College: Do I still need it?

While I was in the middle of writing this post, I recorded audio of some thoughts on being a Linchpin, publishing (shipping) stuff, and perfection – with a nod to the Due Process Flickr group:

Now, onto the post.


On Wednesday, I met with a Citrus College counselor. This is where I stand:

  • I have several Cs which are bringing down my GPA to about 2.57.
  • A few years ago, my GPA would be acceptable to CSU schools. Because of our recent budget crisis, that’s not the case.
  • It’s not possible to retake classes in which I received a C since that’s technically passing.
  • I’ve retaken every class possible. There aren’t any Ds, Fs, or withdrawn classes on my record. Academic renewal isn’t needed.
  • I have my Associates Degree. (Associate in Arts: Social & Behavioral Sciences)

My friend, PJ, tells me I should try Pitzer College or any of the Claremont Colleges. (He graduated from Pitzer.) To paraphrase his advice to me or anyone in college: take classes you’ll actually enjoy or be miserable. Another friend, James[1. You may know him as our awesome drummer for The Scarlet Paradigm. He’s a student at the University of La Verne and only has good things to say about it.], suggests to look into the University of La Verne.

They’re private colleges, so funding [is] a lot better than CSU and UC colleges. At La Verne, Undergrad Adult (25+) Tuition and Fees are substantially less expensive – that’s very cool. Regardless, I shouldn’t worry about money because financial aid should help. (See Student Loan Network – no affiliation.)

You already know I love photography. But, people seem to suggest that a major in business or marketing would be more helpful. My internal conflict is committing to a program for a couple of years that I actually like.

I’ve been subscribed to Rangefinder Magazine for almost a year now. I also follow several photographers online. What I’m finding is that a lot of them didn’t major in photography.

  • Scott Bourne was a Political Science major.
  • Scott Rinckenberger said, “Not one of us have an education in photography. We had college majors like English, French, Philosophy. You know, those subjects that inevitably prompt your parents to ask just exactly you plan to make a living with that degree. But what we lack in formal training is made up for in a blue collar work ethic, a disdain for convention, and a never ending search for new creative outlets.”
  • Jessica Claire was an English major.
  • Sam Abell majored in English and minored in Journalism. He said, “I have given many talks at universities across America to students studying photography. I’m often asked the question ‘What’s the most important thing a photographer can do to prepare for this life?’ and I always say ‘Learn to run a small business.’ John Harrington‘s book, “Best Business Practices for Photographers“, is that curriculum. You don’t have to go to college. You don’t have to major in small business administration, but you do have to read John Harrington’s book. This is the bible of running a successful photography business.”
  • Chase Jarvis didn’t major in photography: “As with all things Jarvis, he took a very roundabout route into photography. He attended college on a soccer scholarship, and though he was majoring in philosophy and premed, it was the passing on of his grandfather that became a life-changing event for him. Jarvis found himself the beneficiary of his grandfather’s camera, and he took it and three accompanying lenses on a postgrad tour of Europe with his then-girlfriend Kate, who’s now his executive producer and his wife. They spent a great deal of time there, living out of bags and traveling from country to country, all the way from Portugal to Sweden to Moscow. Along the way, he taught himself to shoot, and once he returned from Europe, he immediately bailed out on postgrad med school. He had planned to be a doctor, but instead ended up living in Colorado for three years where he started taking pictures of his friends out on the slopes. These friends, as it turned out, were to be the future athletic stars of the extreme-sports lifestyle.”

I have friends with degrees which don’t apply to whatever they’re doing now. They essentially went to school for the experience, friendships and growth of discipline. Nothing wrong with that. I still have a lot of respect for them. (They have a Bachelor’s Degree, while I don’t.)

So, I’m at a crossroads.

After talking to James, I’m highly considering the ULV. For transfer students:

The application deadline for students applying for the fall semester is April 1. Students applying for spring semester should submit their applications by December 1.

My GPA is a bit short, but maybe I can talk to the Dean of Admissions about that. I have several months to think about it, but I’ll be pursuing photography no matter what – you knew that already. (Well, unless the band makes it. Then again, I think “making it” is a different beast than it was before.)

Ultimately, I want to be a Linchpin.

If you have any thoughts or encouragement, please leave a comment or send me an email. If you’re a Debbie Downer, don’t be surprised if I delete your comment. After all, this is my house. Thanks!

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. Cat whisperer. Sometimes, a photographer and card magician.

3 thoughts on “College: Do I still need it?”

  1. Great post Bryan! I’d say do it(ULV)! You already know this, but for the sake of the discussion, I played basketball and majored in Philosophy from Whittier College, which is a simalair school to ULV. The Leos were in our conference, and while I hated them on the court, I have heard nothing but good things about there programs.

    Furthermore on the point about not nessasarily majoring in what your going to be doing, I completely agree with that. I majored in Philosophy, and while I can’t say it put me in a better position nessesarily financially, I know it has greatly enhanced the person I am, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The college experience itself is priceless. Go for it!


  2. I had the same/similar problem.

    At first, since I loved industrial/car design, I started off taking industrial design classes at a private university. Bad idea, as I learned (the hard way— lots of loans, and nothing to show for it). I ended up dropping out of that college after barely a semester, after taking online classes (another horrible idea for first time college students). I was naive and didn’t quite understand how college worked.

    Surprisingly, while industrial design was interesting to me, it wasn’t what I really felt passionate about. It turns out that I was more interested in being creative than drawing a bunch of products. I was really interested in problem solving/innovation.

    Since then I’ve basically started over, at a local community college, where I’m testing the waters to see what really sticks, to figure out what I’m really really interested in, before I move on to a four-year university.

    Around the time I also started really getting into photography— which first grabbed my attention after completing a summer college program in New Media that I took for nearly two months when I was in San Francisco back in 2007 while mainly attempting to sample a few product design classes. However, photography, while still one of my top interests, was not what I wanted to focus on in college or as a career. Again, my primary interest has been in problem solving/innovation.

    I was beginning to notice a pattern. What did product design and photography have in common: visual arts, design, aesthetics, but most importantly: being creative.

    So, I started to think long and hard about what I truly enjoyed, what I truly felt passionate about. It seems that I had been overlooking the big picture all this time. What I really really really enjoyed was being creative, which often required critical thinking. Thinking about problems and how to potentially solve them.

    Eventually, after thinking about this, critically, everything was pointing towards philosophy and, later, sociology— two topics I never quite understood clearly until I spent an entire summer researching what they were all about.

    After reading literally hundreds of articles (especially on Wikipedia)/websites, and after watching hours and hours of video, I began generating all kinds of interesting thoughts about various problems— social, environmental, philosophical, technological, etc. I also found that one of the best ways to express a thought is to write about it. Writing was also one of those things that I was always good at but kind of failed to develop further. To overcome this, I started blogging, which was/is good practice.

    Now, while there are a lot of other little things that led me to photography, philosophy, and most of my other current interests, I finally feel confident about what is best to pursue. Still, I will continue to keep an open mind about other things I might come across.

    Sooner or later it all adds up; the trick is to begin to notice when it starts to add up, before its too late and you end up on a road which is extremely hard to turn around on.

    Basically the moral of my story is, to truly understand what you want, you must first understand who you are. My favorite phrase is “Nosce te ipsum”, or “Know Thyself”. My favorite quote is, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”


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