By Jelena Ristic Kelleher, JD
Interim Associate Dean and Director, Undergraduate Programs, Golden Gate University
The life of an 18-year-old and that of a working adult are very different. “Adult Learners” – usually defined as above 24 years old by national higher education statistics – have more real-world responsibilities. Choosing where to get an undergraduate degree takes place in a different life context. While young people might look forward to lounging on the grass at an ivy-draped campus, adults might not even notice the landscape while on their way to class, work, or home. Older students often must overcome many obstacles younger people do not — some tangible, some a matter of attitude or assumptions. Here are the main examples of how Golden Gate University undergraduate programs are the best fit in the United States for adults who want to complete a bachelor’s degree (BA, BS) or Associate of Arts (AA) degree.
I don’t have enough time to go back to school.
For over 100 years, GGU has served the adult, professional student looking to change or move up in their career who was not able to put their life on hold to attend school full time. Pursuing an undergraduate degree when you are in your mid-20s or older does require a time commitment. We want students to have the shortest route possible to graduation. We actively help students to manage their time and schedule their classes. All students have a dedicated professional advisor who partners with them to create an individualized Path to Completion that fits their real-world commitments and keeps momentum toward graduation. The flexible schedule offering evening and weekend classes and different modes of course delivery — including online courses — makes it possible for students to incorporate education into their busy lives.
Golden Gate University was named the top university for adult learners
in the U.S. by Washington Monthly.
I once started a degree, but I won’t be able to use any of my past classes.
We want GGU’s Undergraduate Programs to be the last stop on a degree journey for our transfer students. Wherever possible, GGU eliminates the rehashing of prior education by accepting a generous amount of transfer credit for our AA, BA, BS, and Graduate programs.
I can’t afford to earn a degree that won’t add value to my life and career.
GGU makes the classroom experience relevant by integrating theory with real-world application. Our curriculum is designed to provide students with real, tangible skills that they can immediately use. About 80% of our instructors are current practitioners in their field who share their expertise and often become mentors and networking sources.
Adult education is different, and so is Golden Gate University. Throughout our history, we have designed programs, created policy, and streamlined process with the adult student in mind.
I will be the oldest person in class.
The average age of a GGU student is 35. We run our classes in a way that maximizes learning by integrating practical knowledge gained through prior life and work experience with academic theory. Combining prior learning, current learning at work and in life, and integrating those experiences as one can make school just one of the many activities that contribute to a student’s educational pursuit.
I don’t know how to choose a major or exactly what I’d want to do with my degree.
For adults, a college or university should be treated as something more than merely “a place you go to learn.” We make education ‘part of’ the plan, not “the” plan. Sometimes the initial concept of a new career or job does not turn out to be the best one. We help students identify their goal or series of goals early in the process. In UGP 10, the Gateway course, we take students through a curriculum specifically designed to identify the individual’s “sweet spot”: the intersection of their professional, personal, and educational goals. Ensuring alignment means the program is the right fit and students have a clear understanding of how their degree will help them get to what’s next. It is not just a matter of choosing an undergraduate business degree that focuses on management, accounting, finance, human resources, data analytics, psychology, information technology, or marketing; it is establishing the foundation for the next career step and coordinating the series of steps on the path to a dream job.
I am too old for financial aid.
There is no age limit for financial aid. There are various types of financial aid as well as scholarship opportunities available to GGU students. For federal aid, the adult student needs to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. Additionally, GGU is proud to be an official Military Friendly institution and is in the top 15% nationwide of colleges and universities who have committed to a large dollar grant to the Yellow Ribbon Program for our country’s Veterans to start or complete their educational goals.
Defining Adult Learner vs. a Non-Traditional Student
The “adult learner” is gradually becoming known as the non-traditional learner because this term considers other factors besides age. Statistics on the non-traditional learner reveal that this group is growing at a higher rate than their counterparts.
Adult education is different.
Adult education is different, and so is Golden Gate University. Throughout our history, we have designed programs, created policy, and streamlined process with the adult student in mind. We have a very strong identity in this area, and our organizational culture carries tremendous pride around helping adults meet their career and life goals.
Professional advisor to help schedule and navigate coursework
Average student age is 34
“Path to Completion” advising
Special class to create a nexus of interests and goals
Help with administrative university tasks
80% of faculty members are working professionals
Camaraderie and mutual learning among students
About Jelena Kelleher, JD
Jelena Ristic Kelleher began her career at Golden Gate University as a student assistant in the information kiosk while completing her Bachelor of Arts degree. Since that time, she has held numerous roles and is currently the Interim Associate Dean and Director of the Undergraduate Experience. Jelena has taught the Gateway to Success course since 2008 and also teaches the Prior Learning Assessment course and the Capstone courses for the AA degree and BA in Management. Throughout her various roles at GGU, her leadership and project management skills were instrumental in the development of curriculum and online tools for students. While working full time, Jelena also completed a Juris Doctor degree from Golden Gate University in the part-time evening program.