Become a MacRumors Supporter for $25/year with no ads, private forums, and more!

Going to college and beyond scared


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 7, 2012
Hello everyone! My name is Michael and I'm starting my 1st year of college in April for Advertising and Graphic Design. I just have 1 little problem...I'm scared s**tless of what I'm going to be doing.

Now let me clarify.

I've been out of school for a few months because I moved and didn't make it in time for the semester, I've worked with photoshop quite a bit during highschool and always impressed teachers but that's it. I'm feeling around the dark with Illustrator because I'm trying some freelance to get ahead before I hit college. This may just be anxiety for getting into the "real" world but over the past few months I've felt scared of going to school for this. I feel like I won't be able to perform the duties to my company should I get a job after graduating and it's making me have second thoughts about becoming a designer. I've always been very artistic with some slight drawing skill and good eye for design but since I've graduated I've felt as though I won't be able to handle a graphic design job. I have all these (incorrect I'm sure) ideas of what a job would be like and I'm afraid of being thrown into a job blind and losing my job because I didn't do a good enough job or didn't know my material.

Of course this may just be lack of experience and I may feel totally different about it after some years of schooling.

I know I want to do this for a living. I've always wanted to do it since my uncle is a graphic designer. I'm just so terrified I won't have the skills necessary to do the job :(

My question to everyone is, did this happen to you during any point in your career? Did you ever feel like you wouldn't be able to handle your job once you got it and have you ever really been "scared" of getting into the field? If so, how did you handle it? and thanks to everyone who took the time to read and respond.


macrumors newbie
Aug 7, 2011
Learning is never wasted time. In school you'll get a chance to see what it's all about and whether it's a fit for you. Meanwhile you'll learn new knowledge and skills that will come in handy whatever you end up doing. Talk to a few folks who are a lot further along in life and know you well. Be open to suggestions, which you obviously are.


macrumors 603
Sep 5, 2005
Bath, United Kingdom
I'm scared s**tless of what I'm going to be doing.

Of course this may just be lack of experience and I may feel totally different about it after some years of schooling.
This is completely normal.

I know I want to do this for a living. I've always wanted to do it since my uncle is a graphic designer.
As long as you are sure. Having a role model in the family is can be a double edged sword.

I'm just so terrified I won't have the skills necessary to do the job :(
No one starts out with a complete set of skills.
That is one of the reasons why you go to school/university/college. :)

Did you ever feel like you wouldn't be able to handle your job once you got it and have you ever really been "scared" of getting into the field? If so, how did you handle it? and thanks to everyone who took the time to read and respond.
Oh god, yes and yes and yes…
There is no recipe, but when I started "real work" as opposed to university work I learnt the best thing to do is ask.
If you're unsure, just ask.
People are far friendlier and forgiving (up to a point ;)) than you think.

Good luck!


macrumors 68020
Sep 30, 2003
I know people who graduated with a graphic design degree and still can't use Photoshop properly.


macrumors regular
Oct 15, 2011
First off in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I'm a pure maths graduate, so I can't give you direct advice about graphic design.

However I say you have absolutely no need to worry. The very fact that you are worried about these things before you even get to college demonstrates you care far more than the average student, and that will help you a lot.

In my experience most courses assume little to no knowledge that any successful applicant to the course wouldn't automatically have.

I also second the comment above about taking other courses, although I think you could just as easily replace this with working on your own projects. Is an employer going to be more impressed that you took a couple of random courses at college, or that you had the initiative and drive to pursue a meaningful project of your own (needs to be worthwhile though).

Work hard and you'll do great, I know someone who did a graphic design course and a few years later he became an animator at Pixar. The reason he managed it? Hard work and ambition.

Apple Key

macrumors 6502a
Jan 4, 2012
What you are feeling is quite normal. I definitely went through the same thing before entering school and after graduating while looking for a job.

You should consider yourself ahead of the game, as you know exactly what you want to do and don't have to waste your time jumping from major to major. Spend all your energy and focus on graphic design and you will succeed!

As others have stated, you are expected to know next to nothing about the subject which you are learning in the beginning classes. As you move on to intermediate and advanced classes, you prior knowledge will be assumed, and you will see how your work compares to your classmates work. There will always be students with work that is better than yours (or that you feel is), and there will be students with work that is worse. In my last year of college, there were students who couldn't even put together a portfolio in their final classes, but clearly they hadn't been putting in the effort.

Just remember to always keep at it, keep your eyes open and pay attention to and question the design of everything you see.

If you do this, by the time you graduate and are looking for a job, although you won't have designed for every medium, you will have the knowledge and confidence to be able to do so. If they ask you to design a billboard for example, and you've never done so - you will still know that you can do it. College will teach you how to see and understand design. Once you know design, you know design and can design anything.

Follow your dream and never give up!

