I'm Having Trouble Planning My Life... Please Help!

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by coryetzkorn, Apr 3, 2008.

  1. coryetzkorn macrumors regular


    Jul 23, 2007
    Here's the issue:

    I am 18 and will be attending college next fall. Most people go to college so they can decide what to do with their life, but I know exactly what I want to do, ... I just don't know what the best path is to get there. I want to be a graphic/ web designer. I am 100% sure about this because I have had every tool in photoshop and dreamweaver memorized since I was 8 years old. I have been doing design A LONG TIME and I feel that I have enough talent to get an internship tomorrow without any schooling. I am in no way trying to sound pretentious, I am only stating the thoughts I've been having.

    Easy solution, right? Go to a school for design. Wrong.
    Although I am confident that I can be an extremely successful designer, I am not quite ready to give up my academic past. This is my main conflict. I maintained a 3.8 GPA, was extremely involved in extracurriculars, spent the last two years in college instead of high school, and got a very decent 26 on the ACT. I am a pretty smart guy and I feel like going to an art school at this point would be like throwing away the last 4 years of hard work.

    So, I did the only reasonable thing and applied to a mix of good liberal arts schools as well as some design schools in hopes that my acceptance and financial situation would eventually help me choose a college. However, with commitment deadlines approaching in less than a month, I still cannot decide. These are the schools I applied to (I live in MN):

    University of Southern California: REJECTED
    University of Minnesota (graphic design program): ACCEPTED
    Loyola Marymount University, CA: ACCEPTED
    Emerson College, MA: ACCEPTED
    Brown University: REJECTED
    Columbia College Chicago (Interactive Media program): ACCEPTED
    University of Wisconsin - Stout: ACCEPTED
    Rhode Island School of Design: AWAITING REPLY (maybe tomorrow :) )

    I have no idea what to do now. Should I:
    A) Go to a design school and give up my academics
    B) Go to a liberal arts school to study design
    C) Go to a liberal arts school for a Marketing major (which I'm also interested in) and hope to transition to design after my undergrad

    What kind of qualifications are actually required or the best to have to get a job at a design firm or advertising agency? I figured marketing is a great skill and it would actually pair nicely with design if I ever start my own business.

    From your experience as a designer, what degree will get me a design job?

    Right now, I'm leaning towards Columbia College Chicago because I believe I have the skill and motivation to be successful regardless of an institution's prestige. My thinking is: get a simple interactive degree, get and internship, and start doing what I love to do - screw this traditional "liberal arts" BS. But the other side of me errs on the side of caution and makes me want to get a regular old degree. With the average entrance GPA at Columbia more than a whole grade point lower than mine, I am concerned to say the least.


    Thanks So Much!
  2. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    University isn't just about lectures. It's also about networking, building up social skills etc. The contacts you develop there will help you in the future.

    I'd say go to the best place with the best reputation in your particular field, and spend your time learning there from the specific people who are very good at what you want to do. Try to get on some sort of after-hours thing with them - maybe they run a magazine or website something.

    Also volunteer for the university magazine, or student website or other creative thing, and use your design skills there as much as possible. The sort of people who work on student publications while students, especially the good, passionate ones, often go on to lead national media. Maybe you're one of them.

    Don't forget to build up your experience of working in teams, of meeting publishing deadlines, of negotiating briefs, payment issues, and sorting out inter-personal issues.
  3. dornoforpyros macrumors 68040


    Oct 19, 2004
    Calgary, AB
    well my experience has been that your portfolio is first and your resume second. I've walked into interviews where the person interviewing me may not have even seen my resume yet, but were familiar with the work in my portfolio.

    So my advice would be worry more about producing the best damn work that you can than having another line/title on your resume.

    But as redtomato said, there's a lot of other great reasons to go to school other than the degree.

