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mortimerjackson
12-06-2011, 07:19 AM
So it's registration season here at SFSU, and after having been here one semester, I'm conflicted to all hell. I, like many, see college as something of a double-edged sword. I get a BA, which makes me eligible to find a professional job, but that doesn't mean that I'll get a professional job. Also, there's the issue of money, and how tuition rates keep spiking up at around the same time that administrator wages goes up (what an odd coincidence). Seeing the tuition bill for the next semester has only disheartened me even more. Especially since I know that it isn't my education in college that will land me a job, but rather my talents, ie: the things I can prove I can do.

You see, for the past four to five months I've been a self-published author. Fiction writing is something that I've always loved to do, and if I had things my way, it would be my job forever... and ever... sha la la la...

Anyway, the point is this. I've been doing self-publishing to basically build myself a resume. I want to one day either land myself a publisher, or a job where I write for some production company. So with this in mind, for the past four, five months that I've been doing this self-publishing gig, I've been able to net about 600 units in sales for my first book, and I've gotten several thousand downloads/views on all the short stories I post online. My point is that I'm doing alright. Not great. But for someone with basically no resources or marketing savvy, I'm doing a lot better than I thought I would.

Now, I don't really want this to sound like a self-indulgent plug, so I'll limit some details on what I'm about to say. But I'm working on expanding myself with a new project that'll be coming out soon. I've hired an editor, an illustrator, etc, and I'm really confident that this book will do well. But as I think about this little new project of mine, and I consider the minimal cost that I've put to get this into production versus the high cost of Spring tuition ($300 vs $2,000 at least, and not counting books), I've been asking myself which investment is more likely to bolster my name. Actually, not really. The answer is pretty clear to me.

But it isn't easy to let go of preconceived notions. Even if I know that the benefits of having a BA are limited, I still feel an obligation to go ahead and get one. But doing so will only eat up on expenses and time that I could be spending on building my writing career.

Jotting this all down, I realize that I might come across as being a little too optimistic about my chances for success. But seeing as to how most of you here have been writing for a lot longer than I have, I want to know what you think. Would I be better off spending my college money on producing content, or should I give in to the dark side and get an overpriced diploma?

mccardey
12-06-2011, 07:27 AM
seeing as to how most of you here have been writing for a lot longer than I have, I want to know what you think. Would I be better off spending my college money on producing content, or should I give in to the dark side and get an overpriced diploma?

Overpriced diploma. Because your writing career is going to happen in its own time. It's not like being a celebrity, where you have to cash in on the moment. If you want a career as a writer, it's going to take time. There's no way to rush it.

And education is a privilege - to be grateful for.

So -

Diploma.

That's my 2c. But it's your decision. Good luck with it :)

LilGreenBookworm
12-06-2011, 07:38 AM
I would stay in school. The last thing you want (or I'd want for you) is to have your writing career not take off and then you have nothing to fall back on. Even if you don't use it now, you might need the degree later.

FTR: I'm 25, I have a BA, and I can't do a damn thing with it. I don't like being in debt for something I can't use, but I'm super grateful that it will be there when I find that employer willing to give me a shot.

Best of luck with your decision, and your writing career.

Lady MacBeth
12-06-2011, 07:39 AM
Overpriced diploma. Because your writing career is going to happen in its own time. It's not like being a celebrity, where you have to cash in on the moment. If you want a career as a writer, it's going to take time. There's no way to rush it.



I have to agree. You mention you are pursuing a BA, though you don't state your major. You could consider a marketing degree or something in creative writing that would further your dream.

These decisions are never easy. Good luck!

SPMiller
12-06-2011, 07:40 AM
Diploma then dream. If the worst case becomes true, you can always fall back on the diploma, and maybe someday after that, the best case will become true.

Shadow_Ferret
12-06-2011, 07:42 AM
Get the BA.

Just because you love writing doesn't mean you'll ever earn a living at it. There's a reason for the cliche, "Don't quit your day job." It's damned good advice.

Stay in school. Pursue a career in which you can make a decent living. Work on your writing during your free time.

thothguard51
12-06-2011, 07:52 AM
Get the degree, now, while you still can. If you leave, you will find its harder to return than if you had stayed.

As to the writing thingy, there is no time limit, young or old, it will happen when it happens...

PaulyWally
12-06-2011, 07:53 AM
Especially since I know that it isn't my education in college that will land me a job, but rather my talents, ie: the things I can prove I can do.

There is a lot of truth to that. But don't dismiss the fact that a lack of education will also close a lot of doors.

I'm going to guess that you are normal college age(?). If that's the case, what are you in such a hurry for? IMO, a lot of the time it takes to become a good writer isn't just practice and repetition. Much of it is having the life experiences required to formulate a story that people will find entertaining... and also knowing how to communicate it to them.

I'm not saying I know what is best for you. Only you know that. But your education (and your life experiences) are what you make of them. And diplomas aren't over-priced because of the cost of tuition. They are over-priced because the student doesn't take advantage of every opportunity.

All of that said, I just think you need to live. I mean really live. You can do that in college, or the peace corp, or as a barrista, or in the military, or backpacking across a country, or whatever. At your age, no amount of credits on your resume will help you as a writer as much as life experiences will.

My personal opinion... stay in college. It is SOOOO difficult to be taken serious without a degree nowadays. Also, college-educated people are who the majority of your audience will probably be. And you've got many, MANY years to do what you want and take risks for the betterment of your career.

BTW... I'm 38 and just graduated from college (again).

Polenth
12-06-2011, 07:59 AM
The choice you've created is based on a misconception. You don't need to prove yourself through self-publishing to get publishing contracts. You do that by writing a great book and querying agents - which is free, other than perhaps a few stamps if you decide to use snail mail instead of email.

As you write short stories, you could submit them to magazines. Getting in a decent magazines will mean money and help with building a fanbase.

So you can spend the money on college and keep working on your writing. What it needs is an adjustment in thinking. Let your writing earn you money rather than draining your money.

Shadow_Ferret
12-06-2011, 08:05 AM
Especially since I know that it isn't my education in college that will land me a job, but rather my talents, ie: the things I can prove I can do.


