Dreading the onset of winter and your tendency to sleep more, eat comfort foods, and gain a few pounds? Bored with the same circle of family and friends and the conversations that never go much beyond, “Hello. Good to see you. I saw Aunt Beverly last month,” and yadda, yadda, yadda?
I have an answer for you to consider: enroll in a class at your local community college or career center.
Take the class for credit or audit. Audit is cheaper and if you meet the age requirement, there is no charge for tuition for auditing. Pell grants, which are outright grants and don’t require repayment, are available depending upon a student’s EFC (estimated family contribution). I don’t want this to seem more complicated than it actually is, and I do want you to know there are financial aid advisors at all of these educational institutions who can supply you with the answers you need as each case is individual.
With holidays just around the corner, you might tell family members that you prefer supplies, books, or fees in lieu of another tie (Who wears ties now?) or another knick-knack for an already-overloaded display case.
You might think I’m just promoting colleges and don’t take non-required classes myself. Let me share some of my class experiences with you that had nothing to do with my Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
My first presidency was at a college in a coal mining region. What did I know about coal production? Very little, so I took a course with students who were majoring in mining and learned the vocabulary, the history, the process. And I toured three operating coal mines, one with longwall mining and one where the coal was so low I had to duck walk.
At my next presidency in Texas, I decided that a college course in photography would be a great way to spend my Saturdays. So I did it, and my black-and-white photographs joined others with a display at the college library. I surprised myself with my ability to capture the essence of my subjects.
As chancellor of a California college, I enrolled in a college drawing class. I was uncomfortable with the male nude models who changed poses and at times ended up two feet in front of me. As the semester went on, the students in that drawing class were like the Road Runner, surpassing me at every juncture.
Add to this list a course in mediation, one in negotiations, a tenure at Harvard University one summer, and two courses in creative writing at Edison State Community College, a college which is five minutes from my home.
Learning is a family affair. My husband has been studying French for two years now with Larry Rich at Edison. Virtually every day, he gets out his text, a French-English dictionary and the passages to be translated for the week and actually spends time on the lessons. Occasionally, he will say that he wishes he had learned a foreign language earlier, and I keep telling him that he is doing it now, and that’s what’s important. He is enjoying learning with teens and another person in the class whose age is indeterminate.
Maybe you want to earn a certificate or a degree in a health-care or information technology field. You can do it and migrate to a new job in these fields that will continue to grow with high demand for employees whose skills and knowledge are current.
So you ask, how do I get started? The time is now and not in January. Locate your local college or career center on the internet, see what interests you in the credit or continuing education offerings, follow the steps to enroll, and know that most of this can be done from your home computer or by arranging an appointment with an advisor or with some combination of the two.
Some classes are entirely on line; some are web/flex (a combination of on line and on ground); some are entirely in the classroom.
Another word of advice: do not enroll in for-profit colleges. Enroll only in colleges that are accredited by regional accrediting agencies. Some for-profit colleges set up bogus accrediting groups so that they can advertise that they are accredited.
Since my readers are from the central and the southern parts of the United States, look for the following: Central, Higher Learning Commission; South, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SAC).
A final word of advice: swallow your fears and just do it. You will enjoy this new dimension of your life whether you want to become a potter, study the Civil War, understand geological changes, or learn how to wire a house or repair plumbing. Time is fleeting, and the world is large. There is a new niche for every single one of us.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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