Want to feel better about yourself in a hurry? Take a class and fulfill a dream—learn to speak a foreign language or play an instrument. Or become a volunteer and help others.
- There are many reasons to go back to school. You may want to advance your career, learn new job skills, or simply enrich your life.
- If you never finished high school, consider taking the General Education Development (GED) examination or an external diploma program to receive a high school equivalency diploma. In most places the exam is free, and so are the courses needed to prepare for it. Call your local school board for more information.
- When looking for specific training, begin at the adult education office in your local community college. If it does not offer what you want or need, ask someone there
to refer you to the continuing education office at a higher education institution.
- If you have a job and the classes you wish to take are work-related, find out if your company will pay full or partial tuition.
- Be wary of business or trade schools that promise jobs upon completion. Some train for nonexistent jobs, while others duplicate the training an employer will give you once you are hired.
- Check with your state‘s education department or the National Home Study Council to find out about the accreditation of a home study school.
Types of Schools
Before heading back to school, know the appropriate one for you.
Four— and two—year colleges confer academic degrees and offer professional and business training.
Vocational education schools offer specific job training in such areas as word processing, secretarial skills, and cooking.
Private business schools offer programs in such subjects as accounting, data processing, and fashion merchandising.
Private trade and technical schools generally teach a single trade, such as cosmetology, real estate, or commercial art.
Home study programs give courses through correspondence, providing training for a specific skill or position, such as a travel agent.
Adult education programs offer many types of classes. They may be run by high schools or colleges or exist separately.
- Explore an old interest or a new skill. Adult—education programs offer an astounding diversity of courses. You can learn a foreign language, computer programming, or car repair, among other things. You simply pay for the course you want; no credits are given.
- Take a class so you can become better at your hobby, whether it‘s writing poetry or refinishing furniture.
- Combine education with exercise or recreation by signing up for ballroom dance, sailing, calligraphy, cake decoration, jewelry design, magic, or any number of other courses.
- Strapped for time? Many schools offer one—evening lecture or weekend seminars.
- Don‘t let money concerns stop you from going back to college. To see if you qualify for student loans or grants, get the ‘Student Guide to Federal Financial Aid Programs,’ available from Federal Student Aid Programs, P.O. Box 84, Washington, DC 20044. For state programs, contact your state‘s education department. You can also ask a particular school‘s admissions counselors what type of financial aid is available.
- If you‘re a senior citizen, find out if a college near you offers any free or specially priced classes or programs (often through the association Elderhostel).
- If you have a computer, check out the many educational software programs available. Or look into home study schools that use computer lines.
You may want to consider teaching a class. Think about the skills, talents, and knowledge you possess, then look through adult—education catalogs. An idea for a course might spring to mind.
THE REWARDS OF VOLUNTEERING
- Volunteering does as much for the person who gives help to the person who receives it.
- While many know firsthand that volunteering makes you feel better, medical studies are beginning to back this up. People who volunteer seem to stay healthier and live longer than those who don‘t.
- Volunteering is more likely to be satisfying if it includes personal contact. Teaching adults to read or tending abandoned babies will be more rewarding than sealing envelopes for an agency‘s fundraising campaign.
- It may help to have something in common with the people you help. A person who was adopted in childhood will take special pride in counseling adoptive parents and their youngsters.
- You will probably feel more useful if you choose volunteer work that is well suited to your skills. Think about what capabilities you possess, such as being able to teach children, write newsletters, or repair appliances. Whatever they are, some organizations would be happy to put them to use.
FINDING VOLUNTEER WORK
- Getting started is as easy as picking up the phone and calling an organization you‘d like to help.
- If you aren’t sure where to give your time, think about which causes concern you. Nonprofit groups exist for most causes, and hospitals always need volunteers.
- Before you commit yourself to work at a particular place, talk to current volunteers, if possible. Ask them about the positive and negative aspects of the job.
- Understand what you‘re getting into before you start. Be realistic about the time you can give and what kind of work you find satisfying. For certain types of jobs, you may have to go through a training session.
- There are organizations that help volunteers find the right type of work. Contact The Points of Light Foundation, 1737 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006, for more information.
If you‘re new to your community, consider volunteering at a charity fund—raiser. It‘s a good way to meet interesting, active people.
VOLUNTEERING FOR THE YOUNG AND OLD
- Teenagers and senior citizens have special opportunities for volunteering. They can often help each other.
- Many senior citizens find that volunteering is the perfect way to fill their spare time after they have retired. Because of their wisdom and time—tested family skills, elderly people are great choices to work with children in shelters. They are also in demand in understaffed hospital nurseries.
- Senior citizens interested in volunteering can contact The National Senior Volunteer Corps. The Senior Corps, part of the Corporation for National Service, helps place elderly people in appropriate jobs.
- High school students often volunteer, performing such services as visiting nursing homes and cleaning parks. While they often must volunteer to fulfill graduation requirements, many put in extra hours. Young people who volunteer improve problem-solving and critical—thinking skills, which tends to make them more self—reliant and responsible than their peers.