This is pure bullshit. Sorry. But it's true. Because if you don't have that diploma, no one cares how freaking talented you are. Look at the economy now. It's a buyers market for businesses. They can pick and choose who they want and demand education and years of proven experience.

Talent won't even get you in the door these days. It's not even quantifiable in the job market, not like diplomas and experience. I know because when the economy went south, I lost my tech writing job and could not find another because I don't have the diploma, despite job experience, despite "talent." I can't even get past the gate keepers because they discard my resume right off the bat as not meeting their full criteria. I might match in experience. In talent. But the next guy has a diploma. Guess who gets called in?

And as time went on, without work, I started getting rejected for jobs because now I didn't have "current skills." I had obsolesced.

No. Take your talent and put it toward getting the best education you can.

jjdebenedictis
12-06-2011, 08:09 AM
I'll be a lone dissenting voice, but not necessarily the way you think.

I do think getting an education is a good idea; you should do it.

However, you don't have to do it now. You can apply to take a year's leave of absence from school and see how your new project goes.

If you are young, it's not unusual to wonder if you're on the right road. I took four years off between high school and university, and it wasn't a waste, because when I did go back, I knew university was what I wanted to do. I was committed in a way I hadn't been before, and I worked harder and had more success as a result.

Passion counts. Go ahead and chase your dream. Just keep your fall-back positions open.

Best of luck with it. :)

mccardey
12-06-2011, 08:13 AM
It's not just about the fall-back-degree, though, is it? It's also about education for its own sake. A good education is a very good thing.

ohthatmomagain
12-06-2011, 08:14 AM
I don't see why you can't do both at the same time. Not really in the self-pub (if it's going to cost you money that you don't have right now), but writing/querying while in college is very possible.

Susan Littlefield
12-06-2011, 08:53 AM
I suggest to finish your degree and also pursue your dream of writing. :)

NeuroFizz
12-06-2011, 09:12 AM
I guess I'll be the bastard who addresses one possible limitation that no one else has touched. Self-pubbed books and web-posted stories are not the kind of writing credits that will impress agents and editors of royalty-paying publishers. Have you had positive evaluations of your writing from these kinds of publishing professionals? If yes, why did you go the self-pub route? If no, perhaps you could post some of your work in the SYW forum to get some solid feedback (there are many experienced writers who generously give the time there). If you are considering something as drastic as giving up your education, you might want more data on exactly where you are in your development as a writer.

CrastersBabies
12-06-2011, 09:29 AM
I wish I had gotten my degrees earlier, when I was younger. If I had known then what I know now . . .

(sighs)

jennontheisland
12-06-2011, 09:35 AM
<--In school.

Degree. If you want to keep writing right now, lighten your courseload.

But don't do a degree in something completely unemployable. Those are fun and mind expanding and all, but really not so good for paying back student loans. If you're going to make the financial and time investment, do it in something likely to net a return.

Chekurtab
12-06-2011, 09:35 AM
It's not so much a dilemma in my mind. You can still write while in college.

Terie
12-06-2011, 09:43 AM
Talent won't even get you in the door these days. It's not even quantifiable in the job market, not like diplomas and experience. I know because when the economy went south, I lost my tech writing job and could not find another because I don't have the diploma, despite job experience, despite "talent." I can't even get past the gate keepers because they discard my resume right off the bat as not meeting their full criteria. I might match in experience. In talent. But the next guy has a diploma. Guess who gets called in?

This right here. In an employer's market, which we look to have for a long time to come, the first cut when HR goes through resumes is for a degree.

In my first tech writing job (which I got after spending 7 years or so working my way up in the company from the mail room -- cliche but true), I was recognised within six months as being the best writer in the department (of 16), despite not having a degree of any kind or any previous experience. But the company failed at the beginning of a recession, and without a degree, I couldn't even get an interview to show off my portfolio. I had the talent and the portfolio to prove it, but without a degree, it didn't matter.

So when I finally got another good tech writing job (five years after getting laid off the first one), my top priority was to go back to school and finish my degree. I did the last two years' of work in two years plus one semester while working full time in a high-tech job in my late thirties. That is WAAAAAAAAAY harder to do than getting the degree in one's early twenties, believe me.

What you should be doing is majoring in a subject that will complement your writing goals. Not creative writing, and unless you want to teach English, not English, either. Something related to what you want to write about. Do you write fantasy? Major in anthropology, sociology, history. Do you write political thrillers? Major in political science. And so on. That gives you interesting stuff to study that will teach you how to research (a vital skill no matter what you want to write), and as someone upstream said, an education is just plain good for you.

Building a writing career takes time. Very few writers make enough money to live on right out the gate. Hell, I have five commercially published books under my belt and don't make anything like enough money to live on. Good thing I have a day job!

The Lonely One
12-06-2011, 10:01 AM
<---In school and publishing at the same time.

Do what you want but don't give up a degree without a lot of thought and consideration.

Also, I'm certainly not scoffing your self-publishing route, but if you do decide to go the traditional publishing route (i.e. seeking representation), there technically shouldn't be anything about your production to spend your tuition money on.

You can do both, is what I'm saying.

Mr. Anonymous
12-06-2011, 10:24 AM
I advise getting the degree.

First of all, in order to be a good writer, you need to be knowledgeable. Nobody can know everything, and you don't need to go to school to be knowledgeable, but school does make it easier for you to acquire knowledge.

Second of all, as others have mentioned, talent is often not enough. Most decent jobs want to see that credential. And with more and more people getting some sort of degree every year, be it an associates or a bachelors or a masters, you're going to be competing against a lot of people who have diplomas. In reality, you might be a million times better than they are. On paper, they might look like a safer, better bet.

mortimerjackson
12-06-2011, 10:53 AM
Thanks for all the replies. It's definitely been enlightening. And since you were kind enough to voice your thoughts, I figure I'd respond to some of your comments.


This is pure bullshit. Sorry. But it's true. Because if you don't have that diploma, no one cares how freaking talented you are. Look at the economy now. It's a buyers market for businesses. They can pick and choose who they want and demand education and years of proven experience.

I have to agree with you to some extent. I think that if you're working for a large company/institution, college matters more than competence. But if you work for a smaller outfit with more independent control, then they're typically willing to peruse your accomplishments. Though they probably won't pay you as much.


