Disabilities and Transition After High School: Developing Independence at the Community College, Even If I’m Not Taking Classes
Okay, new graduate. You’ve finished high school, and your classmates, at least most of them, are going on to college.
You say to yourself, I want to go to college! Of course, you want to do what your friends are doing, right? It’s understandable that you don’t want to stay at home while everyone else is having a life. You want to see and be seen… BUT you’re not sure if you’re ready for homework again, and honestly, maybe you’re a little nervous about college classes.
Many graduates attend the local community college to get their start. Even if you’re not quite ready to take academic classes, there are lots of things you can do on campus to see your high school buddies and to find out whether you want to continue your education. You might even make some new friends.
Here are some ideas that you might consider doing:
1. To get started, walk around the campus. You can check with the Admissions Office about scheduling a formal tour, or you can grab a map and walk around at your own pace. Start with the Student Center because this is where a lot of students will be hanging out between classes. Go around lunchtime and plan to eat there. You might see students on laptops, watching the news, or even playing chess.
2. Use the campus map to see what buildings you might want to check out.
• Are you an artist? Find out where the art classes are. You might see student work on display or a quiet hangout spot that you like.
• Do you like to walk? Maybe there is a track or fitness center.
• Do you like libraries? There’s probably one available. You might not be able to use the computers there unless you have a student ID card, but you can still look at magazines and work on your own laptop that you bring.
• Do you like plants? See if your college has a greenhouse. You might be able to volunteer to wash pots, pick off dead leaves from plants, water plants, or sweep up leaves. Ask if there is a volunteer program or community gardening club at the college.
• Do you want to buy a shirt or cap from the college? Visit the bookstore. They’ll help you out. First, though, set aside money for lunch, the bus, or other things you might have already planned to buy. Put it in another pocket so that you won’t accidentally spend it on the wrong thing. Then see if you have money to spend. If you didn’t bring enough money, you can always come back later to buy something that you like.
3. Check out the bulletin boards or other notices that are posted.
• What student events are coming up? Movies? Bake sales? Student organization fair? The community can often attend.
• There may be a theater performance, musical group, or speaker that interests you, though these will probably cost money.
4. If you’re going to return to campus on your own, make sure you know how to be safe.
• If you use an elevator, know where the button is in case the elevator gets stuck.
• Study the signs that tell where to go in case of a weather emergency or how to call for help if you get nervous or lost.
• If you’re walking across a parking lot or roadway, use crosswalks and watch for cars. Drivers may be texting even though they’re not supposed to do that, so you have to watch out for yourself.
• Walk in the well-travelled areas. If you are around several people, you’ll be able to ask for help more easily if you are confused or nervous.
• Know where the emergency phones are if you need help.
• It’s okay to say hi to someone your age. After all, part of college is meeting people. Just say hi and then keep walking or doing what you were doing. That’s what people do when they don’t know each other well but they want to be friendly. If they invite you to play ping pong or start up a conversation in the coffeeshop, that’s fine, too. Just don’t go with them when they leave. They are probably going to class or home, and that’s not where you are scheduled, so say goodbye.
• Don’t ever go with someone to their car or to a private room unless you know them and unless you’ve told someone else where you are going beforehand. If it’s on your schedule and your parents or staff person knows where you are, it’s okay.
See, there are lots of things that you can do on a college campus without ever signing up for a class. Community colleges have a lot to offer the community, and you are part of the community, so join in!
(c) 2013 Smart Steps, LLC