This question has been asked time and time again. And in this post, I’ll be going over my experience in not going and then why people do and don’t believe college is worth it. If you are on the fence of going, then this article will be great for you as I’ll be outlining the most common factors when deciding.
My Decision Not To Go To College
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014. Wow… I sound old when I date myself. 🙂
Well, this is the day I 100% decided not to go to college for video or filmmaking. My vocational school at the time, Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, offered “industry interviews” where I’d be able to interview a professional in my desired career field. (film & video)
At that given point in time, I wanted to become a filmmaker. So I selected the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and I had the opportunity to interview the commissioner at the time. I asked him point blank, “Do I need to go to college to get into the film industry?” And he responded with an affirming “No”.
His main thesis at the time was that the industry is based on who you know and that you can always start at the bottom as a production assistant. You know, the person that gets the director a cup of coffee. Add the right amount of sugar, develop a good reputation as a hard worker, and away you go. You can work your way up the ranks. But is this always the case?
What I Didn’t Know Back Then
At the time going into the interview, I was leaning more towards not going to college. That interview just reinforced my decision. But I wouldn’t realize until later the consequences of not going to college. At the time it sounded like a good idea.
- Hustle & grow a network
- Save time and start my career now
- Don’t go into student loan debt
But what I lacked 8 years ago was a vision of what my true full time career would look like. Who would I work for? Where would I work? What type of films/videos do I want to make? At the time I just focused on just “making it”. Accepting every film position that came my way even if it wasn’t paid.
At the end of high school I landed an internship with Rock The House. They offered me a part time job and once they made me full time, I stopped pursing filmmaking in the Hollywood sense. I became comfortable with the stability of a full time job, and I was still doing what I wanted to do in creating videos for a living. So what’s wrong?
What Companies Value
In the video below I go over the important framework that outlines how to get a job or “work”. (Regardless if you go to college or not) I highly suggest watching it if you are looking for a concise way to gain opportunities. I also go more in depth on my no college experience.
But what I didn’t realize in the corporate video production world is how highly companies value a college degree when they hire an in-house video professional. Needless to say experience isn’t everything, because with most companies it is only half of their wish list. The other half is education or expertise.
Based on the framework I mentioned in the video above, you have to have a company go from knowing you > to liking you > to trusting you. I think the perceived value that a college degree has doesn’t give applicants a chance when they don’t have one. That value would need to be supplemented in a different way, possibly starting from square one and working for free. Similarly to how I started at RTH as an intern.
Other Career Options
But my job is only one of several options you can take as a film or video professional. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really have a vision for where I wanted to go so I took what was given to me. So if you are deciding if you should go to college, I think it starts with the question of where do you see yourself in the future? Working for a company is only one option. There are many others you can take.
A college degree is highly valued when it comes to getting a job with a company. Whether to be an in-house video professional such as myself, or working for an ad agency or other video production company. But do you need a college degree if you plan to be a freelancer or start your own video production company as an entrepreneur?
I had a chance to talk with Valerie Garrett, of Valerie Garrett Productions. Val started her own video production business and works as a freelancer for Flex Media. So in this career path, does she value a college degree? In the video below we talk about her college experience at Cleveland State University, and how it has impacted her career so far.
I think it goes without saying that college is time consuming, and it can hold you back in some cases. For me I can truly say that not going to college has saved me a lot of time. I have more time to work, build my career, and enjoy life. But college isn’t all bad and the community & structure that college provides can indeed be beneficial for many people.
What College Is Good For
On the flip side, I had the chance to interview Jenn Noga of Bar Buddies. Jenn started her own personal brand and works as a content creator. She can attribute a lot of her success and career growth from her college experience at Kent State University. Because of the opportunities college provided her, she was able to develop her personal brand and grow as a content creator.
I had her on my podcast, The Post Show Podcast, where we talk about her career journey. You can listen to the full episode below.
I tried my best to cover both sides of the decision making process in this post. At the end of the day it is a big life decision and only you can decide for yourself if college is truly worth it for you. Here is a quick recap / guide for you below to help you make a decision.
- First visualize what your full time career looks like.
- Who do you want to work for?
- Where do you want to work?
- What film & videos do you want to create?
- What are the different steps to get to your desired full time career?
- Consider all your education options. (College might only be one of them)
- Consider the consequences of your decision.
- Will you be able to pay back student loans?
- What perceived value does a college degree have to your future employer?
- Are you willing to dedicate 2, 4, 8 years of your life for a college degree?
- Will college give you network opportunities that you currently don’t have or cannot easily achieve without?
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