Self-pubbed books and web-posted stories are not the kind of writing credits that will impress agents and editors of royalty-paying publishers. Have you had positive evaluations of your writing from these kinds of publishing professionals?

My point with self-publishing was to get as much content as I can out there as fast as possible for public scrutiny. If I have to query agents, magazines, etc, it's a process that takes quite a bit of time. And in the meanwhile, I have nothing to show for myself. The goal of course, is to expand from that as time goes on, going from self-publishing to eventually querying, and etc.

Also, I'm not entirely with you that self-pubbed books don't impress. It depends on how well you perform. Take, for instance, that I've recently queried a comic book start-up for a writer's position. And though I'm a little doubtful that I'll find work there (due mostly to artistic differences), it helped me quite a bit that I could tell them that I've been able to sell books on my own.


Also, I'm certainly not scoffing your self-publishing route, but if you do decide to go the traditional publishing route (i.e. seeking representation), there technically shouldn't be anything about your production to spend your tuition money on.

Yes... that's true... And now that you've mentioned it, I really do wonder if I should take this book of mine to a publisher. It's certainly good enough for it. Hmm... You know, I think I might just do that.

And for those of you asking what I'm majoring in, I'm 22, and I'm majoring in political science. Not the most career-sexy field, I know, but it was something I chose out of my simple interest in politics. Assuming I start doing things like interning for judges as opposed to writing, I imagine it won't be too hard for me to land some desk job pushing pencils all day. But damn it, I want to be where the action is...

Okay. Sorry. In all seriousness, I think you guys have me sold on sticking with school. It's just a shame that we live in a world that caters more to thousand dollar receipts than individual achievements.

EDIT:

First of all, in order to be a good writer, you need to be knowledgeable. Nobody can know everything, and you don't need to go to school to be knowledgeable, but school does make it easier for you to acquire knowledge.

I disagree with this. While school is certainly not a bad platform for learning, there is nothing that you can learn in a school that you can't learn on your own, or through other social exposures. Also, learning for learning's sake isn't worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. I think it's safe to say that we all do it because we want the promised land of a job.

Terie
12-06-2011, 11:04 AM
It's just a shame that we live in a world that caters more to thousand dollar receipts than individual achievements.

Amen to this! It drives me NUTS (even now that I have the damn BA and a post-grad certificate, too) that the mere possession of a piece of paper trumps actual, provable talent. But that's the way of the business world, and like it or not, we have to play that game.

Good luck to you. I think studying poli-sci will serve you well, whether in the day-job arena, the writing arena, or (hopefully!) both.

mccardey
12-06-2011, 11:16 AM
Amen to this! It drives me NUTS (even now that I have the damn BA and a post-grad certificate, too) that the mere possession of a piece of paper trumps actual, provable talent. .

But - that piece of paper signifies years of learning from people who know stuff. I think it's valuable for that alone... It's not just talent that's worthwhile - it's talent + knowledge in execution, surely. So many people have talent, after all. So few people can use it.

Wayne K
12-06-2011, 11:30 AM
Stay in school

My 2 cents, but those are the 2 cents I worked hardest for.

amlptj
12-06-2011, 11:40 AM
I'm in college now. I'm a senior right now and since my freshman year during winter, and summer breaks i've completed 5 books and am working on 2 right now when i have the time (which wont be till winter break... ONLY TWO MORE WEEKS!!!)

I teacher in my highschool gave me some very sound advice when i asked about this when i was younger. He told me writing... it can be a job in and of itself it doesn't need to be mine. He first asked me what my dreams were. I told him i always wanted to be a Forensic Scientist although my biggest dream was to become a published writer. He told me that my degree in Forensics would pay for my dream to become a published writer and would also be my backup if i didn't make it. Overall a degree is the safe option.

Now that I'm in college as a chem major... honestly i hate it with a passion, but i know if i graduate, I'll have a chance to have that financial backbone with what i do with my degree to be able to not worry if my books don't make it big. Now i picked a very VERY hard major... you pick anything less then that and you will have WAY more free time on your hands to write aswell.

kuwisdelu
12-06-2011, 12:08 PM
Get a degree. You can write anytime. You can get a degree anytime, too, technically, but it'll get harder the longer you wait, for various reasons.

Terie
12-06-2011, 12:24 PM
But - that piece of paper signifies years of learning from people who know stuff. I think it's valuable for that alone... It's not just talent that's worthwhile - it's talent + knowledge in execution, surely. So many people have talent, after all. So few people can use it.

In theory, perhaps. But when I was young and poor and degreeless, I worked with completely useless idiots who had degrees and therefore had better job titles and made more money, while others like me had to do their work for them while making less money.

So, sorry, but a degree is NOT an universal or automatic signifier of the ability to do a particular job.

mccardey
12-06-2011, 12:30 PM
In theory, perhaps. But when I was young and poor and degreeless, I worked with completely useless idiots who had degrees and therefore had better job titles and made more money, while others like me had to do their work for them while making less money.

So, sorry, but a degree is NOT an universal or automatic signifier of the ability to do a particular job.

No - but it's an opportunity to learn stuff... To see from a different viewpoint. A valuable thing, I think.

Education shouldn't be just about employment.

Terie
12-06-2011, 12:40 PM
No - but it's an opportunity to learn stuff... To see from a different viewpoint. A valuable thing, I think.

Education shouldn't be just about employment.

No question. If you go back and re-read my first post, I make it pretty clear that that's my opinion as well.

But that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to hate the fact that business puts an overemphasis on a piece of paper that doesn't signify everything they think it does.

mortimerjackson
12-06-2011, 12:50 PM
No - but it's an opportunity to learn stuff... To see from a different viewpoint. A valuable thing, I think.

Education shouldn't be just about employment.

Just to repeat what I said before, although school is certainly not a bad platform for learning, there is nothing that you can learn in a school that you can't learn on your own, or through other social exposures. Also, learning for learning's sake isn't worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. I think it's safe to say that we all do it because we want the promised land of a job.

But having said that, political science is definitely something that I like learning about. So to me, there is some "spiritual" merit to it. I just don't like having to pay so much for a degree. And knowing that so much of that money is squandered on greedy administrators doesn't help.


