Over the weekend, I joined my family at a gathering to celebrate our relative’s high school graduation. High school isn’t easy — and making it through deserves a party! As the party wound down, I asked her dad what the next step was. Did she want to go to college? He said yes and we moved onto chatting about how community college was the smart choice with the cost of school going up so rapidly.
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you probably already know that I am a super fan of community college — so much so that I earned three separate degrees on my local campus. Why? It’s practical, affordable, fast-paced and the schedules are set up for the real world since most attendees are probably working or raising a family. It’s full of so many wins and provided the foundation for the career I have today.
Even though I swear by community college now, I’ll be honest — it wasn’t my first choice. Post-high school, the allure of big-name schools with beautifully designed welcome packets definitely swayed me. I looked at art schools in Portland and New York but every time, felt a lump in my throat when I saw the cost of tuition. Without a college fund, there was no way it was going to happen.
Realistically, I knew that community college was my only option at the time so I sucked it up and enrolled. Once I got there, I went from feeling uncool to savvy when I realized that many of my teachers also lectured at much bigger, prestigious schools. And, they had so many success stories of people they’d taught doing amazing things that it gave me confidence in my decision.
When I went back to school in 2006, it was only after I’d toured bigger schools once again, feeling out their graphic design programs. The cost still got to me — paying loans back into old age felt like a heavy weight I just couldn’t bear. I wanted to own a house, travel and have a savings account. A huge bill in my mailbox every month felt like a shackle on my future.
Instead, I enrolled in a limited entry program when I was 25 years old. The days were long but the classes were informative, the instruction top-notch and interestingly, after comparing notes, I later found out that many of our projects were exactly the same as the art schools and universities.
Within two semesters, the skills I’d learned helped me land my own clients and by the end of the first year, thanks to a connection from my teacher, I had an internship at a thriving design studio.
When I graduated, I had less than $10,000.00 worth of debt and made enough extra income from working full-time at a studio and freelancing on the side to pay off my loans in about 2 years.
Having a design degree from community college didn’t stop me from working with companies including Virgin Records, Forever 21, Nike or Adidas — education is important but so is hard work and forging your own path. A name on a diploma only means so much — it’s what you do with your skills that will take you the furthest.
In case you’re interested, this is the graphic design program I attended and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This post isn’t sponsored in any way — with graduation winding up and research for schools beginning, I want to remind you that there are other options for your education that aren’t publicized nearly enough.
Have questions about my program or community college in general? Let me know in the comments!