In many ways, college is overrated. That is not to say that one should not attend college – quite the contrary, I have completed two degrees and college was one of the greatest, most valuable experiences of my entire life. I think college, despite its flaws, may be one of the most important experiences in a person’s youth. The problem is that people tend to equate the idea of going to college with the idea of going to a good college as though the two are equal. They most certainly are not.
Going to college is important, but so is the idea that you are attending a good school that is going to educate you effectively and leave you with a better chance at getting a career. If the college you are attending has a poor history, low admissions standards, and only cares about how much money you pay for your education, it may not be the best choice for your future.
Weaknesses of Private Art Colleges
Private art colleges are a great example of a type of college that may not be a great choice for someone that is looking to attend college. That is not to say that all private art colleges are poor choices, nor is going to a bad college necessarily a bad experience. However, before you decide to go to one of these schools, you need to remember the following:
They Accept Everyone
Even if their academics are stellar, a school that accepts anyone is a school that is not going to be well respected in the industry. This is one of the things that is difficult for some people understand – even if you get excellent grades and are taught by industry leaders, many of your fellow students are going to simply be individuals that didn’t want to take college seriously and are attending the only college that will accept them.
That creates problems for employers. How is an employer going to be able to differentiate a student that truly studied and learned at a private art college from one that only attended because they couldn’t get in anywhere else? It’s tough, which is why many employers choose to simply ignore many students that graduate from a college that accepts nearly every student.
You Will Incur Mountains of Debt
Another important thing to remember is that very, very few graduates of these private art colleges are going to make more than about $50,000 a year, with many accepting $30,000 a year jobs. Yet by the time you finish, you will be in at least $60,000 in debt. To put that in perspective, at an estimated 5% interest rate, you will owe $600 per month on your school loans alone. Depending on your salary, you will only be taking home about $3,000 per month, and that’s before rent, before food, before any other debts and with a decent salary. You will also be living that way for 10 years, and that’s if you can find a job right away in today’s difficult economic environment.
That is a lot of money to pay for a 2 to 3 year degree. You may be able to get financial aid, but it’s clear that the cost is fairly substantial, no matter the education.
Your Fellow Students May Not Be Well Educated
Maybe I am bias, but there is something to be said about being surrounded with generally educated people. It’s part of what I believe to be a true college experience. I learned as much from the people around me as I did at the college itself. At private art colleges, because the admission standards are low, there is a chance that the people you are surrounding yourself with are not ideal for promoting the best work from you.
Now, four year universities have their bad apples and drunken parties too, but we’re talking about likelihood, and the likelihood is that you will be able to find more like-minded individuals at a college with greater admissions standards than at one without them.
Benefits of Private Art Colleges
Those are all things you will need to consider before you choose to go to a private art college. Yet they are not entirely negative experiences. Quite the contrary, it is possible to benefit greatly from these private colleges. Here are some of the benefits of going to a private art college.
Low Admission Standards
Even amazing students can do poorly in high school. Sometimes you have all of the skills to succeed at a major college but simply would not be able to be accepted by the admissions staff. Private art colleges will let you in, so that you can get the college degree that you want. That’s fine. Low admissions standards are more of an issue of who you surround yourself with and finding jobs than they are with your own potential.
One of the major problems with four year universities and larger colleges is that they have large classes that are not necessarily an ideal learning environment for everyone. Some people need to be able to have the teacher come up to them directly, and work in smaller classrooms that are more conducive to learning. I have some doubts about how beneficial smaller classrooms really are, but there is no doubt that they are a better choice for some students.
Private art colleges tend to teach you to do a specific job in a way that most four year universities badly fail. Once again, I have some doubts about how much one needs to be truly trained for a job in order to excel, but there is an argument to be made that career training puts you in a better place when it comes to starting work effectively right away.
Programs You Want
Most people don’t go to a private art college by default. They find a program that they like that may not be offered at another college, like graphic design or fashion design. That’s clearly a benefit. It’s possible to become an artist without a college degree, but if you are hoping for training in a particular area, these art colleges may offer something that a four year university doesn’t offer.
Final Thoughts on Private Art Colleges
Clearly there are some benefits to attending a private art college. However, there are some serious weaknesses as well, most notably the difficulty you will find in getting someone to hire you, the lack of pay considering the debt, and the type of people you risk surrounding yourself with.
Art doesn’t always need training. So you should always consider other options as well. For example, many community colleges have graphic design classes that will provide you with much of the same education for a fraction of the cost. Also, you can always find an entry level position somewhere and work your way towards your ultimate goal.
However, you may still find that you want to attend a private art college, in which case I offer the following advice:
– Make The Most of It – If you choose to attend a private art college, make sure you take your college experience extremely seriously. Employers may not be wild about some of these colleges, but if they see you received straight A’s, took difficult classes, and have a portfolio better than some professionals, you are going to be at a serious advantage.
– Find Like-Minded People – Socialize with people that are also taking their education very seriously. The people you surround yourself with will rub off on you and make it easier for you to succeed and thrive.
– Be Professional – Lots of these private art colleges encourage alternative lifestyles, like overly-casual dress, excessive piercings and tattoos, etc. In today’s day and age, these types of self-expression are much more acceptable. I think that’s a good thing. But you are trying to shed the “private art college” tag when you apply for jobs, and the only way you can do that is if you show yourself to be a professional individual.
Private art colleges are not that bad. Not at all. But there are some serious weaknesses of these colleges that cannot be ignored. Make sure that you are going to make the most out of one of these colleges. If you think that you might not, consider trying a less costly approach to ultimately getting the job you want. College is valuable, but only when the end result of attending college is going to bring you back everything you want.