Patricia Dawson says she loves to learn.

Dawson, 61, signed up for a few classes on Saturday at Aiken Technical College during its Fall Admissions Fair. Dawson is one of many non-traditional students across the country who are heading back to school.

A factor in considering someone as a non-traditional college student is age. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 39 percent of all college students are 25 or older which places them in the “non-traditional” category.

Lisa Sommers, associate director of Aiken Technical College’s Enrollment Center, said the school has a very diverse group of students. She said oftentimes, non-traditional students are looking for a new career or preparing for advancement by obtaining new skills in the classroom.

Dawson said she just needed to do something more constructive with her time after retirement. She spent 33 years working in an education environment and said it’s something that she truly misses. She was the director of the Health Science Library and a webmaster for the West Virginia University’s Charleston division.

“I’ve always been a working person,” Dawson said. “My brain is getting lazy, and I just need intellectual stimulation.”

Dawson will be taking online classes in medical coding. Dawson said she’s never participated in online classes before, but they’re convenient for her as she’s currently caring for her mother at home.

When deciding to go back to school, she said it was easy to choose Aiken Technical College because she once taught a class in professional development at the institution.

“I like the faculty. I like the advisors,” Dawson said. “They have been tremendously helpful.”

Anyone considering going back to college can determine what financial aid that they may be eligible for by filing a free application for Federal Student Aid. That can be done by visiting

Sommers said they had a great turnout on Saturday at the admissions fair with 93 people coming through the Enrollment Services Center.

The deadline to apply to Aiken Technical College is Aug. 1. The deadline register for classes is Aug. 3.

Enrollment Services Center will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Aiken Technical College is located at 2276 Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville.

For more information, visit

Amy Banton is the County beat reporter for the Aiken Standard.