I went to college later in life. I dropped out of school at an early age and didn't return until many years later. I cannot stress enough the importance of educating oneself. Even if you don't have the means to pay tuition or can't qualify for student aid there are other ways to educate yourself and improve your skills and abilities. I believe we should always be trying to improve ourselves in some way. After a lifetime of working as a Cook, Waiter, Cab Driver, Construction Guy, Cable/Satellite Technician, and various other more or less unskilled positions, I didn't have a lot of options when I later decided that I wanted to do other things. I was tired of living in poverty, and I wanted more than to just "make a living." So, I made a conscious effort to teach myself new skills in order to increase my options. I suggest that you make a commitment to yourself to spend some of the time you would usually spend watching t.v. or hanging out with your friends--at least an hour every night--doing something to improve yourself or your condition. The following are some things that helped me:
Read: If you are a person who doesn't read much, this is probably the most important and effective thing that you can do to improve your options in life. If you are a fairly advanced reader, make sure you have read all the classics. If regular novels are too intimidating for you, start reading comic-books or Doctor Seuss novels. I've always enjoyed science-fiction, which offers the added benefit of being especially educational. I have begun the rough draft of a novel on my Fiction Page.
Learn to Type: The first thing I did was teach myself to type. If you can't afford to take a class or hire a tutor, there is a lot of inexpensive software available. With persistence you will learn quickly. I wouldn't spend a lot of money--these programs are easy to find online and many of them are free. You can practice on your own at home, the hard part is you have to spend at least an hour every night practicing...
Get a Computer: Since you're reading this article you probably already have a computer, but if you don't, get one. Even if you have to buy a used one to get started, you need to have a good computer in order to keep up with the world. The cost of providing yourself with high-speed internet will pay for itself, because it will save you money on other things. For one thing, you won't have to run as many errands: I pay all of my bills and do all of my banking on the web; before I take a trip, I research areas I have never been for maps and other important information on the web; I plan vacations, book hotel rooms, and reserve rental cars and travel tickets--all on the web. Save between $20 and $100 on ALL Hotel Bookings Now! The information available on the internet will pay for itself in many ways; get connected now! If you know nothing about computers, you can actually learn a lot just by playing computer games; the more sophisticated the game, the better for learning.
Buy a Camera and Use It: Buy a digital camera and take pictures for no reason. Upload the photos to your computer. Being a human means using all of the ordinary tools that our technology has to offer. You never know when a camera will be useful--think of it like carrying a pen. You can copyright and publish your own photos on the web--see my Photography here!
Cell-phone cameras are great! It helps to have good software for managing and publishing your pictures. I am currently recommending acdsee.
Learn to Use New Programs: Find out what kind of programs other people are using and learn how to use them yourself. If you are interested in photography, learn to how use photography software (any and every kind you can find). If you want to write, learn as much as you can about word processing software and equipment. I bought the latest version of Microsoft Office Suite and learned how to use it by spending hours at night after work, just playing around with it--now I am confident that my PowerPoint skills are just as good or better than most PowerPoint users'.
Take a Class: Go to your local community college and see what they have to offer. Even if you don't know what you want to learn about, sometimes you will get an idea by looking at their list of courses. Learning a second language is always a good thing to do for yourself. You can Learn Spanish with SpanishPod or nearly any other language you might want to learn with other software. Transparent Language is a good one:
This will increase your value to an employer greatly! If you are hesitating to return to school because of financial considerations, you should know that there are programs designed to help you with this. For instance, FastWeb can help you locate scholarships and apply for financial aid.
Research the Internet: The internet is the most valuable research tool ever invented. If you know where to look you can find out nearly anything you need to know. I wanted to start a web-site, so I searched on the internet. This website exists because I was able to teach myself how to create, maintain, and update this site, through information I found for free on the internet.
Exercise: Body an mind are fully connected. Make regular exercise a part of your routine, and you will experience immediate results in how you feel--both mentally and physically. You will find that ideas will come to you quicker, and you will generally feel better about yourself and your condition.
Watch Educational Television: Usually, I don't just sit around watching t.v., but I do keep it on most of the time. I don't watch sit-coms, soap-operas, celebrity gossip, game-shows, or anything mindless. I work on my computer or whatever project and keep my t.v. tuned into the History Channel or some other educational programming (maybe a documentary or educational reality show). I don't really watch it or pay attention to it much, unless something really catches my attention. My brain stores this information and I almost always wind up using it later on. In the morning I watch national news to keep abreast of the what's going on. Sometimes, I will watch a really good movie for mental stimulation.
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