I know many of my photography peers are thinking about going back to college. Here is my experience. I should have been done my accounting degree this fall, but I got a bit sidetracked with some stressful situations and decided to back off a little for my family’s sanity… It looks like I will finish this degree fall of 2015 instead.
The questions begin…
- WHERE? This is up to you. I chose a local college.
- HOW? In person, hybrid, or online, it’s up to you. Colleges have come so far fitting into your lifestyle.
- WHEN? My advice? Start as soon as you consider the idea. Why not, if nothing else, take one class per semester, so you are only that much closer to having a degree in something else as a safety net, just in case the future of photography doesn’t pan out. And don’t forget, much of this is tax deductible.
- WHAT? Chose something that interests you, obviously, but make sure you do not choose a useless degree (search out the current states of many industries so you don’t get stuck in another dead end situation like the photography industry – although we all still hold hope that it will come back eventually). I chose to go back into accounting because I started it in the 90s, and it is practical. Many would rather pursue psychology than math, so less of a fight for the job positions. I also had been in the medical field in the past as a transcriptionist and the medical field isn’t looking appealing to me either especially with all the changes taking place in medical insurance.
First Step: See a college adviser. Plan your course.
Second Step: Because I was out of school for nearly 20 years when I decided to go back to my accounting degree, I had to take Accuplacer tests. I did study ahead for the math tests. My original college adviser laughed at me when I said I thought I could still pass algebra. Hearing him laugh (thinking he was rude), just challenged me that much more.
I went in for the tests. I aced the English – to the point where the testing center staff was shocked. Dude, I got As in private high school and graduated with an advanced diploma…. I didn’t feel I was stupid, just……. out of touch with current testing methods. Next up was the math. There are three math Accuplacers, as there are three Stem Track classes (these are classes that you would have to take to catch up your knowledge and get you on track for college math if you are not capable of going straight into college math). My goal was to test out of the first two. I wanted to remain realistic. I passed the regular math and then I passed the algebra with no trouble at all (surprisingly, many students their first year out of high school cannot pass these – I find that incredibly sad – that’s really messed up). I am on schedule for Stem III but honestly, I plan to test out of the pre-calculus/trig as well this coming fall. I just need to find some time to study up. I loved trig in high school but I don’t remember much of pre-calc even though I took it.
Third Step: Realistically define how many classes you can take a semester. I’ve been doing fall, spring, and summer semesters. I was taking 3-4 classes per semester and still running my business full time. I only had one hangup and it was with an English class this past May where frankly, the professor was quite arrogant (it’s a long story and I had to file a complaint with the school, maybe I will share another time) and between Dean going into the hospital for surgery and the drama that ensued and spending the night at the barn often waiting for the birth of Pixie and beginning a full time job), it was a very stressful time. Other than that, no problems. I haven’t taken any traditional classes in person. I chose online. Online classes usually require a lot of writing, so if you are not into writing, beware…. I did take two hybrid classes (this is a mix of in person and online), but the professor had never taught a hybrid class before, and didn’t do any followup with online portions of teaching which left everyone pretty frustrated (although he was a super nice guy and tried his best to help us). I won’t do another hybrid if I can help it.
I was quite intimidated to start back to school at 38 years old, but I have to say, it’s been very self-fulfilling. I kind of feel like I was wasting my brain and some of my other talents all these years. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it was important to be a mom when I was being a mom, but I lost myself as a photographer in the mass of over saturation. My personal being has layers (I’m an onion haha). I love to challenge myself, despite the fact that Dean gets annoyed with me when I’m last minute trying to finish up an online exam (ah hem… like today…..) I hated high school. I didn’t want to go to college because I hated high school so much. I didn’t want to deal with it. Now I can say, on my own terms, it’s been going very well especially online – an introvert’s dream.
I’m not sure I will stop at this accounting degree. I do like my job, but I also like to push myself. In a few years, I plan on looking into the actuary exams. Who knows… maybe I will challenge myself to pass those seven exams…. maybe not.
As I said, I finish in the fall of 2015. I’m only taking two courses per semester at this point so I’m not overwhelmed. It’s all about balance.
Going back to college is a great way to reinvent oneself. I’ve heard every excuse in the book why someone cannot leave or get beyond the photography industry if they need to for family survival. You don’t have to…… but if you are struggling, there are other answers out there.