    If you really feel you could land an internship tommorow I'd assume you already have a portfolio?
  4. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2004
    You'll never regret the experience of going to college. The dorms, the parties, the crappy dorm food, those are things you'll look back on your life to come. You're only 18, your design career can wait until your 21 :) I say go to school, work and hone in your skills as a graphic designer, get your degree, and then be an adult.
  5. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    best advice given thus far. business relationships make up 90% or better of the business sales. it's who you know 1st and then quality of work 2nd. if it were me, I'd take a graphics design/interactive media program. Sounds like it's in your blood so why shy away from it?

    All schools will have the extracurricular parties and fun so take what you're excited about and as us Canadians say, "Just give 'er eh!"
  6. Z.Beeblebrox macrumors regular


    Nov 27, 2007
    NJ / NYC
    You seem to think that art school is 100% art classes. It is not! Before they let you dig into the design curriculum, most art schools make you complete basic academic curriculum including math, science, english, literature, etc. They also give you multiple electives, which are excellent opportunities to take other classes not geared toward your major. Usually you begin with these and then merge into the design courses, while still taking basic education courses in between all the way up until graduation.

    As a graphic design student at SCAD, I took three different english classes, a math class, two science classes including anatomy, many history courses like Greek Mythology, King Arthur Legends, Women's History, Roman Architecture, advanced Shakespeare, Bible Symbology and History of American Culture. I also dabbled in pottery / ceramics and print making.

    The best qualification is PORTFOLIO, like others have said. No matter what you do, or what degree you hold, your portfolio is the only thing that will get you into a design firm or agency. That being said, the bast way to get a kick a** portfolio is to go to a design school. Granted, you have tons of experience and talent, but what an art school will do is refine it, polish it and show you how to apply it in the real world. If you pick a design-geared school, they will incorporate basic marketing knowledge into the graphic design program because as you say, they do go hand in hand.

    So, as a designer, I would say go to the design school if this is what you really want to be doing for the rest of your life. If it's in your heart, don't cheat yourself out of top notch training by some of the industry's best professionals just to keep up with the other side of academics. Grades don't mean a thing in this industry. It all boils down to skill.
  7. coryetzkorn thread starter macrumors regular


    Jul 23, 2007
    Thanks for all your help!

    I've pretty much decided. Design is my passion and I'm going to follow it. I just cannot see myself in some corporate cube. I got accepted at my top choice art school, RISD. I love everything about the school and curriculum. Now I have to figure out how to pay for it. I got a decent amount of aid, but its still gonna cost a ton. Any suggestions?
  8. pcypert macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2006
    As someone who's life has been held back slightly due to paying back loans...

    Reconsider cheaper schools. Why? Frees you up earlier to jump into working. Can work for free/intern instead of taking some job you don't want that pays. Also, the future coorporate owners aren't going to Art college...they're going to state school and others. More chance to network with a bigger variety of people.

    Do you want to live in an art bubble for the next four years or just jump into things? Neither is wrong. Both have different impacts.

    Personally I regret art college. It was a great experience: but left me in debt, only knowing other artists who are also struggling, and focused on "fine art" rather than commercial (money making) art :D

  9. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    talk to the school about any bursaries or scholarships and apply for as many as you can and if you've got a job, work and save every penny and if you don't have a job, then get one (or 2) real fast :)

    and if you can swing the time management issues, take a job while in school too. that makes a huge difference.
  10. fluidedge macrumors 65816


    Nov 1, 2007
    for someone who is so sure of what they want to do you still have lots of questions. Considering whether to do marketing or graphic design is like deciding whether to study maths or biology.

    If i were you, i'd delay going to university this year - get a job with a design firm/internship to a) save up some money and b) help you decide/get advice from professionals about what you want to do.

    just my 0.02c
  11. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    Nobody else is being mean to you, so I will.

    You sound like someone who is ignorant of the world, who never got out of your room, never played a sport, built something, read a novel or understands anything beyond your little pixel world.

