Autism and College Success

If you ask a roomful of college graduates the most important thing they learned in college, generally, not one person in the room talks about what they learned in the classroom. You get a lot of responsibility, passion, love, working with others, beer pong, organizational skills, what I didn’t want to do, happiness, but you don’t get biomechanical microbiological primate philosophical mathematical science. This is the elephant in the classroom.

Everyone says you should go to college to get a diploma and have a meaningful career. Rarely is that what they value about their own time at university. College is much more than just studying, exams, textbooks and long lectures. In fact, if that’s all it was, no one would go. The information you learn at college exists online, everywhere, for much less hassle. So, why is the promise of college so reliably fostered by every generation?  College is a holistic adventure and thus, to be truly successful in college, you must foster all dimensions of the college experience.

If you think of a truly successful college experience, there are four core dimensions that emerge, specifically: learning, engaging, living, and giving back. First, the boring stuff. Everyone expects to “hit the books” in college. You take classes, you study, you do assignments and projects, and you take exams. You are learning. This is the area that most people claim is the most important. It’s certainly the most expensive aspect. However, if you stay at home and take all of your classes online, you have missed the most essential parts of the college experience.

Which brings us to the second core dimension. Generally, people have fun in college by engaging in the community. This may be getting involved in sports, clubs, political movements or hobbies. This is where you learn to socialize and interact with other like-minded, motivated people. And because there are so many students, you’re incredibly lucky to be forced to deal with unlike-minded folks, too.  Higher Education indeed! College students begin dating and having girlfriends and boyfriends and then they break up and do it again. That’s how they learn to eventually be good husbands and wives. So, I guess all this engaging can lead to engagements. But, it’s more important that you are making friends and being as social as you find comfortable.

Third, college is where students learn to live independently. Basically, instead of pretending to play house, you actually get to play house. You actually get to do this living thing. This is not only the time you get to choose your favorite tapestry or poster to proudly display in your room, but it’s also your first opportunity to actually begin doing the tasks your parents nagged you about and warned would be all yours in the not too distant future. Students slowly learn how to cook, clean, live with other people, manage their money, and pay their bills. Simply put, this is the time most people grow up.

Finally, students develop a world perspective and vocational skills through giving back. Giving back can be volunteering, internships, work study, community involvement and part time jobs. Indeed, a successful college student incorporates all four of these dimensions and without attention to each, you leave experiences on the table necessary for a truly successful college experience.