Students over 25 create a space for themselves at UT Austin

Maria Mendez

Felicia Green and her daughter Madison Baker are both Longhorns, but their college experiences are very different.

Baker, a communications studies senior, entered UT along with many recent high school graduates. But Green, a 47–year–old communication and leadership junior, felt silly among the 18–20 year olds at her orientation last fall.

“(Orientation) was sort of silly to me because … it didn’t fit my mindset,” Green said. “But I do appreciate it because I know my daughter loved it, so I know it fits the majority (of students).”

Green is part of the 3.4 percent of undergraduates over the age of 25 who enrolled in the fall of 2017. 

As a small portion of the student body, students like Green feel out of place. But a new student organization called Students Over 25 is helping older undergraduates find each other and create a community of their own.

The student organization grew out of a Facebook group, which allowed Green to find other older undergraduates at her transfer student orientation. 

Tara Chapman, a psychology and philosophy senior, started the Facebook group in the fall of 2016 to share resources and information for older students. 

“The more I asked around, the more I realized that I wasn’t the only one that needed a resource,” Chapman said. 

Even though UT provides a wide variety of resources for all students as well as additional support for transfer students, Chapman found most of these resources to be specifically tailored toward younger students.

“We try to take advantage of all resources,” Chapman said. “But it’s kind of hard to find resources that speak to us. There’s not a lot that speaks about (life outside
“the University.)”

While advisors can offer most undergraduates career advice, they may not always be helpful to students like Chapman, who is 34 years old and deciding whether to go to graduate school or start a family.

Chapman also soon found herself isolated in her daily routine of going to class and going home afterwards.

“It’s hard to reach out and connect with other students,” Chapman said. “And it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is because when we go home we also cannot relate to our peers who are working and doing all these things we aren’t a part of.”

By expanding the Facebook group into an actual student organization this spring, Chapman said she hopes to create a space for older undergraduates to meet and share their varied but similar experiences. 

Members of the organization get together every Thursday for coffee at Texas Expresso. Rachel Cowan, a 30–year–old health and society senior, just learned about Students Over 25 this semester, but said it has already helped her feel a part of UT.

“It’s not so much that the people of UT are isolating, it’s just feeling so different from the majority,” Cowan said. 

Having previous ties to UT, Green said she did not have as much trouble feeling comfortable and connecting with students. However, the group has allowed her to find people who may face similar adult experiences.

“We all identify with each other,” Green said. “All of us have things we want to talk about like some of have kids or have gone through a divorce.”