To Stay in College or Not to Stay in College
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Student Life

To Stay in College or Not to Stay in College

An update to my article "Paying for College When You're Low-Income"

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To Stay in College or Not to Stay in College
Inspirational Study

As I was growing up, and even today, I was the teacher’s pet. I was the student that even if I hated the teacher, most of my teachers loved me and did their best to make sure I passed their class. Some teacher even went beyond and gave me opportunities to do things like volunteer work and art projects outside of the class that I was interested in. Aside from this past semester – I still haven’t checked my grade as of the writing of this article – I only ever got one C, and that was in 7th grade science when I forgot to bring half of a project into class on presentation day. My teachers know me as the classroom nerd, my classmates know me as the classroom nerd and my friends know me as the classroom nerd; I only know myself as the classroom nerd.

The last time I was invited to a huge party was in 6th grade, and I was the back-up because someone else fell through on the group’s plans. I’ve only ever drank alcohol in the safety of my dorm room or with my mother who, bless her soul, is trying to find a type of alcohol that I can keep down (I don’t like it). While I do talk to a few close friends on Facebook messenger every once in a while, I haven’t hung out with anyone in weeks, maybe even months.

I’m the classroom nerd that doesn’t really do anything outside of school. That’s my identifier and it’s been that way for years; pretty much ever since I started school at the age of 3.

The second article I released on this website was talking about how I’m struggling to pay for college because I live in poverty and $50,000 a year for tuition is an amount my family doesn’t even come close to making in 5 years. Because of that situation, I’ve had to make a serious decision about whether or not to drop out of college because I can no longer afford it (not that I was able to afford it in the first place).

Before I reveal my decision, let me list some of the main factors that played into it:

1. My most recent major was in film

When I first attended college the fall of 2015, I went to my school for Early Childhood Education, a career in which having a degree, or at least a specific certification depending on which age group you want to work with, is vital. You’re fairly limited on the amount of jobs you can get in the childcare industry without a certification, and I say that as someone currently working in the industry without a certification.

In Spring 2016 I transferred into film. My first semester was great because it was challenging. I was learning new things about cinematography and editing a video that I would have never thought to search for on Google on my own. But in Fall 2016, I realized that everything I was learning in my classes, I could easily find on Google or Bing with a quick, 5 second keyword search. During this past semester, I wasn’t feeling challenged. I’m someone who thrives off of feeling challenged because it makes my accomplishments that much more satisfying. So while attending classes that I didn’t find valuable anymore with $50,000 a year in paperwork and loans piling up, I didn’t see the reason in continuing my education full-time.

Additionally, film is an industry where a fancy college degree doesn’t mean anything. What employers in the film and entertainment industry care about is your portfolio of work, how you get along in a team and how you execute your plans to make your creativity available for other people to enjoy. Your GPA and a degree that’s only going to hang on your wall means very little to a very small range of people in the entertainment industry. Everything that I’ve added to my portfolio of work in the past year, I did on my own without much assistance from my college education. I wasn’t finding my education useful anymore, and my classes weren’t doing much to add to my portfolio.

2. My family’s financial stress

As someone who was born and raised playing jump rope with the poverty line – sometimes we’re far under it, sometimes we’re literally $20 over it and can’t get assistance – my family has always had financial stress. Part of me going away to college was trying to ignore and run away from the problems this stress caused. For all of the financial – and other – problems my family has been going through, my going away to college at an expensive, private university out of my state wasn’t helping. I was literally spending thousands of dollars we didn’t have to pay for my education. You would think with scholarships, grants and loans my education would have pretty much been paid for.

Here’s the thing they don’t tell you until the summer after you graduate high school: students can only get so much money in government loans. The rest of your education loans are taken out by your parent in the Parent PLUS Loan. But my mother’s credit is atrocious, and my father has a history of abusing me financially, so you can see where that would be a problem. Somehow I made it work for three semester, but I literally had to sell my soul to the person who is my devil and I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. Now without a parent to sign off for the PLUS loan, I was struggling even more to pay for college. I could either find more loans that I can’t apply for and tear my hair out applying to scholarships that I probably was not going to get; or I could drop out of school, get a full-time job and add to the solution of my family’s financial stress instead of hurting it.