I'm in college now. I'm a senior right now and since my freshman year during winter, and summer breaks i've completed 5 books and am working on 2 right now when i have the time (which wont be till winter break... ONLY TWO MORE WEEKS!!!)

I teacher in my highschool gave me some very sound advice when i asked about this when i was younger. He told me writing... it can be a job in and of itself it doesn't need to be mine. He first asked me what my dreams were. I told him i always wanted to be a Forensic Scientist although my biggest dream was to become a published writer. He told me that my degree in Forensics would pay for my dream to become a published writer and would also be my backup if i didn't make it. Overall a degree is the safe option.

Now that I'm in college as a chem major... honestly i hate it with a passion, but i know if i graduate, I'll have a chance to have that financial backbone with what i do with my degree to be able to not worry if my books don't make it big. Now i picked a very VERY hard major... you pick anything less then that and you will have WAY more free time on your hands to write aswell..

I can agree with this. And in fact, it's made me reconsider some of my wild-eyed ideas about publishing. For a moment I had a dream of starting my own publication. But to do that in lieu of college would be to risk a lot.

Also, congrats on writing five books. This year I've written six, but for editing reasons I've so far released only three. I really hope I can make a thing out of this writing stint. But you're right. I guess I do need a degree so I don't fall flat on my face if things don't work out.

mccardey
12-06-2011, 12:58 PM
Just to repeat what I said before, school is certainly not a bad platform for learning, there is nothing that you can learn in a school that you can't learn on your own, or through other social exposures. .

Actually - I disagree about that. You can learn how to see and evaluate and frame arguments at university in a way that you really can't learn outside academia. And I do think that's valuable.

Terie -
No question. If you go back and re-read my first post, I make it pretty clear that that's my opinion as well.


O-kay... I'm not fighting with you, I'm just adding my 2c worth.

Which I've added now... :gone:

mortimerjackson
12-06-2011, 01:06 PM
Actually - I disagree about that. You can learn how to see and evaluate and frame arguments at university in a way that you really can't learn outside academia. And I do think that's valuable.

Valuable maybe. But not worth the money. Simply put, I know I'm getting ripped off/overcharged for my education. But in the end I put it with it not for the sake of learning, but to attain financial security (also known as a job).

mccardey
12-06-2011, 01:08 PM
Valuable maybe. But not worth the money. Simply put, I know I'm getting ripped off/overcharged for my education. But in the end I put it with it not for the sake of learning, but to attain financial security (also known as a job).

Good, then. Sounds like you've made up your mind.

gothicangel
12-06-2011, 01:52 PM
A degree is so much more than a piece of paper. It will change the way you see the world. You will mature in a different way than if you didn't take that route. Instead of being insular, you will see there is a big world out there. You most definitely see the world in a different way.

I don't agree that a BA is worthless. I graduated on 25th November and offered an NHS job on the 30th. A degree is only worthless, when you don't engage with the intellect it has developed.

Terie
12-06-2011, 01:56 PM
Valuable maybe. But not worth the money.

I bet, ten years hence, you'll disagree with this sentiment. :D

shaldna
12-06-2011, 02:17 PM
Continue College, or Pursue a Dream?

I would only pick the dream if it's going to pay your rent and do the grocery shopping for you.

Until the dream is going to do that, I pick the more practical option.

The practical option doesn't have to be college, it could be a job. But I would heartily advise you to continue college if at all possible.

NeuroFizz
12-06-2011, 05:12 PM
Talent is only one side of the equation. Accomplishment is the other side. There are oodles of people who have talent, but who haven't (yet?) turned that talent into accomplishment. We see several examples here at AW, where some new writers can't seem to finish their projects. They may have incredible writing talent, but unless they turn that talent into accomplishment (and finish something) they will never succeed in the writing business. There are talented people in all areas of society who are just not finishers, so their talent goes to waste (and they are not the best employee candidates).

A college education gives a direct measure of accomplishment since each semester the students are evaluated on their performance. All an employer has to do is request a college transcript to get an idea of how that individual turns talent into accomplishment. There are honors students (cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude designations) who have accomplishment-based labels to put on their resumes. In addition, many undergraduates now have direct experience working with faculty members in undergrad research programs (many come out with professional publications from these experiences). Finally, letters of recommendation from professors are of great value to employers, particularly since they do speak of first-hand evidence of both talent and accomplishment. And these professors can evaluate the student's performance in the context of thousands of other students they have taught/mentored.

More importantly, the college experience gives that student four concentrated years of experience in dealing with deadlines, with authority figures of various types, with working alone and in groups, with interactions with a diverse set of colleagues, and much more that allows the student to learn about him/herself. Another value is the development of critical thinking. Students learn to base arguments on documentable evidence rather than emotion or web-based pseudo-science. And, yes, all of this can be learned outside of a college education, but usually not in such a concentrated and diverse setting.

(The following does not apply to the OP). There are no guarantees in a university education because it all depends on what the student wants to put into it. It's a shame some students waste their college opportunities. Every semester, I have students who do not come to class except for exam days, and they fail those exams big-time (I had one student get a 7% on an exam recently - random guesses could result in a slightly better grade). Maybe these students have talents outside of a college education. But I'd bet a paycheck they will take the same disinterested and disjointed performance to their jobs as they took to their college courses.

Is a university education for everyone? Absolutely not. Do people without a university education have the opportunity for accomplishments every bit as important as those of university graduates? Absolutely. Is there some objective basis to the valuation of the universtiy degree by employers? Yes. Do I think the same value can be gleaned from non-university experience and accomplishment? Yes, and I can't explain why some employers don't realize this--that a track record is just as valuable as a diploma.

Phaeal
12-06-2011, 05:17 PM
But - that piece of paper signifies years of learning from people who know stuff. I think it's valuable for that alone... It's not just talent that's worthwhile - it's talent + knowledge in execution, surely. So many people have talent, after all. So few people can use it.

I agree. A "proper" education will make you a much stronger writer. By "proper" I mean that you're studying with passion subjects you love, taking full advantage of the professors (y'know, TALK to them, don't just lurk in the back of the classroom), and learning how to learn.

