A Change Will Do Me Good

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Today I made the executive decision to acquire a laptop for college. Between games, bookmarks, files, music, and other things, I have a ton of distractions on this rig that I fear might get in the way of me studying. Besides, this laptop is somewhat iffy on whether its battery will work, and the keyboard is still shot all to hell, so to keep from lugging a 17.3″, six pound laptop, plus accessories including power cord, mouse, and keyboard, I’m going with something smaller.

Fortunately this switch won’t be an expensive one, at least at first. I have a 12″ Asus Taichi 21 2-in-1 that’s mostly just sitting here. We purchased for a use that turned out to be impractical, so it’s been on the shelf, collecting dust since we got it three years ago. That’s going to make a perfect school laptop for now.

I would, however, like to look at the possibility of getting another laptop for use in class. I have nothing against the Taichi, but it’s small. There’s a full-size keyboard on it, but it doesn’t have a numpad, and I would very much like to have one.

I don’t need anything fancy – no 2-in-1 capability, no touch screen, no DVD or Blu-ray drive. I’d like an i5 – don’t think I’ll need anything more powerful than that – and I’d like for it to have a hard drive somewhere between 250 GB and 500 GB. Getting eight GB of RAM would be nice. And outside of that, I don’t really have much in the way of demands. I don’t think this will be an expensive laptop – I could be wrong – but I’d prefer to spend less than more.

That won’t happen until next year’s tax returns, if it happens at all. I’ll have the Taichi for the entirety of my first semester, and I may decide in that time that it will adequately serve my purpose for college. We’ll just have to see.

In preparation for its new use, I’ve created a user on it that’s attached to my school email, and done all the customizing on it that I would like. It’s currently charging its battery as I type this, and I’ll be able to see just how well it will work in a couple of weeks.

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.

 

Done Deal

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This morning I attended my Area of Study information session, which is a requirement to be able to register for classes at Austin Community College. The meeting was at the Hays campus, which is in Kyle, a town south of Austin. I live on the north side of Austin, and so I had to drive down Interstate 35 through downtown in rush hour traffic.

Until recently, I’ve avoided driving unless it was absolutely necessary thanks to my anxiety. I’ve been able to wrangle short trips to my therapist and doctors appointments, as well as the jaunt down surface roads to drop my wife off at work and pick her up again on the days I need the car, but I’ve only driven if I was literally the only person in the car – whenever I’d pick up my wife, she’d take the wheel. Over the past two or three months, I’ve started driving her more frequently, but I’ve still avoided bad traffic at any cost, and my trips have been mostly just a few miles at a time.

Today represented the worst traffic that I’ve driven through in years, as well as the longest distance that I’ve driven during that time. I got through it with surprisingly little stress and made it to my appointment with enough time to stop and have a sit-down breakfast as opposed to drive-through fast food.

The meeting itself was two hours long, and split evenly into general school information and specific information on the health sciences programs. Of the latter part, the adviser spent perhaps four minutes on sonography, but it was good information to have. I took a good amount of notes and got an ACC-branded hacky sack for attending.

The adviser for the more generalized portion asked for my TSI assessment scores so that he could note them and get them into my student record, something that had apparently not transpired as of that point in time. (He also didn’t have my name in his records, because he did all his research on his attendees on Friday and I signed up for the session yesterday, but that was a very minor detail.) At one point while he reviewed my scores, he commented “Somebody likes to write!” I had to smile at that. It turns out my writing and essay scores blew away the minimum requirement to be considered TSI complete, something I didn’t know until this session.

He told us that we should give him 24 hours to get our attendance noted in our records so that we could register. So when I got home, I had lunch and then, out of curiosity, went to go check to see if I could register yet.

And I could. So I did.

I registered for one class that meets Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but waitlisted myself for a section that meets on Monday and Wednesday mornings, to avoid interfering with my wife’s work schedule. Hopefully I’ll get notification that I made that latter class, but if I don’t I’m guaranteed a seat in the former.

Once I’d done that, I sent an email over to the Texas Workforce Commission liaison at ACC to get the ball rolling on tuition. (For those who are new, I’m on disability and working with TWC to re-educate myself for a return back to the workforce. TWC is sponsoring my education.) I also sent over a request for book expenses as well, hoping to hear back within a few days.

I got my confirmation emails about 45 minutes ago. Tuition will be paid for tomorrow and my book will be ready for me to pick up at the bookstore tomorrow as well.

