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Submitted on
March 26, 2013


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The other day, my dad handed me a printout of an article from a conservative website about going to college. Dad does this from time to time, I think because he suspects I'm a filthy liberal, and wants to send a few shots across the bow to see if I fire back. I usually don't, because I've been through enough warfare to have a better idea of when to pick my battles.

Well, I won't reference the article directly, but the gist of it was that college is a bit of a costly venture that doesn't always yield the results it promises for the price of admission, and may actually do more harm than good. (High schoolers, meditate on that for a minute, please)

Now, the article itself sort of descended into a screed about how colleges just crank out liberals anyway, and liberals tend to vote Democrat, and we should just bust the whole thing up because dear God, we need conservative voters or they'll have a WOMAN in the White House next...

...Which is unfortunate, because "liberal conspiracy" aside, I felt the article had some good points. Unless you live somewhere where there ain't no TeeVee, it's pretty well drilled into your head that college follows high school sure as the night follows the day, college equals good paying job, and "no college" equals dumbshit failure. Does that sound about right? You're not going to college? Hell, even Simple Timmy from two doors down went to TECH SCHOOL, you are GOING to go to college, little lady!

But that's the thing. There's a lot of emphasis put on going to college, and we've been brought up to believe that it's the next step after high school. Or even if it's not as automatic as all that, it's still what you ought to do, right? You want a good job, right?

Hold on...since we're told by everyone under the sun that these are "tough economic times", we ought to be a little more inquisitive about what we're spending money on, right? seems rather weird that college, with its often six-figure price tag, is something of a necessity in these times of woe and want. It almost seems as if college is a business, and not an institution of higher learning.

Look, I'm not here to get into a tit-for-tat about courses and schools and job placement or whatever. If you want to be a doctor? Go to college. A lawyer? An engineer? A superstar quarterback? GO TO COLLEGE. College is not evil! But if you don't know what you want, DON'T GO TO COLLEGE. If you have a vague idea but really just want to party away from your parents for a few years, DON'T GO TO COLLEGE. They don't say this enough in high school. College is for LEARNING. You can party on your own time for FAR LESS MONEY. If you don't have an explicit reason to go to college, there's no clock ticking for you right out of school. Experience life, experience jobs, experience paying debts before you decide to throw a ton of money at a system that insists you need it for its own interests.

Higher learning is a good thing. But we've gone and gotten ourselves into thinking it's the only thing. This is especially my advice to any young artists who might be reading this. For me, art college was not a mistake. But it was costly--very costly--and if I can do any good in this world, then part of it surely must be saving someone from a college price tag before they knew what such a thing meant :)

This is actually a discussion VERY worth having. If there are any college graduates out there reading this, or high schoolers on the cusp of making a decision, I'd love to hear from you. Is college worth it? When is it worth it?  What about student debt? Tuition? I'd be interested in hearing some thoughts.
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goldenavatar Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2013
Is college worth it? That's entirely up to the individual, but it has to be the individual who makes that decision. If you're fresh out of high school with no work experience of your own or resources to independently engage the costs it maybe a disaster waiting to happen. There's more to college than showing up with your high school diploma under your shoulder.

When is it worth it? When you have a path in mind, the money to afford the journey, and the professional network that is encouraging you along the way.

What about student debt? When on the tail end of an undergrad education, sure. Not for all four years. For grads, if the undergrad degree didn't generate income, a masters in the same subject is just a bad investment unless you plan to go into education. And be forewarned, going into education will mean you will likely NEVER develop consistent real world experience that will ensure your credibility outside of academic circles.

Tuition? Start small at a public junior college. Get an associates and develop the study skills you'll need to succeed. Identify professional associations and a network you can call upon later. But remember, you have to give to receive. No one wants to hear about what you want unless you're also offering of yourself.
dragonaur Featured By Owner May 19, 2013  Hobbyist
Payback depends on what you study.
IronAnarchy Featured By Owner May 15, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
It's been a while since I last checked your page, and what do I see, you've posted something ridiculously relevant to my current situation.

