Nontraditional Student Experiences: An Interview with Sheneka Balogun

BestColleges recently spoke with Sheneka Balogun to learn more about her experience as a nontraditional student, going to school as a working mom of two. Read our full interview.

portrait of Staff Writers
by Staff Writers

Published August 12, 2022

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Sheneka Balogun
Former HBX (Now Harvard Business School Online) Participant


How did HBX accommodate you as a non-traditional/working student?

When I told a friend that I was considering applying to HBX, she tried to talk me out of it, only because I am a working mom of two young children-ages 5 & 7. She was concerned how I would fit a tripod of courses from an elite school like Harvard into my already full schedule. I'm so glad that I took a chance because HBX was one of the best educational experiences of my life! I relied heavily on the HBX calendar that provided me an overview of the weeks, and peer-to-peer learning. The calendar kept me grounded because it showed me that the coursework was manageable. The community of learners across the globe on the journey with me kept me connected and engaged in course discussion.

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What are the common traits you see in a non-traditional/working students?

We want to learn things that are applicable to both our professional and personal lives. We are looking for non-traditional ways to advance our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. We are value-driven and that simply is a way of saying that everything has to be meaningful and relevant, and worth investing our time because we juggle many responsibilities.

Can students be successful at an online program while working full-time?

Without a doubt! As I completed the coursework each week at HBX it was really apparent that they had me in mind when they developed the curriculum. There was a variety of learning resources and each week I looked forward to logging in because it was a challenging, fun, and rewarding experience all bundled into one. Even with other priorities that compete for our time as full-time working students, if colleges and universities design it with us in mind we will be successful.

How can universities better equip non-traditional students, like working mothers, veterans, and students exclusively enrolled in distance programs?

Universities can equip us by identifying what is important to us and then developing programs that suit our professional needs. Higher education has to continue re-inventing itself and evolve with a diverse, student population like me. We want to be equipped with 21st century skills so that we are competitive applicants for jobs and promotion in a global economy. We just want it packaged in a way that takes it from theory to practice, and fits into our busy lives.

What services should a non-traditional/working student look for when choosing a university or program?

Support and connection in real time. Students should determine if the program has resources to help manage and organize their time, and also academic support for coursework. HBX developed a platform that helped to facilitate learning student to student. They also embedded opportunities within the course to practice the concepts learned each week. It was a different model of academic support I had not experienced before and it worked! Often times, support and connection comes in novel ways. Students should look for what is different about the program, and what kind of unique services have been engineered with them in mind so that if they need support, it is at their fingertips.

What benefits are there to working while attending school?

There are so many benefits to working while attending school. You get to put into practice what you learn in school and that helps to retain what you are learning in coursework. It also helps to see the immediate value that education offers to you and motivates you to continue until you finish!

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