Ready As I’ll Ever Be

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(Today’s going to be a real short post, because I’m real tired.)

Today I put the finishing touches on most of the stuff that I have to do before classes start on the 28th. I got my student ID card made – I look appropriately awful in the photo – and I picked up the textbook for my Biology Fundamentals class. Both of these I did at the Round Rock campus – the fourth Austin Community College campus that I’ve been to in a week. I parked on the south side of campus intending to walk past the west side of the 3000 building to get to Admissions and Records in the 1000 building on the west side of campus, only construction had the pathway blocked, so I had to walk clear around the east side of the 3000 building to come back to the 1000 building to the west. I got in there, wiped the sweat from my brow – it was 101 degrees out, by my car’s reckoning – and thankfully only had to wait for a moment to get my photo taken, and only a couple of minutes after that to get my card handed to me. I went from there to the northeast side of the 2000 building to the bookstore, and then walked back along the east side of campus to get to the parking lot on the south side. And that was the end of my exercise for the day. Between the heat and the fairly long distance (by my standards, anyway) I was done.

And that’s that. The only preparation I have left to do will be next weekend, when I pick up a couple of three-ring binders, some loose leaf paper, and a scientific calculator.

I can’t believe that so much has happened just in the past few days. I look back at everything I’ve done since last Thursday – the meeting with the departmental advising specialist, the appointment with my psychiatrist, the area of study information session, registering for my college algebra class and picking up that textbook, then finding out that biology fundamentals would be authorized by Texas Workforce Commission and registering for that class and picking up its textbook, the meeting with student accessibility services, the appointment with my psychiatrist, picking up a parking permit and a student ID – this is the busiest week that I can remember having in a long time.

And because of that, and because there’s not really that much to do, tomorrow I’m taking it easy. I think I’ve earned that.

But Wait, There’s More!

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Yesterday I registered for my first college class. Last night, before I went to bed, I checked my account with the school. I had a zero balance. It was a great feeling to fall asleep with.

This morning I had a meeting with the college’s Student Accessibility Services office. My counselor was very pleased that I’d gotten the application done before the meeting, and after we got the introductory details out of the way, we started going over the accommodations that she recommended for me. Despite a letter from my psychologist explaining that I’ve been improving recently, my counselor approached my situation from a standpoint of what the stress of school could cause in someone with my diagnoses rather than what I’ve been exhibiting. We decided on a list of seven accommodations designed to help me learn – six of her own recommendation, and one that I requested. We then went on to examine the class that I had registered for, to see if I was taking a class taught by an instructor who’s not as accommodating of students in my situation. The verdict is that the instructor is not the best choice, but tolerable. There are two other instructors that she would recommend for that class, and I’m waitlisted for a class with one of them. (I signed up for a class that I knew would have seats in it, but then put myself on the waitlist for a class with more desirable hours. If a spot comes open when they get to me, then I get to attend that class instead.) We chatted for a while longer and then she went to scan all my forms, and that’s when I got an email.

Last Thursday, I wrote about my meeting with an advisory specialist in the Health Sciences department, and how much it had added to my list of things to do before I’m accepted into the sonography program. There’s one part in particular that I want to bring to your attention:

Back to Anatomy & Physiology I for a minute. There have been so many students that have taken and failed this course since it was instituted that they now give an assessment test that you need to score a 70% or higher on in order to place into A&P I. There is a list of test objectives, so you’ll have an idea what to expect on this test. That list is six pages long. I can either study for it on my own, or I can take Biology Fundamentals, a course that exists only to be preparation for this exam. Because it’s not part of this or any other degree program, it’s almost certainly going to have to come out of my pocket and not be covered by my agreement with Texas Workforce Commission.

In my Thursday afternoon letter to my counselor at Texas Workforce Commission, who’s underwriting my education as part of the Return to Work program, I explained that I understood that this course wasn’t going to be covered, but would she allow me to take it anyway? I hadn’t heard back from her until today, and she had unexpected news. She was going to authorize payment for the Biology Fundamentals class!

When my counselor with SAS returned to the room after scanning my documents, I told her about the email, and she sat right down and helped me find a suitable class for me to take. Or rather, she tried to. Her computer was locking up on her and preventing her from registering me for the class that we’d agreed on, so she told me that she’d get to it later in the day. I asked her if it would be helpful for me to try and register when I got home, and she said it would.

On my way out, I noticed that parking permits were sold online and at the cashier’s office, for cash only. I was going to put it on my debit card, so I signed into the system on my phone and quickly had a receipt in hand. I went to the cashier’s office, told them I’d just sent the transaction in, and they looked me up in their system and handed me my parking permit.