I just had my last day of high school yesterday. I've had it in my head I won't be continuing my education since I was hell young and still hold to that. The necessity of college really depends entirely upon what you want to do - and being a lawyer or a doctor isn't the only road to success. My goals consist of writing a few books, making a kickass webcomic and turning it into an animated series, traveling the whole world overland for 2-4 years while working odd jobs, killing a few people during a short stint in the military, and then starting a business once I settle down.

None of these things are something that require formal education - I've got all the traits for them, and in time skills as well. A lot of people around me are subtly pressuring me into college or reacting as if I'm going to waste my life away as a waiter but fuck 'em, 30 years from now I'll have achieved far more than they could dream of.

I've noticed a lot of people on reddit (which is pretty american dominated) with fancy STEM degrees going on about education, and how you're going to flip burgers your whole life without it but that false elitism really needs to stop. The greatest people history has known are those who hadn't followed the road defined by society, but made their own. Young people need to be told that if they know what they want, and it doesn't require education, there's no need for them to get it.

I'm still rather nervous about straying from the well-defined path - I'm not certain about my plans. I intend to do freelance writing on the web to support myself in the first few years, and while I live in a country where you can live very comfortably on 500$ a month, I still have no idea if I'll find enough clients and make it work for me. My second option is unskilled labor but I have no idea where to find that work, it's certainly not on the internet.

But these issues are still much better than college for me.
bladehawk949 Featured By Owner May 8, 2013  Student General Artist
What would you advise for me?
I'm doing my final exams and I know what I WANT to do, but I'm not sure whether I'm ready to do it...
VanHeist Featured By Owner May 8, 2013
If you're asking, I'd advise this:

Unless you're an elderly person or terminally ill, there's time :) This will sound a lot like procrastination, but there's no harm in delaying a decision while you get your house in order. Knowing what you want is easier than knowing you're ready, but don't let yourself be rushed into a decision you don't necessarily feel you're prepared to make. The whole point of this journal was not to point out that college is bad or worthless, but that it's an expensive choice that requires a clear head and preparation, and will serve you much better if you go into it that way.

So, in a nutshell, take what time you need to prepare yourself, and when you're ready, take that next step. Good luck!
ZachValkyrie Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Student Writer
The thing people don't realize is that college needs to be job-focused. For example: I'm going to Wentworth to study computer science. I have a bunch of friends in nearby Northeastern University who are business students in dire need of a few good codemonkeys.

I'm incurring a bit of debt (not as much as those NU kids though! Suckers!); but when my time is up, I'm pretty much guaranteed a decent job with a good salary, so my debt will be gone comparatively quickly (assuming I can keep my head above water for the next three years of course!) I have a very clear plan of what I'm doing and where I'm going, and that's good.

I have plenty of friends who did not go to college and are actually doing very well for themselves. I have OTHER friends still who went to college because that's just what you're expected to do when you live in an upper-middle-class town in Massachusetts. Those kids are drowning in student loan debt and freakin' miserable (but they'll never admit it!)

It all comes down to having a realistic goal in mind.
roknin Featured By Owner May 3, 2013  Professional General Artist
Haha, it's like this was written for me to respond to. ;p

I just completed my MFA - in Creative Writing of all things - about two years ago, something I thought I'd never do. But to get to that point where I understood why I went to college in the first place, I incurred a ton of debt that I probably didn't need to. Not because I was some party animal or lazy or dropped classes... but because really, I was under the impression that once I finished college, I was guaranteed a job, that they would just fall at my feet the moment I had the diploma in my hand.

That was dispelled as soon as I was informed that I had until the day after my Portfolio Review to ship out.

You've explained it pretty well in the journal itself, honestly. My first few years after high school, I meandered through a couple of schools, until I finally had to pay for it on my own and realized the responsibility I was undertaking. I didn't get my Associates until I was 23, and at the time I felt like that was really, really incredibly bad. As it turns out, it wasn't... but I should have gone to that community college first before I jumped head-first into a 4-year school! And once I did make the decision to pursue a BFA out of state, I was amazed at how many students younger than me, fresh out of high school really just wanted an easy degree, a quick way out and some party time...

A LOT of them didn't even make it through the first two quarters.