One last thing. The faster that you can pick up the computer programs the better. There were a lot of students that struggled with the software, and this left them behind. So, try to learn as much as you can on your own.


macrumors member
This is all normal. But when it comes time for you to break into the job market, your internship will prepare you for real world jobs. Also, when fresh out of school, no company expects you to be perfect or know everything... you will always be learning.


macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2009
Redford, MI
I went about things backwards...I got a job in graphic design, learned on the job, then decided I wanted to go back to school. Even though I already knew a lot about Photoshop and some other software, I was terrified to go back to school. It's completely normal to be nervous when taking a major step in life.

You'll be fine. It sounds like you really like Graphic Design, which is a good starting point. Learn all you can in school, and you'll continue learning once you find a job, too. No one will expect you to be absolutely perfect on your first job out of college. Just be open, listen to what they're telling you, and work hard.


macrumors 6502a
Sep 3, 2009
I'm sort of in the same situation as you (except I'm going more into 3D/VFX).

I think that you feel this way because you see professional quality design every day of your life, so you know exactly what will be expected of you in a job in the industry. This isn't really the case with another field of study such as physics or biology or whatever, where you really have no idea the scope of what you will be doing until you learn it in school. It's like the equivalent of a molecular biology major being scared because they don't know how to make a new antibiotic their first semester of their first year in school.

My advice for you right now would be just not to worry about the future before you really get into school. The deadlines and requirements that they impose on you for design will help you immensely.


macrumors member
Aug 31, 2011
Main thing is: NEVER GIVE UP!!!

When you first stumble and find yourself down on the ground face first, just learn from it, get up and go at it twice as hard and determined.

Wanna know my "scariest" work moment? I was working in Paris a couple years back on a company that provided IT solutions to several other companies. Thing was, you did not know who you were working for, i would get a work order to setup a network or fix/prepare a server for a specific situation and i would just do it... i didn't have any idea where the servers were going to or who owned them. 8 months into my contract i was "sold" for 2 years to 1 specific company... my chin hit the ground when i found out the company was France Telecom... I was scared as hell when i got the news, all the usual questions showed up in my head "what if i just don't have the expertise to work there?" "what if i mess up?" "I'll be working on live servers that are taking into account real-time data streamed from clients, mainly the stock exchange?!? OMG!!!! /starts packing stuff and looking for a plane ticket to another country" but then.... i found out 1 thing... ALL the projects i worked on during he past 6 months were for France Telecom. I had been doing the work i was gonna do now all along without knowing so basically i was just changing my physical location from 1 building to another. All went well from there on, had a blast at that work (specially thanks to my department boss that was a game addict and made me setup a dedicated game server just for the IT department, super fun guy to work with and extremely dedicated/focused when working on a live project).

Useful advice when you start working for a company: don't be the wise ass on the job, when you have doubts on a specific situation don't just study/do research for it, talk to your work colleagues, they can be a fountain of knowledge.


macrumors newbie
Jan 18, 2012
Costa Mesa, CA
Congrats on your career direction! I'm a designer who fell into it by accident. I started with a decent eye, taught myself the digital tools, and stepped into the industry when an opportunity arose. First, keep in mind that design is a vast subject, with a zillion tools, techniques, styles, and things to learn...and you'll never learn it all. It's a lifetime process, just like learning a new language. So focus on the ride for now, wherever you're at. Focus on what you really like, because that is what will sustain you. For example, I like doing experimental/edgy/roughed-up design work most of all, so to beef up my portfolio, I did posters and flyers for rock bands, art galleries, performance art nights, comedy shows, etc., all for free. When you do it for free, people don't expect much, so they're easily impressed, and blown away if you do good work, which helps you feel more confident, while also padding your portfolio. So, my advice would be to start doing free work for friends, with a focus on subjects that you're really into, whether it be music, film, or whatever.

Also start looking at design books for inspiration. I'm a HUGE David Carson fan--check him out. Anytime I'm feeling dull, I just crack open one of his books and get inspired all over again.

Get on Photoshop and Illustrator boards. Download free everything -- free plugins, free brushes....experiment, just to see how other people approach design problems.

Also, I highly recommend technical cross training. Don't just focus on design; also focus on where the design will be used. This makes you more valuable, being a jack of many trades. For example, teach yourself HTML so you can take a finished design and actually implement it using CSS; even better than that, teach yourself HTML by hand, not with a tool like Dreamweaver; many designers don't know HTML (many programmers don't know it well either), and this will take you a long way toward confidence, knowing you dont have to rely on someone else to implement what you designed.

I have a friend who got a job at Apple because she knew Photoshop well (allowing her to edit icons, cut up designers' designs into smaller chunks, optimizing graphics for the web), HTML, and CSS really well. She was making $95K in Cupertino. You can too. But it takes time and lots of homework on you part...which will be a lot more fulfilling if you *start* by focusing on what you really like to make/see/do.