Besides, you will have a better shot at a good day job with the degree than without it, and a good day job is a vital part of the writer's survival kit. ;)

Alternately, you might be able to take a year or even two off to try your self-pubbing scheme. It depends on whether you think you'll have the financial resources and gumption to go back to school if the scheme doesn't pan out.

shaldna
12-06-2011, 05:46 PM
So, sorry, but a degree is NOT an universal or automatic signifier of the ability to do a particular job.

I actually want to agree with this - and I want to agree with this from the stand point of someone who has two bachelors (a BA and a BSc), an HND, and two Masters (an MA and an MSc)

A degree will not guarentee you a job. Even in feilds like medicine and law, it's not a given that you will be able to get a job.

There is a big focus now on vovational training - but equally there are people who spent four years at teacher training college only to spend the next two years working in Burger King while they try to find a teaching post.

That said, in a lot of feilds a degree, any degree, is essential. In my day job there is a requirement for a degree. They don't care what it's in, but you need a degree. It;s more about showing that you can follow projects through and commit yourself long term to things as it is to show how capable you are of doing the work.

Getting a degree enabled me to double my salary.

But a university education isn't for everyone.

The main thing here is to have a back up plan, any plan, that will keep the wolf from the door while you follow your dreams.

That plan can be a job. But it's important to have SOMETHING there that you just aren't walking out of a course and striking off in an aimless direction.


Valuable maybe. But not worth the money. Simply put, I know I'm getting ripped off/overcharged for my education. But in the end I put it with it not for the sake of learning, but to attain financial security (also known as a job).

The only time a university education is too expensive is when it's wasted on someone who doesn't want it.

To date I've spent just under 50k on my education (over the course of 10 years). And I have plans that will mean another 30k at the new fee rate for my chosen University. But most of it was in the form of bursaries, grants, student loans and working my ass off at a part time and then a full time job.

Is it worth it? Personally I think yes. I got so much out of it, and I'm in the postion now where I'm earning more per year than I have spent in the last 10 on that education, and it wouldn't ahve been possible without my degree.





I don't agree that a BA is worthless. I graduated on 25th November and offered an NHS job on the 30th. A degree is only worthless, when you don't engage with the intellect it has developed.

Bolding mine. See my point above about a degree is only expensive when it's wasted.


Talent is only one side of the equation. Accomplishment is the other side. There are oodles of people who have talent, but who haven't (yet?) turned that talent into accomplishment. We see several examples here at AW, where some new writers can't seem to finish their projects. They may have incredible writing talent, but unless they turn that talent into accomplishment (and finish something) they will never succeed in the writing business. There are talented people in all areas of society who are just not finishers, so their talent goes to waste (and they are not the best employee candidates).

This.

And also, just to highlight something. Those writers who are good, work hard and have a good solid publishing career have spent YEARS building it up.

And even then there is no guarentee of success.

It can take years to get published, and years after that to make a full time living from it, if ever.

But in the meantime you have to eat and I assume you want to sleep indoors. And this is why a backup plan is vital.



(The following does not apply to the OP). There are no guarantees in a university education because it all depends on what the student wants to put into it. It's a shame some students waste their college opportunities. Every semester, I have students who do not come to class except for exam days, and they fail those exams big-time (I had one student get a 7% on an exam recently - random guesses could result in a slightly better grade). Maybe these students have talents outside of a college education. But I'd bet a paycheck they will take the same disinterested and disjointed performance to their jobs as they took to their college courses.

I see it every day at work, and when I used to teach I saw it there too. Some people just aren't interested, and increasingly people are looking at university as rite of passage, a time of parties and piss ups and a chance to put real life on hold for another three years. Every year I see fewwer and fewer students who are there to learn and gain. And I've been in education for 10 years straight and have seen a lot of students over the years.


Is a university education for everyone? Absolutely not. Do people without a university education have the opportunity for accomplishments every bit as important as those of university graduates? Absolutely. Is there some objective basis to the valuation of the universtiy degree by employers? Yes. Do I think the same value can be gleaned from non-university experience and accomplishment? Yes, and I can't explain why some employers don't realize this--that a track record is just as valuable as a diploma.

For sure.

bearilou
12-06-2011, 05:51 PM
and learning how to learn.

When I first got my masters and was hired on my first job utilizing my degree, the first thing my supervisor told me was: 'your degree proved you know how to learn what you'll need to know. Your education in the field starts today'.

And boy was he right.

However, I also echo the advice of a degree in something obscure.

Taking a degree in an obscure field in a dying industry has also shot me in the foot. I am unemployed and have been for 3 years (got caught in the layoffs of the company) and I can't get a job because I'm now 'overqualified' for many of the positions I'm applying to since my chosen field is shrinking quickly and it was such a high-stress job that I have decided not to continue to seek employment in it.

It's becoming a tangled knot. :(

Calla Lily
12-06-2011, 05:58 PM
STAY IN SCHOOL.

My husband never finished his Bachelor's. Family divorce; no money--he got a job and kept working and that was that. Fast-forward to now: He's 58 years old, been out of work for 2 years this January, and he cannot even get interviewed at 9/10ths of the places he's subbing to--because he doesn't have a degree.

STAY IN SCHOOL. If your writing doesn't take off as soon as you hope, then you'll have the two letters after your name that will enable you to eat and pay the bills. If it does, then you still won't have wasted the time.

Storm Surge
12-06-2011, 06:22 PM
It's not just about the fall-back-degree, though, is it? It's also about education for its own sake. A good education is a very good thing.

My degree is, at the moment, doing nothing for me. I can't get a job. However, I'm not the least bit sorry that I got it. Being over-educated can be a wonderful thing, and I think my writing has improved because of the knowledge and experience I gained-- both from the classes and from the interaction with people I never would have met otherwise.


My husband never finished his Bachelor's. Family divorce; no money--he got a job and kept working and that was that. Fast-forward to now: He's 58 years old, been out of work for 2 years this January, and he cannot even get interviewed at 9/10ths of the places he's subbing to--because he doesn't have a degree.

My dad is in a similar position, but he is currently attempting to finish an online degree while working full time. He's 56, a high school drop-out, a college drop-out, and one of the smartest, most talented people I know. All the experience and talent in the world hasn't helped him with getting a decent job. He's been unemployed multiple times in the past couple years, and the job he has now is brutal, poorly paying, with terrible hours, and is a two hour drive from where we live. He's insisted that all his kids get a good education because he's so sorry he didn't get his while he was young.

