old dental major, who is in her second semester at CCC. Like many students coming out of high school, Harman’s focus shifted – not from good to bad but just the opposite.

“I was not enthused about high school and was not as focused then as I am now that I’m in college,” says Harman.

She has a GPA of 3.6, is waiting to hear the decision on her application to Rutgers-New Brunswick and has been accepted into Rutgers-Camden. She plans to transfer to either college in the fall of 2013.

“I want to study general dental, and my focus has just been studying really hard and going above and beyond to receive good grades,” says Harman.

Jackie Tenuto, assistant to the dean of students at CCC, has come in contact with many non-traditional and traditional students in her eight years in the Office of Student Activities.

“A lot of times, freshman students come right out of high school thinking they’re ready,” says Tenuto. “They leave for a year or two and after working and finding out how important an education is, then they come back to school. Some may be older and have families, then realize just how important an education is to them.”

However, she says, some traditional students also recognize how important an education is to them.

“Just because you’re just out of high school doesn’t mean that you can’t be focused,” says Tenuto.

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