    There are zillions of kids all over the world just like you. They populate cubicles in every country. They can all do the usual comic book action heroes, video game monsters, cars and, when mom isn't looking, hot virtual women.

    Ho, hum, without vision you are just painting by numbers. Not impressive. Not good for high incomes or job security because some kid from Boratland will come through the door and do what you do, probably with more education and a wider vision. And cheaper. Bye.

    That "Liberal Art BS" is precisely what you need. Part of it is that wider view thing, but also learning how to organize your life, complete assignments and jump through hoops. Employers like that. They have enough problems with babysitting clueless nerds.

    I would specifically suggest a liberal arts bs college for you. The cheapest school will do, but try to avoid a commuter college. They don't give you the college experience you need.

    And, when you go, try to hang with different people and try different things. Get intimate with an actual human or two. Your art, career and life will be better, or at least has a chance to be. You will thank me, the anonymous nasty poster from long ago.
  12. fluidedge macrumors 65816


    Nov 1, 2007
    there are actually some seriously good points raised in that post.

    I think work experience is really important (cliche sure, but it really is). Get loads of that and you wont need a degree. Let your portfolio speak for itself. If it's really that good.
  13. tMac85 macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2007
    in a great place
    Enjoy RISD.

    Im so jealous, i wish i had gone there, but chose not to.
    I warn you though it is a very artsy school. Weird people and it wont be your typical college atmosphere.

    But you will love it and come out with a great future.

    Stick it out there and you will get a job anywhere in the design field.

    have fun and congrats!!
  14. fluidedge macrumors 65816


    Nov 1, 2007
  15. tMac85 macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2007
    in a great place
    except that his is.

    he just said he got accepted there. in his last post
  16. CRSpeedy macrumors newbie

    Feb 15, 2008
    I typed this up this weekend but never posted it since I hadn't had time to proof-read it. Since then, you posted that you pretty much made your decision, so this may not be much help now. Regardless, it was a lot to type so I figure I might as well post it.

    I was (and still am) in a very similar situation as you, so I can certainly relate to how you're feeling, and I think that we're a lot alike. I got into design when I was 12 years old, and began working as a paid design intern for a magazine when I was 16. While working as an intern, I also began working for a dealership as their designer as well as their marketing guy for two years. In my spare time, I continued doing freelance work in both the design and film fields. When I graduated high school soon after with a 3.5 GPA and a 25 on the ACT, I was left with very similar choices as you:

    Art School
    As much as I loved design, I was very unsure about going to art school. For one, I didn't want to live life as a "starving artist". I'm not saying that money is everything, but I wanted to make enough to comfortably support a family later down the road. Also, I didn't seem to fit in with the art school crowd at all. I began to question whether I was headed down the right path or not, considering I had very little interest in fine art and the thought of painting and sculpture depressed me more than math and science. I've always had more of a entrepreneurial / business attitude, but I loved being creative and I loved the freedom that design brought--it was a tough choice. I also had the same concern as you that I had spent the past four years working hard to keep my GPA up, and the art schools I was looking at could care less about any of that.

    The real deal breaker, however, was the outrageous cost--especially considering the fact that I would be paying for it out of my own pocket. I know they say that money shouldn't be a factor when choosing a college, but graduating with well over $100,000 of debt didn't sound too appealing to me. The more art schools I visited, the less I wanted to attend. The people, the professors, the environment, the price--none of it seemed to appeal to me.

    Business School
    The other option I had was to pursue a degree in another field I was interested in: marketing. From my experience at the dealership, I learned that marketing and design really did go hand in hand, and I spoke with a few professors as well as design professionals who tended to agree. They also reminded me that if I wanted to work in the design industry, my portfolio was going to mean far more than my degree when it came down to it.

    What I Chose
    After a lot of thought and consideration, I chose to go with the business school and pursue a BS in Marketing, while working hard on the side in order to improve my portfolio. I am now 20 years old and finishing up my second year at the University of Colorado. I also work 40+ hours a week as a designer at the magazine I began the internship at four years ago, along with doing any freelance work that comes my way.