Calla Lily
12-06-2011, 06:30 PM
Storm: My husband's also finishing his degree online. If he stays at it FT then he'll have his Bachelors in May.

cameron_chapman
12-06-2011, 06:30 PM
I'm going to be a dissenting opinion here. Do what you want to do, but realize the full implications of your choice.

I went to college for a year and then dropped out, because I realized I could get the same education just by purchasing some books (I went to state college, I'm sure I would have felt differently if I'd been going to a better school). And I knew that what I wanted to do with my life wasn't going to require a degree, because I wanted to either do something creative or start my own business.

I've held professional positions off and on since then (including being an insurance agent). I'm now a writer and editor, working full time as a freelancer, and earning more than I could ever earn locally.

But here's the key: I've continued to learn on my own, both through formal classes (correspondence) and just by absorbing everything I can get my hands on, for the past ten years. If I need to know something for work, I learn it. If I want to know something, I learn it. Either I teach myself or I seek someone out who can teach me.

I also know that there are a lot of jobs that I wouldn't be able to get because I don't have a degree. For now, that's fine, because I have zero interest in working for someone else.

If you have no idea what you want to do with a college degree, then you honestly may be better off not spending the money now. Look at how many people who have graduated in the past few years and now have $50k in student loans and no job. Back when I worked at a magazine (doing graphic design, layout, web design, writing, and sales, again, without a degree in any of those things) they hired a girl who had started college at the same time I did, same school, same major, but she graduated. Really nice girl. She lasted two months. And it wasn't the first job she hadn't been able to hold down, and not from lack of effort.

It really depends on what you want to do. If you want a job where a degree is a requirement (nursing, teaching, any of the sciences, etc.), then obviously get a degree. But if not, see what opportunities there are without a degree. Is it possible to start out at the bottom without a degree and work your way up? Even if that means working for minimum wage to start with, which would you rather do: pay someone else to teach you for four years or get paid to learn on the job? I know which one I'd rather do...

Also, which is going to make you happier: working a low-paying, but low-stress, job that gives you plenty of time to write on the side, or working a professional job with a higher pay rate and benefits, but without much time for writing? Again, I know which one I'd prefer.

shaldna
12-06-2011, 07:13 PM
One thing I will say is that for most of the jobs I have interviewed for - both as an employer and a potential employee, a degree has been crucial. More and more I'm seeing that even having a degree isn't enough, employers want a degree and a masters plus experience. And they will get it because the employment market is shrinking and employers can get more bang for their buck, so to speak, than they could ten years ago.

shaldna
12-06-2011, 07:18 PM
Also, which is going to make you happier: working a low-paying, but low-stress, job that gives you plenty of time to write on the side, or working a professional job with a higher pay rate and benefits, but without much time for writing? Again, I know which one I'd prefer.

I think this is a very misleading generalisation.

I work in a professional position, I have a lot of staff and a lot of pressure and responsiblity.

I also work less than I did when I stacked shelves in Asda.

holding this job, at the fantastic pay rate and benefits, means that I don't have to work as much to make the same, or in reality, a considerable amount MORE money than I made when I had a crappy job.

There is this notion that everyone who holds a professional position works 24 hours a day, lives at the office and has an ulcer by the time they are 30. That may well be true of some professionals, but the ones I know are generally out of the office by 4pm.

And I think I should edit this to add that even low pay, low stress jobs are getting harder to get, and part of this is because there are so many people with qualifications and a good education who are filling those places. Employers want the best they can get, and if they can get someone with a degree in accountancy, or business to work their cashier then they are going to do that.

There are so few jobs now for young people with no qualifications and no experience. There are no real entry level positions any more, and there are over 90 applicants for every graduate job. What odds does someone with no eduation, or other vocational training or apprenticeships etc, have?

veinglory
12-06-2011, 07:29 PM
In theory, perhaps. But when I was young and poor and degreeless, I worked with completely useless idiots who had degrees and therefore had better job titles and made more money, while others like me had to do their work for them while making less money.

So, sorry, but a degree is NOT an universal or automatic signifier of the ability to do a particular job.

...But you just gave another reason for getting one. Get better jobs, easier, and being paid more for working less hard.

Storm Surge
12-06-2011, 07:29 PM
Storm: My husband's also finishing his degree online. If he stays at it FT then he'll have his Bachelors in May.

Good luck to him! I hope he gets a good job because of it.

Calla Lily
12-06-2011, 07:37 PM
Thanks, and the same to your dad. :)

We're living on my income now and I work for a not-for-profit. 'nuff said. :e2shrug:

JanDarby
12-06-2011, 07:37 PM
Just for the record, if this is what you're aiming for with your college degree:


Assuming I start doing things like interning for judges as opposed to writing

in the jurisdictions I'm familiar with, it requires not just an undergraduate degree, but also a law degree.

profen4
12-06-2011, 07:44 PM
Stay in school. A degree opens doors. Even if you don't know what you want to do, finish it. You'll be further ahead if you do.

Monkey
12-06-2011, 07:46 PM
Forgive the slightly disjointed metaphor, but the publishing business is sort of like a train.

You've got to have that engine--your first marketable book that actually takes you somewhere. But if you want to have a career in publishing, you can't stop there. You've got to keep adding to the end of it. Put out another book while you're working on the next. And have the outline for the one after that. Think of them as cars on your train...and you want that train to be as long as possible.

But again with the train metaphor--it's going to take a while to get up to speed. That "engine" is going to take a year or two, maybe longer, before it actually gets moving, and by then, you want to have a whole series of cars behind it.

The way most writers handle this is by writing that first, important novel while they get their financial support from elsewhere--a day job, their parents, their spouse, whatever. Who can afford to spend months banging out a novel, then wait a year or more for it to start making any money?

But there are two things to keep in mind. One: the vast majority of those authors will STILL never make enough to live on, and Two: for a novel to really be an "engine," it needs to either make enough money to comfortably support you while you write your next couple or be the one that lands you an agent and a nice publishing house, thereby opening the doors for your next novel.

If none of your self-published ventures have done either, they aren't proper "engines." And because there are no barriers to self-publishing and anyone can self publish their grocery list if they so choose, they don't count as publishing credits.