I’m about as officially a college student as I can be.

There are some details left to work out. I still need to stop by campus and get my physical student ID card done, as well as my parking permit. I need to change my major to pre-health sciences. And I need to wait on the decision about which section I’ll be attending, Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday. But everything else is pretty much done at this point.

Next semester I’m going to try to start working on some of my co-requisites so I can knock them out. Besides, having them done prior to being accepted in the cardiovascular sonography program will give my application to the program extra weight.

Part of me want to celebrate tonight. Part of me wants to just go to bed.

So for all intents and purposes, everything’s over but the waiting.

Classes start August 28th.

I can’t wait.

Starting to Click in Place

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I met with my psychiatrist today.

I told him everything that’s been going on over the last two months, and he was very pleasantly surprised by all that’s transpired. He wanted to stress to me what a big deal it is to go from a career in medical billing and coding, which has no patient interaction, to sonography, which has constant patient interaction. I told him that my social anxiety tends to only flare up in truly social situations – if I have a purpose or goal when talking to someone, like on the job or when I’m a customer someplace, I’m usually just fine. He said I should be very proud of myself for all that I’ve accomplished and wished me luck with school going forward. For obvious reasons, he kept me on the same medication regimen and told me to come back in three months.

I also rescheduled an appointment that I had with Austin Community College’s Student Accessibility Services tomorrow morning for Wednesday morning. I had to reschedule because an availability came up for a Health Sciences Area of Study information session tomorrow morning, and that’s a far, far harder appointment to get than the one with SAS. So I cancelled my appointment for an AoS session on the 26th – two days before classes start – and grabbed the one and only slot available for the entire department system-wide for the rest of the semester. This is going to let me register for classes much earlier than I would otherwise be able to – hopefully as soon as tomorrow afternoon or evening. (The AoS session is a requirement for all new students before registering for their first semester of classes, hence why I wanted to expedite the session if possible.)

I’ve got a busy week, appointment-wise. Today I met with my psychiatrist, tomorrow it’s my AoS session,  and Wednesday it’s the meeting with SAS and also my appointment with my therapist. I’m still taking all these changes to the status quo in stride, without getting uptight about them. I’m actually looking forward to starting the semester.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll hear back from my counselor at Texas Workforce Commission about a few questions that I had. She’s been out of the office for the last few days, so hopefully she’ll get to my email early.

Boy Howdy There’s More

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This morning I met with one of the advising specialists for Health Sciences at Austin Community College, and learned that while I did a ton of research into the field of cardiovascular sonography, I didn’t do that much into the degree program.

I went into my meeting knowing that I had to take the TSI assessment test, I needed to go to an Area of Study informational meeting, and I needed to register for classes before school starts in the fall. I walked out a little bit tharn (that’s the term used for “frozen in terror,” for those that didn’t read Watership Down).

Before I get into that, let me reassure you that I am even more dedicated to this degree program after my meeting. It went very well and my advising specialist was extremely nice and welcoming. I learned an awful lot and found out how to learn even more when I got home. So I did.

There’s a three-page long document called Sonography Programs Advising Checklist that I was linked to. The first step in this process is to print out the checklist. Okay, done, no problem. Next, I need to complete sonography student lab volunteer sessions for diagnostic medical sonography, diagnostic cardiovascular sonography, and vascular technology. Each session is an hour long and consists of roleplaying the “patient” for students to practice their ultrasound techniques. For additional points on my Applicant Ranking Worksheet, the criteria that determines who gets admitted, I can sit for up to four sessions per specialty, so a total of 12 hours in the lab. This is understandable, it’s designed to let prospective students know what they’re getting themselves into firsthand, and also shows a little bit of how the students learn. Next, I need to explore the ACC Sonography website, being careful to read everything. I’ve just spent the last several hours doing just that, and printing several documents out for easy future reference. I also need to complete the mandatory online information session and verification post tests, and print out the form that shows that I’ve done that. This, too, has been completed. After that’s done, I need to schedule a Sonography Program Advising Session, and take several completed forms with me, including my immunization form. (Because of the false starts in this process prior to settling on sonography, I’ve already got most of this done and will complete it early next month.) And then comes the requirements to apply.