    This fall, I plan on attending a local community college as well in order to earn an AAS in Graphic Design or Multimedia. Because I've already taken the general education classes at CU, and I'm comfortable with all of the design software, I'll be able to complete the associates degree in one year, and I'll graduate in 2010 with a BS in Marketing and an AAS in Multimedia. I'm not sure how much the Graphic Design / Multimedia degree will help me, but for less than $3,500 for the entire degree, I figure it can't hurt. At least it will show something on the education side of my resume regarding design.

    After I graduate, I would like to head straight to graduate school (if I can afford it at the time) and begin working towards an MBA in order to help give me any edge I can get in the competitive business world.


    It sounds like you've already made your decision, but I just wanted to throw all of that out there since you and I were in similar positions. I may have made the right choice, and I may have made the wrong choice--only time will tell.

    Regardless of what you end up deciding, I wish you the best of luck!
  17. Z.Beeblebrox macrumors regular


    Nov 27, 2007
    NJ / NYC
    For the record, having debt is not a bad thing. It builds credit, which is what you need later on when you're trying to get a mortgage on a house or a loan on a new car to replace that POS you had in college. If you make timely payments on debt over many years, you wind up with stellar credit ratings that open many doors in later life. Trust me on this.

    I graduated with close to $100,000 in debt. I went to a private art college and never, NEVER regretted the decision. My skills and training that I honed during my four years there is what got me my dream job over the kids that had the liberal arts degrees. My portfolio stuck out above the rest. I am currently paying back my loans with no problem. My employer offers tuition reimbursement and pays for me to attend design conferences each year to further my education and stay on top of my game. After four years with the company, I make a pretty nice salary that can easily accommodate my loan payments, afford a nice condo and drive a sweet car. I don't feel held back at all. In fact, I would easily do it all over again. the money was worth it, in my opinion.

    People have been saying go the Liberal Arts route for networking. At Savannah College of Art and Design, this was no problem, as major design studios lectured and gave presentations every quarter. Huge firms, agencies and studios visited my school frequently and actually recruited many students before graduation. The best part was my professors who still maintained good relationships with many design firms and could recommend you if you were interested and had the skills. My corporate identity teacher was invaluable and without her guidance, I would not be where I am today. So please, don't under value design schools. They can be worth it, if you work your ass off and make it happen.
  18. Dobiewonkanobie macrumors regular

    Nov 16, 2007
    I just wanna mention that RISD is in the middle of NOWHERE. All design influences come from within. I would recommend reconsidering a school in NYC , Chicago, or San Francisco instead--these are centers of design. Aside from any school, the cultural and life learning influences of being in those environments is invaluable. Sure its expensive to go to school and live in any of those places, but if you've lived and worked there you can do so anywhere. For what its worth, just to reiterate others, networking and your portfolio are key. Good grades are nice, but just because you did what the prof told you to doesn't mean its good for your portfolio.

    For the record I'm currently at Pratt in Brooklyn in industrial design.
  19. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    Very good advise. I can't really expand on it besides saying build those networks and hone your skills.
  20. tMac85 macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2007
    in a great place

    Great advice and i relate to you, as well as the threadstarter. I for my whole life was going to go to RISD or NYU .... had it set. But when it came down to it, the painting, sculpture..and the people ( im normal i guess..not one of 'those' art people, no offense to them, more power to ya) were just not for me either.

    I ended up choosing architecture, knowing that if you have other interests, and more than just a passion for art, go after that. The art will always be there. Art is everywhere and never impossible. And if all else fails, do it after.

    Great post. You seem to have your life planned out well. Best of luck to both of you.
  21. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Wow. Congratulations! I graduated from LMU in 1982.

