To College, Or Not To College? – Part 1 (Will I Want/Get More Opportunities?)

August 1, 2013

coming about college going in circles about why someone should go
Photo credit: Gary Varvel

Yesterday, I talked about obstacles in going to college (since I’ve painted myself into a corner).

But today, I’m asking – even if I could actually figure out a way around those obstacles, would it be worth it?

I constantly hear about a people having a hard time finding jobs, and having the worst time paying back a crushing amount of student loan debt.

(For you meticulous readers saying, “Didn’t I read your parents were going to pay for college?” That was an offer given to a high school senior, not a grown adult woman. Because of a confluence of events – related in part to health (and so much time off school), work, and the economy – the offer no longer stood after my first summer on America’s Got Talent – so rid that idea from your mind.)

I love being free, and not having to worry about student loan payments every month. But, do I feel less free than the people trapped by money? I am sort of trapped opportunity-wise(ish), I think.

For a non-college graduate, I’m doing well. But I do what I do, and that’s pretty much the end of my road. I can’t really imagine breaking into any other fields without a degree.

Now, you might be saying, “But, don’t you want to be some amalgamation of writer/entertainer/activist/entrepreneur when you grow up? Pretty sure you don’t need a degree for that, Aurora!”

You’re right. You don’t need one. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t help. For one thing, the activist part of that – how much of an activist do I really want to be? Do I need a JD? Do I want to actually work in politics as my day job? Or do I just want to do something such as volunteer for Planned Parenthood once a week?

The writer part – is it going to make me that much better of a writer if I were more educated? Maybe. I was reading an article about the Simpsons writers’ room the other day, and at least one person had a PhD! Many had advanced degrees.

Of course, access to knowledge is pretty unending at this point with the internet. So, if really all I want is knowledge, I can go read about stuff.

a pie chart making jokes about education
photo from

But, is that all I want?

Or do I need the prestige of that piece of paper, which may open doors?

I will write (and sing) until the day I die. I will never give up on the bigger dreams.

But, what I’ve realized, is being out of school doesn’t make it any easier to live those dreams. It’s still just a sea of rejection all the time. I could easily be getting rejected from a bunch of various programs, festivals, and more while in school.

What I’ve been realizing is that I’ve been doing my day job for four years. (Four years!) It could be another 10 until I have a musical on Broadway – or another 50. And I’d like my day-to-day life (if possible) to be something I could be very happy with until bigger goals are achieved. (Though that might be naive to say – is anyone fulfilled by her day job?)

There’s a lot of great stuff about working in reality TV. It’s extremely flexible. I could come and go all day if I needed to at my current job, and no one would notice. Not to mention, I can get about 4 or 5 months off a year. So, truly, what more could you want?

Well, possibly, you could want to feel like you’re giving back to the world (more so than you’re taking or tarnishing). Granted, that tarnishing part is way more true of some shows than others. I’m not specifically putting down any shows I’ve worked on. Luckily, I’ve gotten hired on many pretty okay shows.

But do you actually want a job that gives back? Almost all entry-level (and some right above entry-level) jobs (at least that I’ve seen) pay way less than what you make as an assistant editor. (And you actually have to work the whole year for less than what you’d make working 2/3 of it!)

Work a lot more in order to make a lot less – after taking on years of tons of debt in college… Is that something that sounds right?

But, maybe it doesn’t feel like work if you love it so much… And perhaps what you give up in comfort, you make up for in content-ness.

Switching gears, forget future opportunities for a second. What about the idea of having a new experience? I think it might be fun to be on a sports team or in a club, to hang out on a quad and all that stuff…

And let’s go to a different argument tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “To College, Or Not To College? – Part 1 (Will I Want/Get More Opportunities?)”

  1. I always tell students that a having a college degree makes zero difference until the moment that it _did_.

    Meaning, at some point in life an opportunity comes along, and if you don’t have a degree it passes you by (you may never even know it happened).


    A bit from my own past: I got a Masters in Education (focusing on high school math), then discovered that I really *hated* teaching public high school. For five years I worked doing a combination of test prep and private tutoring, where almost none of my coworkers had masters degrees and many were still in college, and I considered that masters degree totally worthless.

    Then one day in January, 2005 out of the blue I got a call from the father of a girl I’d tutored the previous year. “Hi Kevin. Remember me? I teach at Berklee College of Music. Our math instructor just quit, and we have a class starting in two weeks that needs to be taught. Are you interested?.”

    You bet I was!

    So I went to the interview, and it was going very well (They were desperate. 🙂 ) And then the Liberal Arts chair at the time says “Oh, almost forgot. You do have an advanced degree, right?”

    “Yes I do. I have a…”

    “OK then, perfect. You’ll be hearing from the personnel office tomorrow.”


    That degree of mine was worthless for five years, then it got me the job I love–and had I not had that degree I’d still be doing SAT prep or maybe working at some mediocre private high school..

    The payoff may not be immediate, but at some point is your life, having a degree is likely to lead to a great opportunity, and not having it will leave you wondering what you missed.

    Note, however, that in many cases they really don’t care what the degree is in. It might not be the worst plan to do whatever is cheapest/easiest, whether that means finishing up at Berklee or doing your local state school or community college. Nobody really cares about the “status” of a school if it isn’t, in the top 10.

    1. Hey Kevin, thank you for commenting and sharing your story!

      I agree with what you said that a degree doesn’t matter until the moment that it does.

      (That moment may never come for me, but it probably never hurts to be educated.)

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