I went home and signed onto the course offerings and registered for an evening class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then waitlisted myself for one in the morning on the same days. (That made it impossible for me to get both classes that I’d waitlisted myself for, as one ends right before another begins, and they’re on different campuses.)

In the afternoon I saw my therapist, and told her that her letter to SAS was perfectly sufficient and explained what accommodations I’d been given. We discussed that, and all that’s transpired in two weeks, and it was at that moment that I realized just how much stuff is happening to me in a very short period of time. She asked me if I was proud of my accomplishments, and I told her I was. We talked more about school and life in general before the end of what was a very good appointment.

I left there and went straight back to campus to try and pick up my books. I was able to get one, for college algebra, but I’m going to have to go to another campus to pick up my textbook for Biology Fundamentals. That’s a trip that’s going to have to happen tomorrow, as I’d run out of time to do anything else before picking my wife up from work.

So that’s my day. It seems I’m going to be taking six credit hours of classes this semester, although only three will count toward my degree program. It’s going to be a very quick turnaround next semester, as I’m going to have to take the entrance exam for Anatomy & Physiology I around the time I’m doing finals in order for it to allow me to register for that class in the spring. My plan for the spring is to bump the courseload up to a full 12 hours and attend A&P I, Introduction to Physics, and a couple of my co-requisite courses to get them out of the way.

Spring is going to be a busy time, but I’ll prove to myself this fall that I can handle it.

One last thing. I checked my account with the school this afternoon after I’d registered for Biology Fundamentals. I had a balance of something over a thousand dollars. I checked it again just before writing this blog post. It was back to zero again. Both classes have been paid for, and both books have been credited to my account. So far this semester I’ve paid fifteen bucks out of pocket, and that was for my parking permit.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was the best feeling of all.

 

Cue the Inspirational Music

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It’s been yet another day of doing as little as I possibly can. I’ve spent a lot of time in Secret World Legends today doing PvP on my main character, trying to build resources up for a huge crafting project I’m working on. I’ve done some chores around the apartment, nothing too momentous but not quite nothing.

Tomorrow I start in earnest trying to prep for registering for school. There are some hoops that I have to jump through, as the payment arrangements must be on file at the time of registration and those payment arrangements are coming through Texas Workforce Commission. That’ll be two, maybe three phone calls I’ll need to make. I have an appointment with my psychiatrist tomorrow afternoon, so all my productive time is going to have to be relegated to the morning. I’d like to start in on the program handbook – that’s a 65 page read and I hold no illusions that I’ll get it done in a day – but I don’t know if I’ll get to it.

Until I’m actually in classes, I’m trying to reserve my evenings for time with my wife. We enjoy spending time with one another and I want to maximize that while I still can. One class won’t take up the majority of my time, but a full class load will, and I need to start prepping for that.

So much to do. So little time to get it done in. So many hoops to jump through. I sometimes question if it’s worth it, if I’m ready for something this big. But I tend to respond in the affirmative. I’ve been working toward this goal for years, even though the goal was some vague declaration and not a clear plan until very recently. I’ve still been trying to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for being in school, especially full-time, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.

I sometimes catch myself telling myself that I can’t do this, that I’m building this up to be an insurmountable challenge. I find myself saying that I don’t know what I’m doing. But I also almost immediately counter that with the fact that I may not know what I’m doing now, but that’s the point of going to school, to learn how to do this new career. The expectation is that I don’t have a clue. And true, I didn’t have a clue what’s expected of me for school up until last Thursday, but now I do, and now that I see it’s a fairly extensive list of prerequisites to get into the program, I’m telling myself that I’m up for the challenge. It will be a challenge, make no mistake of that. Health Sciences courses are intense for a reason. But I can do it. And I will do it.

Blah

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Today was a repeat of yesterday. Lots of goofing off, not much adulting to be done. These days are going to be few and far between over the next few years because of school, but it’ll be worth it.

My mood has been kinda low today, though. Not down, per se, just a little low. It’s been a hard feeling to shake. I’ve also been tired most of the day as well.

Days like this I really don’t know what to write about. Nothing much happened. I played games on the computer all day, and my wife and I did our radio show in the evening. I feel like I’m somehow shortchanging you, my readers, by not having more to talk about. But I suppose lazy days like today are important from time to time.

And Then There Was Nothing

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Today I did as little as humanly possible. My week has been hectic and stressful (at least relatively speaking) and I felt the need to just take it easy today.

I still paid all the bills, though, so there was a little adulting that happened in a whole lot of goofing off.

I didn’t once look at anything relating to school. After yesterday, I needed the break. I know that when school starts I can’t do this, but I need to try to go into things gradually instead of all at once. I’m glad it looks like I can only do one class this semester. It would be a perfect opportunity to dip my toes in, so to speak, before diving in headfirst.

