All students are equal, but are they the same?
There is no one-size-fits-all description of what college student is, yet we often say things like “typical college student”, “things all students do”, “apps every student has” as if college student was something uniform and invariable. However, if you look around your classroom, you will see how diverse your group is. Apart from what you can see (gender, age, race, some forms of disability), there are things that may categorize students creating challenges for them and defining their needs. Do you know how diverse your class is in reality?
This is the most numerous group. It consists of young people in their late teens and early twenties, who started college immediately after finishing high-school. They consider learning their primary responsibly, so they attend college on a full-time basis and do not have work apart from some temporary gigs. They are usually depended on their parents financially, childless, and their main concerns are, “Will I be able to write my papers on time?” and “Will my GPA be high enough this semester?”
They are a subset of traditional students but they do have their own specific challenge that unites them as a group – that is the need to commute. Sometimes living off-campus is their only option due to the lack of places in the dormitories. Sometimes, however, they choose to stay with their parents to save on additional fees for room and board or due to some off-campus responsibilities. Their main concern is time that is wasted on commuting and sleep deprivation that sometimes involved.
These students are usually several years older than traditional ones and have full-time jobs. For this reason, they attend college on a part-time basis. They see a college degree as a part of their career goals. Often they are caregivers of children or elderly family members. They are financially independent but have many obligations that include a student loan. Career, family, and learning is quite a lot to balance, so they must have developed time-management and prioritizing skills.
Exchange students/International students
These students come from a different country, often with a specific purpose of acquiring their education. Some of them plan to find a job after graduation and start their new life in the target country. Some of them will return to their home country after obtaining a degree. Their age may vary, but they are most likely non-native speakers of English and, therefore, might have difficulties with staying abreast of curriculum and completing their writing assignments. The language barrier might create difficulties with socializing, especially at the beginning. Cultural differences might pose additional challenges.
Students with disabilities
Although students with disabilities have the right to additional assistance and accommodation to bridge the gap and provide them with equal opportunities, they still have to apply time and energy to overcome challenges and settle into campus. When people speak of disabilities, they usually think of physical disabilities – low vision and blindness, limited mobility, deafness, speech impediment, etc. However, there are other kinds of disabilities that might not be that apparent – learning, medical, psychiatric, etc. ADHD, ASD, dyslexia, apraxia, anxiety disorder and others, depending on the severity of the condition also considered disabilities.
Which is the category you feel the strongest affinity with? Now, think about one of the classes you attend this semester and classmates around you. How similar are you? How different? How do those similarities and difference reflect on your success as students? What can you do to be more successful academically or to help your fellow students?