Writers Don’t NEED College (Plus 5 Reasons to Love Online Classes)

This post may offend you…

My high school graduation photo.

My high school graduation photo.

After high school, I shuffled off to community college.

I hated it.

I dropped out.

I went to a pretty tough “magnet” high school and I was burnt out with school. In fact, high school pretty much made me hate school. I needed a break.

In my time off, I wrote a screenplay. I had some interest, but, at that point in my life, I wasn’t mentally or emotionally “ready” to take the plunge to be a real writer just yet. Okay, I admit it: I completely freaked out. (I stashed my screenplay in a box, never to be seen again).

It was around time that one of my co-workers at my crappy minimum wage job convinced me to join Bryman College with her.

For those of you who don’t know, Bryman College was a trade school that taught people how to be Medical or Dental Assistants. She went into Medical. I went into Dental. I was lured in by the promise of a steady paycheck. For the rest of my life.

Now, at the time, I’d never had a cavity.  My trips to the dentist always involved getting my teeth cleaned, being told how awesome I am, and being given a toy. I had no idea that the smell of bone being drilled was so…nauseating. So that was one problem.

Student loans and medical bills ultimately did me in.

I had health problems, I was working at a crappy minimum wage job, and I couldn’t afford to pay. My credit took the hit.

I returned to community college. I took a couple of classes. Dropped out.

I tried to get back into writing.

I thought “I’m ready this time.” I wasn’t. I did a few articles for The Pulse — the official news magazine for Comic Con — and then freaked out again.

I still wasn’t ready to call myself a “writer.”

I feared freelancing.

The idea of living “paycheck to paycheck” for the rest of my life was terrifying.

I was willing to stick with my minimum wage jobs. They might not have paid much, but they paid steady.

But, every once in a while, I would get a wild hair and decide to “better” myself with schooling. I made a few more trips to community college.

My last stint at community college lasted from Fall of 2007 to Spring of 2009.

It wasn’t so bad. I met a few good friends there, including one professor that I actually like, respect, and continue to keep in touch with. I took classes that I thought would be interesting (IPA, Anatomy, Anthropology) or useful (Writing, First Aid, CPR). I wouldn’t say my last trip to college was a waste of time, but it went nowhere.

All of my schooling went nowhere.

And I was good at school.  A’s and the occasional B grade, that was me. I didn’t like school, but I was good at it.

I wasn’t dropping out again and again because I wasn’t doing well. I was dropping out because it just wasn’t right.

You don’t “need” school to be a writer. You need to write to be a writer.

If you love school and you really, really want to go: More power to ya! Good for you.

My aunt loved school very much and she was one of my favorite people. I won’t hold it against you.

But, if you’re going to school just to get your parents (or someone else) off your back, or because you think you “have” to go to school to succeed at writing, then stop right there, Buddy!

Stop making excuses and start writing.

It’s True: You Don’t Necessarily Need College…

Above, I made a fairly “bold” statement: You don’t need college to be a writer — you need to write. I stand by that. Heck – I’m proof of that!

I also make this statement in my free e-book, LittleZotz Writing: Adventures in Freelancing. And while most of the reviews for my e-book have been overwhelmingly positive (woo-hoo!), I got one reader who was offended by my views on formal education and said:

Saying that you don’t HAVE to go to school to make it in life is counter-intuitive to every sane message that we are given.”

So let me be super clear about something…

College VS. Learning

This is the reply I wrote—for all to see, not just the reviewer who wrote to me in private:
Message to Reviewer

It’s Never Too Late

Contrary to popular belief, the doors never close on college. You don’t have to decide right now whether you’re going to go to college or not. It isn’t like the game of Life – You can change your mind down the road and decide take a different path. In fact, you might be more prepared (mentally and financially) for formal education when you’re older!

My aunt, that I mentioned above, went back to college and got her doctorate’s when she was 50. And she went on to do many great things before she died.

Whether you decide to go to college — now or later — or not, it’s all perfectly fine. Just remember: Never, ever, stop learning.

The 5 Best Things About Online Classes

1. YOU Choose Your Teacher.

The one thing that I never had any control of in the traditional education system was who I got as a teacher. Even when I was in the position to choose my own classes, there wasn’t any way for me to know who the teacher was ahead of time. With online classes, you can usually speak with the teachers ahead of time — or at least get to know them through their work.

2. Know the Syllabus Ahead of Time.

In my experiences, most online classes put their syllabus up online for everyone to look over before signing up. No more worrying about exactly what you’re getting into!

3. No Books or Extra Materials to Buy.

When I went to college, there were always “mandatory” books to buy (and I only used three of them!). It was expensive and unnecessary. With online classes, the materials are always included with the class — no hidden fees or useless “extra” materials to buy after starting up.

4. You Go At Your Own Pace.

Yes, the actual classes are usually on a schedule (unless you’re taking a completely DIY version of the class), but the work can be done at your own pace. You aren’t doing it for a grade — you’re doing it for yourself. And, in the end, you’re the only one you really have to report to.

5. The Classes are Actually Useful.

Another way of putting it: The classes are more specialized. With online classes, you have a lot more control over exactly what you’re learning. Not just who and when, but the actual subject matter. And there are so many choices!

I’ve always been a fan of learning. And, as a business owner, it’s more important than ever to continue learning and continue updating my skills.

If you feel the same way, you might want to consider trying online classes. 🙂

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4 comments on “Writers Don’t NEED College (Plus 5 Reasons to Love Online Classes)
  1. Thanks for this! I got my AS in business admin in community college, and while it’s been slightly helpful in my freelance writing, I’ve been able to grow much more as a writer just by working within my writing business full-time. Sometimes I wish I had taken a journalism class so things like interviewing experts for articles would come more easily.

  2. Thanks for sharing your own experience here, I am fond of reading such posts! You know, I fully agree with you that people do not have to decide right now to go to college or not, they can just do it when they feel they quite ready for it! I think that your post will help many people to make a right choice in the life! Also, it should be noted that it was interesting for me to read all these five best things about online classes you shared here!

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