3. I want to have a career on YouTube

I’ve already admitted this in another article, but I want to have a career on YouTube. I want to make videos every week that people watch and enjoy, and I can make a feasible income off of the AdSense I get from those videos. I go more into detail about this in the other article, but the reason I want to be a professional YouTuber is because on YouTube, you don’t have to be any one thing. Remember how I thrive off of having a challenge? Well, I don’t just thrive, I survive off of it. I literally go into a depression whenever I feel like my life isn’t moving forward, or that I’ve gotten stuck into a routine that isn’t hard for me to figure out anymore.

On YouTube, I can: make videos, write and publish books, write and star in shows or movies or create my own charity that I encourage my viewers to donate to. I can do these things and more with a career and following on YouTube. Like with film, you especially don’t need a degree in order to make it big on YouTube. All you need is a camera, a descent background, an interesting message or niche talent and a growth strategy. It’s difficult, but ultimately it’s a career in being yourself. I feel more challenged trying to have a career where I can just be myself every day, and that makes me happy.

4. I’m not just the classroom nerd

This might be my most important reasoning, but I’m tired of being the classroom nerd. I don’t want to be the teacher’s pet anymore. I don’t want my identifier to be that I get straight A’s in all my classes. I don’t want that to be the reason people remember me 10 years from now in a fleeting moment of nostalgia.

Even my family and my closest friends have a difficult time seeing me as someone other than a person that’s good in school. My mother’s more upset for me that I’m not in college right now than I am for myself.

If I had decided not to attend college once I graduated from high school, I would have been devastated. Back then, I thought education was the only way I would be able to break out of poverty and feel like I was successful in life. But even as I was on plane 3 of 3 to get to my college, I wrote in my diary that “I used to be excited about college.” Before I had even taken my classes, I had this gut feeling that college wasn’t the direction for me.

I’ve been in school ever since I was 3, the age where you start developing the ability to store your memories. All I’ve ever known is the American education system. But now that I’m 20 and have done the college thing, I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to go the difficult route and make a name for myself without having a degree. All that degree means to me is that I sat in classrooms for an additional four years outside of high school. I’d much rather spend that time writing my second book – I’ve already self-published one called Aura, available on Amazon – uploading videos to YouTube and making connections in the online entertainment industry. It’s going to be a challenge, but that’s why I want to live my life going in this new direction.

So did I drop out of college? Maybe. As of writing this article, I’m signed up for classes at a different college, but I’m debating whether or not to drop out of those as well. I’m working full-time, I’m starting the initial stages of writing my second book, I’m making YouTube videos bi-weekly, and I’m writing articles for this website. I don’t know that I have to take the online classes. Actually, that’s not true. I could make the time, but I don’t know if I want to make the time for the online classes.

If you’re struggling with this same situation, I would advice that you do what’s best for you. If you need an institution like college to help you advance in your career or to keep you settled on a direct path, than stay in. But I’m someone who naturally puts myself on a path that I follow without regard for any obstacle that comes in my way. If I set my mind to something and I absolutely want to accomplish it, the word “no” doesn’t even exist. So I don’t need an institution to keep me in check; I can do it myself (and am doing it myself).

If your family is also struggling with financial problems and you don’t know if you can afford college in the United States, ask yourself if you want to take the large amounts of time to search for scholarships, grants and loans. Unlike all of your high school teachers and all of the colleges you want to apply to, I’m going to lay down the truth: unless you come from money and you’re loaded, college in the United States is going to be a bitch to pay off. You need a parent, guardian, or someone you trust and who has decent credit to sign off their name along with yours when you apply for loans. If you don’t have any of that and you don’t get enough scholarships to pay for it, you may want to rethink college and find a Plan B to getting a foothold in your career field.

Whatever your reason for attending or not attending college, don’t let anyone else make the decision for you. I let my teachers pressure me into thinking that college was the only way I could be successful in life, but that’s not true. I’m defining my success as: having enough money for me and my mother to live comfortably, and having a decent amount of people throughout the world recognizing my name for a project I did, like my book or a viral YouTube video.

Notice how that didn’t have anything to do with school. I’m done being the classroom nerd. I’d much rather be the YouTube geek that made her definition of success a reality.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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