The Department of Environmental and Biological Studies at Liverpool Hope University College recruits an above-average number of students who could be classified as 'non-traditional'. Many are mature and many have gained entry to higher education via routes other than A level. In addition, and increasingly, many have selected or been allocated to the first-year geography modules with little or no experience of geography education. These students undertake a carefully structured programme of small-group teaching, designed to induct and train them in the practices of higher education and through which they are introduced to key geographical concepts. This paper highlights some of the issues arising from teaching non-traditional students and identifies as case studies elements of the programme, which support the development of students' skills and geographical understanding.