6 Quick Tips For The Non-Traditional Student

Jim Suszynski
8 min readFeb 18, 2021

We already have to grind harder. Now we grind smarter.

Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels

I believe what separates those who genuinely enjoy earning their degree AND excel at it and those who don’t is mastery of their time. If I had to choose just one “hack” it would be just that: time management. If you’re like most of us, time management isn’t a skill that you can just decide to be better at. It’s too grandiose to undertake all at once.

What makes me qualified to tell you, a hardworking non-traditional student, how to make school life a breeze?

I had the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s in civil engineering from a major university between the ages of 25 and 29. I graduated with a 3.6 GPA, magna cum laude, 6 weeks after my 29th birthday. Before school? I held various labor-based jobs before serving in the active-duty Air Force. Time management is one of many skills the military harps on from hour number one of boot camp to the day you leave the service.

Luckily, you won’t need to enlist and sign your life away to learn this skill. I know you’ve probably heard numerous times how important being the master of your time is and how the earth’s movers and shakers rely on it to make waves. Millionaires who’ve mastered the game first mastered themselves. It’s an adage as old as time.

The workload for us “non-trads” is twofold: the same course loads as our peers full of material we probably haven’t seen in years (or decades) plus the necessity of holding a job, raising a family, and managing finances.

In the following paragraphs, I will show you exactly what I did to turn this balancing act from an awkward pain in my ass into an enjoyable template I will carry with me for life.

But first…


Read Efficiently

Most of us read by using something called sub-vocalization. This is the voice in your head reading to yourself. When you do this, you can only read as fast as you can talk. Most of us speak at around 150 words per minute, or WPM. According to research, the average scientific publication is between 3,000 and…