Here is a guest post by Dawn Marcotte. She contacted me to provide this wonderful post written especially for SpEd students wanting to go to college. Thank you Dawn!
Why College is Important for Special Education Students
The importance of attending college cannot be overstated for everyone who wants to earn a livable income. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=77) students who have a college degree earn a median annual salary of $46,900 per year from the age of 25 – 34. Those with only a high school degree earn a median salary of $30,00 for the same ages. They went on to say that 73% of people with college degrees were employed full time.
While these statistics are informative, they don’t explain why college is so important for special education students.
Post-secondary education is so much more than just going to class, passing tests and graduating. College provides opportunities individuals simply won’t find anywhere else. Opportunities for:
- Internships and on the job training
- Learning life skills
- Expanding interests
- Help getting a job after graduation
In addition a college education can expose students to others who share their passion. This can allow students to begin to build a support network that can last a lifetime.
Internships and Job Training
After graduating from high school many students are looking forward to the freedom of being an adult. Unfortunately that freedom is not actually free. It requires income to pay rent, buy food, own a car and all of the other expenses that go with living independently. Earning a livable income can be a struggle, particularly for those who have little or no job experience.
College offers many opportunities to gain that experience. There may be internships within the students chosen field, job training within their specialty or simply working at the college itself. Many students work for the school on a part-time basis as a way to help pay for their education. All of these options provide valuable job experience that is not otherwise available.
These jobs provide a safe opportunity to learn important job skills, ask questions and gain experience in an environment designed to teach these skills.
College is so much more than just going to class and graduating. There are academic organizations, student groups, fraternities, sororities, volunteer opportunities and the list goes on. Every school is different and it is important to choose a school with at least some interesting groups already available.
Joining one or more organizations or groups allows students to meet and build relationships with students who share that interest. These relationships can grow over time and become more important after graduation when students are looking for jobs. Getting involved will also expose students to opportunities to meet alumni and other adults who may have an established career. These connections can be invaluable when students are looking for employment. It has been said, “It isn’t so much what you know as who you know.” An individual who has an established relationship with someone within a company is more likely to at least get an interview than someone who simply responds to an ad online.
Learning Life Skills
College challenges everyone. Students learn how to:
- Study effectively
- Manage a schedule
- Get to class on time
- Prioritize activities
- Get along in a study group
- Get along with a roommate
- Buy your own groceries
- Pay bills on time
- Do your own laundry
- And much, much more
These skills may not come easily and may require some support from the college, but they can all be mastered. Everyone learns and changes over time, no matter what their specific situation may be. Attending college will help young adults push themselves to learn skills sooner, allowing them to become more independent.
College often involves meeting a lot of new people. These people may not share the same background, ethnicity, culture, ideals, language or passions. Getting to know them can open up a new world of ideas and options. Old interests may change and evolve, simply through exposure to new ideas about that interest.
College often has a much wider range of options for classes as well as extra-curricular activities than what students had available in high school. Having the option to participate in these allows students to learn more about their world and what they truly find interesting. These options can also turn an old interest into a job.
Help Getting a Job
Many colleges have assistance programs to help students find jobs after graduation. This may include hosting job fairs, managing internships, helping students learn interview skills or cooperating with local businesses to advertise job openings.
In addition some organizations within a college may have additional options to help with job searches. For example a student who is studying accounting and has been involved in the local student chapter of the American Institute of CPA’s may have access to job openings or internships through that organization.
Attending college is an important step towards becoming financially independent. Adults who make the effort to attend will reap many rewards, regardless of their age.
Are you a student with an I.E.P. who successfully transitioned to college? If so, what are some helpful tips or suggestions you would add? Was your experience a positive one?
If you would like to read more articles by Dawn Marcotte, here is a link: http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/author/dawnmarcotte/