College is definitely worth it if you're going in with a plan, can set it up so you are spending the least amount of money possible, and you have the commitment. My advice honestly is if you're coming right out of high school and aren't sure, but want to continue your education in some way, start with a decent community college, tackle some of the Gen Ed courses or a couple of things you're interested in first. Don't go to a University or a Trade school unless you are absolutely sure that's what you're going to go into, because it is not cheap, and the good schools will be an absolute test of your will by the end of it.

The idea that college equals better job is somewhat true - but again, it depends on what you plan to do. Some fields do pretty much require it - you're not going into programming without the credentials to back it up, unless you are simply a prodigy... in which case you'll likely be able to get a free ride anyhow. But for other career choices, it may not be necessary.

The hardest part is doing the research to understand which category you're in. Looking back, I wish I had done that to begin with rather than following the age-old idea that I simply have to immediately go to college. I could have prepared myself much better.

And, honestly the harsh truth of it is that in America, the College education setup is a hustle. The fact we pay for education at such a ridiculously high cost is quite frankly obscene (but that's a discussion for another day, won't get into that too much here). If you're going in to it, you ABSOLUTELY MUST GO IN TO IT TO GET EVERYTHING OUT OF IT YOU CAN. Students need to remember that if they're going to college - they're hustling you. Hustle them back. Use their supplies 24/7, bum all those resources, bug the instructors about everything you can... get everything you can out of it so you can come out of the other side of it much more prepared for what lies ahead. You're paying thousands of dollars - use that lab! Use all 20 of those computers to render your demo reel if you have to, you paid for it!

I sound bitter, but honestly - debt frustration aside (screw you Sallie Mae) - I do not regret my choices one bit. After all, taking that leap across the country helped me grow, and I learned a lot about myself and what I really wanted since that car trip me and my buddy took in 2005. It took longer than expected, but it ended up worth it. Had I planned it out better though? I might have been able to save a lot more money and gotten further along quite a bit quicker.
mikhto Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2013  Student Digital Artist
NOT WORTH IT. I'm a current university student, I've been to one uni for VFX and concept design, and then I transferred to another for illustration since that was lacking in educational value and this one is worse. They're both just about doing tasks to meet the grade and kissing ass for soul-destroying jobs. From my experience, they aren't about an actual education, they just tell you to do things under a pretence it'll educate you.

My illustration teachers pretend they know me enough to be able to say what's best for me, and what will educate me when they know so incredibly little of me and my previous learning experiences. They push people through the same tasks regardless of ability or individual needs. It's pointless and unfit as an education. Even if the tasks had actual educational value in themselves, most people wouldn't benefit because it wouldn't suit them.

I would recommend to anyone who has a clear and confident idea of what they want to do in illustration is to just live as inexpensively as possible, get a part time job, and learn and develop in their spare time.

University/Colleges for me have just been a conveyor belt system and the qualification really doesn't guarantee a job. Even my course leader said the qualification didn't mean anything to an employer - all an employer would care about if you're capable of doing the job and your portfolio is the only actual guarantee of that.

There are cheaper ways to meet people and party, and there are certainly cheaper and far more efficient ways of educating. We have the internet now, you don't need to go to some ridiculously expensive institution to tell you what to learn. If you have the discipline and the drive, you can do it yourself :).

I plan to leave eventually (I'm in the UK so I have a cheap student loan from the state), but I'm staying just for now until I make the right arrangements.
TheSilverSerpent1 Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013
Thanks VanHeist. While I wouldn't have traded the friends I've made and the knowledge and experiences I've gained from my years at Uni, I would have liked to have seen this article a year or two ago, so that I would have considered it further before going into the course I'm in.

Thought provoking as always.
CreatureGirl Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2013
Oh and I forgot to add one more thing. It doesn't hurt to get a transferable AA degree at a community college because you can take classes to better figure out what you want to get into if you were still unsure by the time you graduate high school. I majored in fine arts and minored in marine biology and business. I took those classes because I knew that I could walk away with something that I could(and do) use. If I need to I can go back and get a BA if I find it necessary. Plus I can apply to higher paying jobs that require at least an AA as well for when those freelance art jobs are scarce. I don't want to work at a pet store forever but I'm one of the most knowledgeable aquarium experts there is in the entire city! Its a small victory but big accomplishments take time. I may as well make money involving my second love so I don't feel like I'm just wasting my time.
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