Sure, you can point to self-published novels that impressed agents...but only because they made enough money to support their authors. You really need to meet at least one of the two "engine" criteria I mentioned above. Of course, meeting both is better.

So here's my take: if you don't have that "engine" novel yet, stay in school. You're going to need a day job during the time it takes to create one and get it moving.

If you do have one, and it's already working for you, there's probably no harm in taking a year or two off in order to see where it takes you.

But even if your next book is a runaway best-seller, I still think it would be nice for you to have your degree. It looks nice in the back-cover copy, and even runaway best sellers don't support their authors for life, most of the time.

kuwisdelu
12-06-2011, 08:00 PM
One thing I will say is that for most of the jobs I have interviewed for - both as an employer and a potential employee, a degree has been crucial. More and more I'm seeing that even having a degree isn't enough, employers want a degree and a masters plus experience. And they will get it because the employment market is shrinking and employers can get more bang for their buck, so to speak, than they could ten years ago.

A bachelor's degree is quickly becoming the new high school degree.

LJD
12-06-2011, 08:06 PM
I'd stay in school.
If you really wanted, perhaps go part-time for a semester or two to free up time for writing.
But, I'd personally stick with full-time.
There's a good chance you will not be able to make a living from writing fiction. And you want to be able to get a decent 'day job'. A degree can open up doors. I'd recommend doing some research into what you can do with a degree in your major.

Another option, possibly, would be a diploma or certificate of some kind. I don't know how this sort of thing works in the US. Where I live (Ontario), there are universities (degree-granting) and colleges (diplomas and certificates, usually, though some now have degree programs). Colleges are usually 2-3 programs. Programs include: business, dental hygienist, paralegal, vet. technician, engineering technology, etc...Maybe these are community colleges in the US. I'm not sure. Anyways, these sorts of programs are geared towards getting you a job. Here, sometimes people who have degrees go to college afterwards to help them in the job market.

happywritermom
12-06-2011, 09:13 PM
You're paying $2,000 a semester?
Do you have any idea how inexpensive that diploma is? If you want to work for a publisher or some company in the publishing field someday, why are you studying political science?
This is my theory on a huge contributing factor to the job crisis today for recent grads: too many students study simply what interests them, but make no effort to intern, etc., and make their learning applicable to the work force.
Why not double-major in business and in creative writing? Or in business and accounting or marketing or finance or something that will help you take this self-publishing thing you are trying to build to the next level?
If political science is a force in your writing, then double-major in political science and something business-related that will actually make a difference in your pursuit.
If you really want to be in school for the right reasons, stay.
If not -- if you are just studying political science because you feel like you have to study something and it has no role in your future, particularly at 22 years old -- then you are probably wasting your money.
Education for the sake of education is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't sound like that's something you appreciate enough to pursue.

Ryan David Jahn
12-06-2011, 09:21 PM
I left high school at sixteen, went to a city college for two years before dropping out, and now make a living as a writer.

I dropped out in part because I viewed getting a back-up degree as an admission of future failure and refused to admit any such thing. For me, it was writing or bust, and I ended up making a go of it.

I think you should probably get the degree.

First, because education is always a good thing, and there's a structure to university that ensures a relatively well-rounded one. I certainly have embarrassing gaps in my education that I'd like to fill.

Second, because it's awfully hard to write when you're hungry. It might be romantic to think about working some menial job during the day and writing at night, but even if you like mindless work, as I did and do, the stress of wondering how you're gonna make rent is worse than anything you're gonna get from a well-paying nine-to-five. Money is always better than no money, and there's a pretty good chance you'll make more with a degree.

Third, because you simply don't know what you might want to do in the future. I love writing. It's incredible to me that I get paid to do it. But now that it's my full-time gig, I find within me a great desire to teach, and I can't teach anywhere: no degree. This is a problem I'd never have anticipated.

The simple fact is this: it's better to have a degree you don't need than to not have one you do.

shaldna
12-06-2011, 09:34 PM
Third, because you simply don't know what you might want to do in the future.

I just want to second this.

I started in science, in a very specialised equine field. I took 2 degrees in it, devoted my time to study and advancing my knowledge. Once I graduated, 20 grand in debt, I worked in that feild for a couple of years before realising that I wanted to do something else. So I started another degree, changed day job and off we go.

Right now I'm looking at my day job and thinking it's time for a change, maybe I'll take a law degree this time so I can have the full set.

People change their mind and their careers all the time, and I would caution against throwing away any backup option.

CaroGirl
12-06-2011, 09:40 PM
There's no time limit on creativity. That said, I do wish I'd started writing fiction seriously earlier in my career. But I don't have more than that one regret.

I have a BAH in English and a journalism diploma. Because of my schooling, I have enjoyed a thus-far 13-year career in technical writing. It's challenging, relatively lucrative and uses my skills as a writer. Alongside the full-time career, I've written dozens of short stories (2 s/s contest prizes) and 5 novels, one of which is being published in the spring.

School first, dream later. If you can somehow tie school to your dream, so much the better.

GL.

kuwisdelu
12-06-2011, 09:52 PM
As someone who has opted for degrees in a lucrative science over studying English or writing or being a starving artist, being pragmatic isn't very romantic, but tends to pay off better in the long run. I don't really have enough time to write now, but the promise of a stable, low-stress, well-paying job is a rather nice prospect to have to support my writing in the future.

ETA: Which is not to say there's anything wrong with an English degree. I just like nicer things than it pays. And I like science, too. Though the dearth of people to whom I can relate in it w.r.t. the arts is disappointing.

jennontheisland
12-06-2011, 09:54 PM
As someone who has opted to degrees in a lucrative science over studying English or writing or being a starving artist, being pragmatic isn't very romantic, but tends to pay off better in the long run. I don't really have enough time to write now, but the promise of a stable, low-stress, well-paying job is a rather nice prospect to have to support my writing in the future.
+1.

18 more classes to go....

Archerbird
12-06-2011, 09:56 PM
College, college, college.

I can't be bothered to read the whole thread, because there really isn't any option. I know I probably sound like your mom, or big sister or God knows what, but if you don't want to end up spending your best years at some unemployment office, you finish your college.