First off, I have to have applied to the school, something I did months ago. I have my student ID number, student email, the only thing I’m missing in that department is a physical student ID card and a parking permit. My immunizations need to be complete. I need to have completed College Algebra, Anatomy & Physiology I (more on that in a minute), Anatomy & Physiology II, and Applied Physics as prerequisite courses, and I need to have earned a minimum 2.7 GPA on them, although to be competitive for a spot in the program that needs to be 3.5 or higher. I need to have completed a Certified Nurse Aide program (more on that in a minute too). And I need to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), a test used in nursing and allied health programs to determine an applicant’s proficiency in reading, math, science, and English and language usage. Somewhere in there I need to get my basic first aid and CPR certification and prove it’s current as of the date I apply to the program.

Finally, there’s the matter of earning additional points on my Applicant Ranking Worksheet, which I can do by taking the co-requisite courses (the non-sonography courses that are part of the degree program – English Composition I, Interpersonal Communication, Introduction to Psychology, Ethics, and Essentials of Medical Terminology) and working as either a volunteer or paid person in direct patient care for at least 80 hours. If I were an EMT-Basic, LVN, RN, radiology technician, or paramedic I could get even more additional points on my worksheet. Naturally, the higher the score, the better your chances of getting in.

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.

The Certified Nurse Aide is a certificate program that lasts 5-10 weeks and covers two classes. Neither of these are credit toward my degree plan, and because of that this is likely also going to have to be paid for by me. But at least I’ll have a fallback career plan if things don’t go well with sonography.

There are other requirements as well, like a long list of psychomotor skills and abilities that an applicant needs to be able to do for prolonged periods of time. I might not be able to do them all now, but I can work on it while I’m in school. Besides, I have a feeling that once I’m in school, I’m going to start dropping weight.

The program has four clinical sessions throughout, and the locations are assigned by the school and cannot under any circumstance be requested by a student – you go where you’re told. The trick is, the service area for these locations can be anywhere from Waco to San Antonio, and for those not familiar with Texas geography, that’s as much as a three hour round trip, five days a week for a semester.

I’m going to need to find some way of getting a second car. There’s no way that we can manage that kind of commuting for both of us with only one vehicle. It’s not going to have to be nice, although that would be lovely. It needs to run reliably and not dump me on the side of the road somewhere. That’s going to be something that’s going to come in time, however, plenty of time to figure out our options.

So that’s what I have to do to get into school. It’s a boring list, and I knew it would be more extensive than “take these prerequisites and you’re in” but I didn’t quite expect this much. Fortunately I’ve gotten some of these things done already or will be taking care of them fairly soon. It’s no matter, though. It’ll get done. Not sure how tonight, but it’ll happen.

Picking Up Speed

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So there have been several updates to my school saga this morning.

First and foremost, I discovered that the Individual Plan for Employment amendment that Texas Workforce Commission and I did regarding the switch to cardiovascular sonography was approved – and in fact was approved before I ever got a copy of the plan in my hands! Everything’s a go with TWC!

The second point is going to take some explaining. Texas Workforce Commission requires that a client returning to school through TWC assistance take at least 12 credit hours per semester. I have four prerequisite classes: college algebra, anatomy & physiology I, A&P II (which requires A&P I), and introduction to physics (which requires college algebra). That’s four classes split into two semesters, and neither one of those will have anywhere near 12 credit hours. So it’s been a bit of a concern as to whether TWC would pay for those classes. (There’s a semester in the program that has only 11 credit hours, so this is a situation that will be occurring three times during my education.) I found out today that all I need to do is explain my situation and they can write a justification that will give me an exception to that rule. So even the semesters with a light course load will be covered.

Third, I have an appointment on Saturday, August 26 to attend my Area of Study information session which is basically an orientation to the department. Attendance in that session is required before I will be allowed to register for classes. Problem is, fall classes start on the 28th, and it will be impossible to get books through TWC’s channels in time. So I have another appointment with one of my academic advisers on Thursday to hopefully expedite the process somewhat. Hopefully that will give me enough time to register for the classes I need and get my books and supplies before the semester begins.

So that leaves the meeting with my adviser, my AoS information session, actual registration for classes, and acquisition of student ID, parking permit, and books to do before the end of the month. At one point I would have told you that it would be impossible to get all this done in time. Now, I’m not so sure about that. It seems possible, although it’s going to be a tight squeeze.

This is really happening. I’m excited and nervous all at once.


Now that I have definite confirmation of this being a real live thing, I’m adding a new category that will deal with my going to college – Think For Yourself. As with all my categories, its name comes from the title of a Beatles song. If you’re interested in this aspect of my life, and want to read everything that deals with it, you can search this category.