College classes are hugely resourceful. Whether “Going the College Way” is right for you or not, a lot of knowledge can be gained just from listening to one lecture, interacting with peers interested in and studying the same subjects as you, and having knowledgeable, resourceful authorities whose brains you can pick endlessly.
There are three basic ways to take advantage of college classes without necessarily aiming for a degree: non-degree programs, auditing classes, or the less sophisticated, more free-form version, crashing classes.
Crashing classes sounds daunting but is actually is super easy. It’s also quite fun – a great recreational activity. I did it most recently at the 2011 Zero Tuition College Camp in October: we set aside one of the days to hang out at UNC-Asheville and feel out the college experience. It was a very simple process:
• Pick a nearby college with a department(s) that interest you
• Find the class descriptions and schedule online and determine the class you want to go to
• Contact the professor and/or department of your choice by e-mail or phone and ask them if you can come sit in on their class (if the class is a huge one at a public university, this may not really be necessary)
• Show up!
• A bonus is to talk to the professor afterwards, at least on your first visit. If you decide that you like the class, they probably won’t mind you continuing to sit in.
The last class I crashed was a sophomore-level ecology course, and even though I only attended once, I got tons out of it. The lecture that day was on the chemical properties of soil, which happens to be one of my secret obsession. I took tons of notes and was finally able to understand what was happening with the soil at the farm I worked at earlier this year.