    I knew what I wanted to be also. I was in the 8th grade in about 1972 I know I'd be going into computer software development and I know I wanted to attend UCLA. I applied and was admitted to UCLA as a combined Computer Science/Electrical Enginner major. It's a great school and I learned a lot but I did not like the whole huge school thing or taking lower devison math clases in a 500 seat auditorium. So when I scored an 100% tuition and books schoolership I moved to LMU.

    So there I am after a year there and I sit down the first day in one
    of the upper division math classes. As soon as the clock ticks to the hour the proff reads his printout of the class roster to him self then says
    "where is John? He's signed up anyone know if his coming"

    That's the way LMU is most of the the faculty will know you by first name. Many of them actually live on campus or a short walk away

    If you are into Graphic Arts. LMU is right there in the biggest arts market in the world. LMU unlike a place like UCLA will make 100% certain that even the double E majors get a full-on heavy dosage of liberal arts

    The school is known for it's bussines school and it's comunications arts program but the school is still small enough that you can tell them "This is what I want to learn" and f maybe that is art with a strong backgrond is business and management. Or maybe archetecture they could put together a double major or a maaajor andminor program. I actually did four years of independent studies in computer science

    At first I had some doubts about going to a Jusuit run school and not being Catholic. Not to worry only about half the students are Catholic, mabe even less than half.

    But the big thing is location. If you are going into the arts Los Angeles is the place. And LMU owns THE prime location in LA. It's near the ocean with year round shirt sheave weather and near zero air pollution (wind is always on-shore) and there is a great view from the top of the bluff. Surrounding the school are many thousands of single family homes mostly built in the 1950's. No kidding if you live here you really can go skiing and scuba diving in the same day. Sailboat racing is pretty big here too with a number of large fleets. Likely other sports but those are what I happen to do.

    Funny thing. My Jr. High school was within an easy walking distance to LMU. but I did not even consider LMU until after I was already at UCLA 25 miles away.
  22. sdsviet macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2008
    i have to say that going to college definately was the best experience of my life. i cherished everything there. the people, the town, the ability to hang out with friends since all of them was like 5 mins walk away. i have to say that i side with a university because it lets u experience things u prolly wont get to do once u go into the real world. things like meeting tons of different people, tons of different interest groups and clubs and a big campus with dorms, all that.

    i went to university of illinois urbana champaign for architecture and was there for awhile, i then decided to go to columbia college chicago to study a different major and ended just finishing this past december with a bachelor of art in product design and minor in photography. i have to see the experience i got at u of i was tens times more memorable than i did at columbia. its not like its a bad school or anything but its just that it really doesnt have a campus and a lot of people commute and that can be a hassle. especially when u wanna hang out and have to train somewhere at 3am to get back home.

    also having been at columbia for 3.5 years about, i have to say that depending on the program u are in, the school isnt very organized. the bigger programs like photography has gotten their stuff set but a small program like product design can be a bit@h. i remember going to class on the first day and actually not having a room for my class. we spent an hr getting kicked out of rooms b4 finding one that wasnt occupied. i just sat and wondered how hard it really was to have some of the administrators meet once over the summer to figure out wat class gets what room. i have to say the school has good programs and some good teachers but u really have to do ur research and find those good/great teachers that will mentor u and help u through. i know there's a lot of buzz about columbia but there's a lot of crap going on behind the scenes that most people dont know about until they talk to people that's been there.
  23. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Have to say I forgot that in the USA people without rich families get shafted for daring to want to go to a good school.

    In the UK, university is still free / cheap no matter which one you go to.

    (yes we now unfortunately have student fees, and lots of students complain about them, but they're nothing like the USA, and they also are pretty similar between universities)

    If you're not from a rich background, and you have to pay I dunno, $100k over 4 years to attend a decent uni, then yes it's probably not worth it.
  24. fluidedge macrumors 65816


    Nov 1, 2007

    jesus, in the UK it cost me £3,000 which i suppose was about $8000 at the time.

    whats that quote from good will hunting about getting a $100,000 education that could have cost just $1.50 in library fines. lol!

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