Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Place of Possibilities

Did you read the recent New York Times' column by actor Tom Hanks about his experiences at a community college? It was terrific: honest, funny, inspiring, and insightful.

Also true.

Hanks writes about graduating from a California high school in 1974 and having neither the grades nor the bucks to attend a competitive and expensive university. So he enrolled at nearby Chabot College, a two-year college that not only accepted everyone but was free (nice, huh?).   

Hanks's classmates included recent h.s. grads, Vietnam vets, women returning to school, and middle-aged men seeking to boost their careers.  Together they commuted to campus each day, studying everything from accounting and auto mechanics to physics and journalism.

Though never (by his own admission) a great student, Hanks writes that he found himself--and his passion--at Chabot, discovering that he loved oral interpretation, public speaking, film, and literature. His experience wasn't perfect--he detested some required courses (sound familiar?) and almost flunked zoology--but the positives far outweighed the negatives.  He recalls taking a drama course that "filled my head with expanded dreams."  He also remembers sitting in the Chabot campus library and listening to recordings of actor Jason Robards, with whom he'd someday co-star.

I tell you all this because there are probably at least a few of you out there wondering whether enrolling at Nassau, a school in many ways similar to Chabot, is worth the time and investment.  It is--provided you give college and yourself a chance to see what you're both all about.   

I'm not saying you're going to wind up as rich and famous as Hanks.  But I am saying that if you're open to college--if you approach Nassau with curiosity and with the idea that college holds plenty of possibilities (which it clearly does)--good things will happen.  I can't be more specific about what those good things will be; you'll have to fill in the blanks yourself.

Hanks writes that community colleges give people low-cost opportunities to explore "the next chapter of their lives."  He's right.  For those willing to give college their best shot, two-year colleges, including Nassau, do just that.   

"That place made me who I am today," Hanks says he told his kids when passing Chabot recently.  

Wouldn't it be cool if someday you could say the same thing about your time at NCC?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nervous about Starting College?

Don't be. The majority of people at NCC--faculty, students, administrators, staff, and others--are friendly, caring, and helpful. They want you to do well in your classes and enjoy your time in school as much as you do. Most are more than willing to extend themselves and to respond to pretty much any question or concern you might have. You'll be surprised how many folks here are willing to offer a helping hand. 

But the one thing people at NCC can't do is read minds. They can't tell if you're enjoying college, doing okay in your classes, meeting people and making friends, handling the daily commute, or balancing school and the rest of your life.  They can't tell if you're happy with your area of study, have found a club that interests you, or have discovered your dream career.  

So it should go without saying that if something in school (or elsewhere in life) isn't going as well as you'd like, it's up to you to do something about it.  Most of the time, that means finding your way to a professor's office, a campus service, or a counselor or adviser's office and asking for help, information, or advice.  It may sometimes involve scheduling an appointment or--depending upon what's happening--visiting an office or service several times.  Some issues can get resolved quickly; others take longer.   

But all of this must start with YOU.  While that might seem pretty obvious, it's not so to everyone.  For far too many students, staying silent is preferable to asking questions or opening up about a problem. Some students keep to themselves out of shyness; others, out of pride; still others, who knows?  But the outcome is almost always the same: an education that's been shortchanged.

If you're just starting Nassau--if today's your first day of classes--here's lesson number one about college: Be your own advocate--your own best friend.  If you have a question or concern, talk to someone.  People here care about you and are willing to help.  But before they can, they have to know what's going on.  And only you can help with that.