And in keeping with that whole being a slug theme today, that’s about all that I’m doing to put in this post. More tomorrow.

The Results Are In

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This morning I went to take my TSI college placement exam at Austin Community College. I’ve been worried about this test for some time, especially the math portion.

They say that the average student takes three to four hours to take the reading, writing, essay, and mathematics portions of the test. Knowing that there would be a full section of the math section that I just didn’t know, I expected to be done earlier than the expected time, but my wife and I planned just in case it took me the full time and she packed her lunch today instead of coming home, since I would still have the car for her lunch hour.

They don’t allow you to take anything into the lab with you – not cellphones, not scratch paper, nothing. They let me take a couple of pencils into the lab with me, but that was it. All my valuables were locked in a locker and the key stayed with me. In addition, they hold your license for safe keeping during the test.

I started the exam at 8:57 am. I finished at 10:46. It took me just shy of one hour and 43 minutes, considerably less time than I expected. That made me nervous.

Fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait. In the time it took me to head out to the locker and retrieve my belongings they had my test scores ready for interpretation by the advising office. I grabbed my printout and headed down the hall to advising.

I scored a 388 in the reading placement portion of the exam. The minimum score is 351.

In the writing placement portion, I scored a 389. It’s up to my academic adviser to interpret that score for me, so I’ve left her a voicemail and am waiting to hear back, at this point probably tomorrow. I’m unsure what the minimum score is, but I’m fairly confident that I passed that threshold.

My score for the essay portion of the exam is pending review, yet in the test scores section of my report, it gives my score as 8. It also says that I have a “clear and consistent mastery of on-demand essay writing,” so I’m assuming that an 8 is decent enough to pass. I’ll find out tomorrow with a call to the assessment center.

All of those results were expected. But it’s the mathematics placement score that concerned me.

I haven’t taken a general math exam in over 30 years. Some fifteen years ago I took a semester of pharmacy math, but that course in large part dealt with specific formulas used in the pharmacy field and imperial to metric conversions. I wasn’t expecting a lot out of my score.

The minimum score required by the TSI is 350. I scored 361. However, I didn’t relax until I heard my adviser tell me in so many words that my scores were “pretty high” and that I’d placed out of any remedial courses required for college.

That means a lot to my situation. My education is in large part being paid for by the Texas Workforce Commission, and they have very specific requirements about what they will and won’t pay for. They’ll pay for pre-requisites, but not remedial courses. My results today just saved me over a thousand dollars out of pocket.

I’ve been very tired since getting home from the exam. I think the stress of uncertainty has gone away and I was putting a lot of energy into that stress. Now that it’s gone, I can relax, at least for the day. I’ve still got only a few weeks to pull everything together in order to make fall classes, and there’s still a lot to be done.

But this is one big obstacle down, and I can breathe again.

I Have Fear

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Today I tested myself with the sample questions that Austin Community College gave me for the TSI college placement exam I’m taking tomorrow. There are sections in sentence skills, reading comprehension, arithmetic, elementary algebra, and college-level mathematics. (There’s also an essay question that I didn’t do because there’s no way of scoring it before the exam tomorrow.) Out of 25 sentence skills questions, I missed two. I scored perfectly on reading comprehension and arithmetic, and I missed six of 20 questions in elementary algebra. I attempted to go through the college-level questions, but it was very clear that they were all beyond me. I took a stab at a few questions that I thought I could figure out, and I missed all of them.

This concerns me a bit, as my deal with Texas Workforce Commission says that they only pay for the pre-requisite classes listed for the degree. If I wind up placing below college algebra, then I’m on the hook for that course, and it will be at the greatly increased out-of-district rate, which will be over a thousand dollars for one three-hour course. That could derail my whole degree plan with TWC, and my mind is trying to figure out all the “what if” scenarios that could result.

I once read that someone describes that act of looking for all the “what ifs” as trying to determine all the places a served racquetball could land. It’s just impossible to do without much more information – where the ball was served to, how fast was it served, etc. This situation with my education is the same way – I just don’t have all the data in front of me, and so many things are still speculation at this point that there’s no way of figuring out all the possibilities just yet. With time and a little patience, the path ahead will become much clearer.

I have to remind myself that going in to excel isn’t what I’m trying to do. I need to give an honest assessment of my skill level, especially in mathematics, in order to be placed in the appropriate class.

Fortunately I’ll receive my results immediately upon completing the test, so there won’t be any suspense about where I wind up. Based on my pre-assessment questions, there’s no chance whatsoever that I’ll place out of college algebra, but hopefully I won’t place below college algebra, either. That’s my best-case scenario.

Here’s hoping. I’ll give an update tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.