Okay. Now go do your homework. :cool:

Bubastes
12-06-2011, 10:06 PM
As someone who has opted for degrees in a lucrative science over studying English or writing or being a starving artist, being pragmatic isn't very romantic, but tends to pay off better in the long run. I don't really have enough time to write now, but the promise of a stable, low-stress, well-paying job is a rather nice prospect to have to support my writing in the future.


+2

I did the same thing. Contrary to what many people will tell you, it IS possible to succeed at a job you don't care for and make a good living doing it. The key is to make sure you keep working on your writing. It's a tough balance, but I like my creature comforts, and money's the only way to get them. I find it much easier to write when I'm not stressing about paying my mortgage.

kuwisdelu
12-06-2011, 10:12 PM
I did the same thing. Contrary to what many people will tell you, it IS possible to succeed at a job you don't care for and make a good living doing it. The key is to make sure you keep working on your writing. It's a tough balance, but I like my creature comforts, and money's the only way to get them. I find it much easier to write when I'm not stressing about paying my mortgage.

And chances are you can still find something that interests you. For those who are lucky enough to be able to go to college (a phrase that really shouldn't have to be qualified like that in this day and age, alas), finding a field that pays and interests you shouldn't be too difficult. Those who say they can't just haven't looked hard enough. You don't have to love it. It doesn't have to be your passion. Just something you find interesting.

And don't let classes get in the way of learning.

Shadow_Ferret
12-06-2011, 10:20 PM
A bachelor's degree is quickly becoming the new high school degree.



This.

And if I could from my smartphone, I'd hunt down every link on AW that discusses just how hard it is to make a living at writing alone.

Plus, I fear for the future. It seems more markets devalue writing ability ( and many writers encourage this by working for them) now then ever before. Just look at the internet with examiner.com and others that pay pennies PER VIEW!

Consider that every day another newspaper or magazine folds while at the same time another of these lousy paying internet markets spring up, the future of writing as a viable career seems very grim.

Margarita Skies
12-06-2011, 10:51 PM
I haven't been able to go to college since I graduated in 2000 because no one in my immediate family wanted me to go to college and they went out of their way to make damn sure I couldn't go. They didn't provide me with transportation, they didn't help me out with applying for a scholarship, nothing. My grandmother decided that I flat out didn't need to go to college or work, so she ensured I wouldn't be able to. For 11 years I haven't been able to go to college, and I plan on doing so to pursue degrees in everything literature and a career in medical billing and coding, and no matter how hard it becomes for me, I promise to press on and never, ever drop out, because I've never been characterized as someone who throws in the towel. To me, college is my way to pursue my dream. Without degrees I have no credibility, personally. I am the kind of person that needs backup.


My point: Don't drop out. Don't give up. Press on. You've got a lifetime ahead of you to achieve success as a writer.

Karen Junker
12-06-2011, 11:14 PM
You could always change colleges -- go to someplace like The Evergreen State College, where you can design your own classes and degree.

Just a suggestion.

It took me 14 years to finish my BA degree, but I am very proud to have it.

Good luck to you!

Mr. Anonymous
12-07-2011, 08:18 AM
I disagree with this. While school is certainly not a bad platform for learning, there is nothing that you can learn in a school that you can't learn on your own, or through other social exposures. Also, learning for learning's sake isn't worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. I think it's safe to say that we all do it because we want the promised land of a job.

I didn't say you *can't* learn the stuff you learn in school on your own. I just said school makes it easier. Whether it's Kant's Ethics or Linear Algebra or Astrophysics, it helps to be in a course structured to teach you the subject, taught by a Professor who's an expert, and with plenty of fellow peers to consult, and learn from.

True, everyone gets degrees, in part, because they want a job. However, don't be so quick to imply that this is the end-all-be-all reason. If I were only interested in getting a job, I would probably have picked a much more practical major than philosophy. And there are plenty of people like me. Sure, these same people make jokes about how they're going to be jobless, bemoan that what they learn in school isn't really applicable to the real world, and yet, give them a chance to do it over, and I'm sure a lot of them wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't.

Because I do believe education derives only a very small part of it's value from the fact that it makes it easier to get a job.

shaldna
12-07-2011, 02:25 PM
I haven't been able to go to college since I graduated in 2000 because no one in my immediate family wanted me to go to college and they went out of their way to make damn sure I couldn't go. They didn't provide me with transportation, they didn't help me out with applying for a scholarship, nothing.

My folks weren't able to help me. They don't earn a lot and they couldn't contribute to my university education. I paid for my own driving lessons and bought my own car when I was 22. Until then I rode the bus or walked whereever I needed to go.

I hunted out the courses, I applied for funding, grants and bursaries on my own. I did it all on my own.

Your folks didn't STOP you going to uni, they just didn't help you.

There are many, many people in that situation and they don't let it stop them.



My grandmother decided that I flat out didn't need to go to college or work, so she ensured I wouldn't be able to.

It's nothing to do with your grandmother. If you want to go then go.

Don't rely on other people to facilitate your dreams and goals for you. And don't make other people the excuse for you not reaching for them.

Bushrat
12-09-2011, 03:55 AM
Do what you're really interested in and passionate about. There are already too many frustrated people working jobs they don't like.
Go and see what else is out there, why not combine a year of travelling with volunteer work or wwoofing (www.wwoof.org (http://www.wwoof.org)) and writing?

That being said - if you're writing doesn't pan out, be prepared to live with the consequences :) They don't have to be dire, but they can be for a little while. My experience has been though, that if you have a strong internal compass pulling you into one direction, it's best to listen to yourself and not others.

DragonBlaze
12-09-2011, 05:15 AM
Definitely get the degree! From what i have learned it is a tough world in the reality of publishing books that you write. Unless you get lucky or are fortunate in the response, you will certainly not get rich.

Land that diploma and a job and then begin living your dream! :D

Darkshore
12-09-2011, 07:18 AM
I faced this same problem. I'm currently a Sophomore working towards a double major of History/Education. This semester was rough for financial, personal, and many other reasons. Sadly I may have even failed a class for the first time in my life (being a required algebra course). But in the end I decided that even though I want to be a writer if for some reason I fail at achieving that dream I'd rather not have to flip-burgers for the rest of my life.