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Question 2

Do you think that your college education was a good investment?

Photo prompt #2: A graduation picture.

At 17, there’s no way you can know what you want to do with the rest of your life. There’s just no way. In most cases, you haven’t known the monotony of a full-time job, you haven’t lived alone or with roommates, you haven’t lived anywhere of your own choosing, chances are you have no lasting relationship to consider — there are just so many variables in life that you haven’t even encountered yet.

I often hear people say that the mind is not fully developed until the age of 23. How can you possibly be asked to do more than take a shot-in-the-dark guess about what you want to do for the next 40 years?

For me, taking at least one gap year would have made all the difference.

I enjoyed my time at Rhode Island School of Design, but if I had taken a year off to work, travel, and experience some of what life has to offer, I may have chosen a path based more upon what I wanted than what others expected of me. I may not have. But it makes sense to take some time to think about such a momentous, far-reaching decision.

Once I took the plunge and matriculated at RISD, I was glad that I did. It was difficult, rigorous, and awe-inspiring to see the work of my peers and teachers. I felt incredibly lucky to be part of that community, and at times I didn’t feel worthy. I feel that I was prepared for the real world in that I was given real life assignments. However, school doesn’t teach you the humility and patience to work with a difficult client. In school, you get a critique of your assignment and you can either take the advice of your peers or not.

After about two years out of school, I realized I didn’t want to be forced to make those changes to my work, I just wanted to make work for me. This sounds like a cop out, and it may well be, but I’ve now had the time and space to really consider it and I feel very strongly about it.

I often wonder if I had worked with a few clients right out of school, maybe I would have figured this out before my parents and I spent $40,000 a year for four years. So, if I don’t know what I want to do at 26, I really had no hope of knowing at 17. This is why I push the importance of a gap year.

Now that I have made this decision not to do freelance illustration as a full-time job, I feel my only choice to further my career is to get a graduate degree. I’ve decided on art conservation, but this time I’m going to try to work in the field before I attempt another degree. I sincerely hope that a graduate degree is still worth it’s salt in today’s economy, but I honestly have no idea.

I look forward to seeing the opinions of other members of Generation Stuck about the graduate degree question and would love to see a lively discussion on the subject.

One comment:

  1. Helen Carpenter at 12:06 pm, November 2, 2012

    At the beginning of my Jr year of college I realized that my future degree in International Development and Social Change would give me the opportunity to be an unpaid intern for the next ten years. I realized that, although, I felt strongly about my major, I could not be dependent on my parents for another 15 years. I essentially flunked out that semester. I moved back home, started substitute teaching, took a class at community college, and lost 50 lbs. Most importantly, I became successful. I am smart but I was never one of the top students. Through my time as a substitute teacher I realized I really wanted to teach. I think I have known this my whole life but I shied away from it because it is not very glamorous. I applied to Lesley and I was lucky enough to have gotten a second chance. My six months off gave me clarity and focus that I have never had before. Failing and taking time off from school has made me an infinitely better student.