Design by itself is boring to me. But designing *for* rock bands, galleries, etc., is a total thrill. Get me?


macrumors 65816
Oct 26, 2009
Down the rabbit hole
There are enough prerequisites to the actual design program that you'll attend for you to learn whether or not you truly desire this for a career. Likewise once you are accepted to the program, your instructors will make you prove how much you want it every step of the way. For the last two years I slept every few days and had little contact with anyone who wasn't also in the program.

You will learn to judge design with a cold eye based on how well it communicates the message of the client and along the way you'll acquire thicker skin. The confidence you gain through sound design will help you defend your decisions whether you've followed the rules or bent them a bit.

The applications for the most part were not taught but we had to know them to complete the assignments. I'll second the suggestion that you learn every skill and program you can because employers (in my experience) would rather hire someone with a broad skillset than a strict specialist. I would also endorse the related skills of writing and presenting to a group.

Lastly, stay hungry. Take every opportunity to explore and learn. Don't discount project managers, business development, programmers, marketeers either -- they can all teach skills that will help you in that one area where the curriculum at my alma mater was lacking -- the business end of design.


macrumors 68020
Dec 3, 2001
Don't be worried, have confidence in your abilities. They're only going to expand on your existing knowledge (presumably).

I tried going the academic route but was messed around by a training agency when I wanted to pursue DTP as a career after being placed at a printers during sixth form work experience and picking it up very quickly.

Based on the portfolio of work I did in that fortnight, I got into it through a small local company for a pitance of a wage on a trail basis and based on that experience, I got a job with a larger company and ended up doing DTP till the early 2000s, all without training academically because everything that wasn't self-taught was from on-the-job training at that first company.

I actually worked alongside a gradute at a small advertising company in the late 90s and not only had he being brainwashed into always giving me artwork in RGB format when it needed to be in CMYK but all he ever wanted to do was use Photoshop, even thought Illustrator was more suitable for the most part and that one time after a month of repeating myself and having to spend time converting all his artwork to a usable format, he gave me artwork assuring me it was in CMYK, it went on a disk to a printers along with some work I'd completed and he'd lied, wasting the printing cost!

When I discovered that the company was paying him more than me because of his theoretical ability to do the job without actually having the slightest clue how to do it in any practical sense and taking twice as long as he should have on absolutely everything, he lost his job pretty quickly after the printing fiasco and that experience alone made me look for a career outside of advertising.

If you really are lacking confidence to study it academically, try the vocational route. A lot of training companies, far more organised than the one I wasted my time with are there to help people in your situation gain training and on-the-job work experience. You'll earn a wage while you're training, already be in the job you want to do once any qualifications gained from it have being obtained and have a portfolio of actual work that real advertisers have paid for.
Last edited:


macrumors newbie
Feb 1, 2012
It's really just human nature to be concerned and worried about your skills and how they will translate in the real world. But you obviously have a passion and a skill set that should carry you a long way in this field. Its a great career to be involved in, something I've been doing for nearly 12 years now and I still get those feelings from time to time. Hard work and passion will carry even an average designer much further than a Photoshop guru without an eye for design, so work hard and get better every day. Best of Luck!

simply amazing

macrumors member
Nov 2, 2011
don't discourage yourself before you even get into college and scare yourself away from delving into that particular major. as everyone here said, it's natural to feel the way you're feeling. i've been a graphic designer since my high school years (27 now) and i wouldn't trade it for anything else. til this day, even in my current job in print/web design, i still feel as if my skills don't suffice. even when i think about applying to other jobs, i still feel the same as you do — "I'm afraid of being thrown into a job blind and losing my job because I didn't do a good enough job or didn't know my material." in all honesty, ALL my coworkers in the art department at my job have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how to use photoshop or illustrator.. just inDesign. i'm the only one that knows how to use all the adobe programs. it just goes to show you don't have to be the jack-of-all-trades of adobe software to get a job. although it does help, just don't put too much pressure on yourself about knowing all of the programs inside and out.

go into school with an optimistic attitude. college will train you how to use the programs and get you into the basics of implementing design. use it to build your confidence. school can only take you so far though; meaning, they can teach you how to use these things essential for your career, but it's up to you to be creative with those tools.

jeremy h

macrumors 6502
Jul 9, 2008
My advice is simple:

Good design is not about computer technique it's about thinking.

There are loads of people who leave design courses who still haven't been taught to 'think'. If you can learn to think you will have a huge advantage.

Before you go to college - start by buying this book - read it (don't just look at the pics - read the stuff at the back several times) and think about how those ideas were arrived at. If you even just begin to understand this and start to try to apply the techniques to your course work you will soon be streets ahead of the others.
Last edited:


Oct 7, 2010
Umm, maybe it is me but the reason you go to school is to learn not only how to do things but to also find out if it is what you want to do. Many people change their majors after they are exposed to something else. Maybe being a graphics artist isn't want you will end up doing, but it is where you will get started.
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.