A few years ago I decided to fit everything I could into my 96 Buick Regal and drive almost 2,00 miles across the country for a chance at a better education. North Dakota’s economy and low costs for education was very alluring, considering California’s education system and economic climate was stifling to my morale. I had dreams of attending Minnesota State University of Moorhead, which I heard had a great web and graphic design program. With cheap rent, a steady job, and a gleam in my eye, I thought I was on the right track.
Well…I thought I was.
During my time here in the Fargo Moorhead area, I’ve learned that when it comes to the Web Development and Design fields college can be a huge waste of time and money. Now I know this isn’t always the case, but at least in my experience I haven’t learned a single skill in college that has helped me get a job. And because of it I feel that I have missed out on a lot of opportunities.
For starters, the idea of going to college caused me to put off learning on my own
Many years prior to this, I had discovered that I really had a knack for web design. At the age of 16 I had basically taught myself HTML and CSS by tinkering through web pages and viewing the source code to see how it worked. Within a couple months I was coding sites from the ground up, and creating layouts in Photoshop. And this was back in the day when fixed width table layouts were all the rage, and if you wanted rounded corners on your site container or a button gradient, you had to create it all in Photoshop. Basically in a small amount of time, I was able to teach myself enough about web design to pick up some freelance work, and I wasn’t even halfway through high school (and boy did I let that get to my head).
However, I eventually hit wall in my learning, and that was when I first discovered WordPress. WordPress is a content management system that runs off of PHP, and if you’ve ever worked with PHP before, you know just how ridiculous it can be sometimes….most of the time. I really struggled with it. In the beginning I was able to pick up a little bit of the basics, but by this time I was in my senior year of high school and thinking about college.
I would constantly tell myself “You know what? It’s cool that you totally suck at PHP right now. Because you’re going to major in web development, and you’ll learn everything you need to when the time comes”. That mindset allowed me to justify giving up, to stop following the trends. Instead I focused on getting through community college. I was under the impression that suddenly everything would click when the time came to focus on my major.
Well that time never came, and I’m pretty thankful for it actually.
After two semesters at Mstate (the community college), I decided to drop out. It was just too frustrating. I just couldn’t justify spending almost $3,000 a semester in general ed courses. And it became completely unacceptable to me when I heard from students majoring in Graphic Design or Graphic Communications that the teachers weren’t even using their own curriculum. The majority of the classes would spend the first 6 to 9 weeks on Lynda.com or CodeCademy. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t born yesterday. Why the hell would I pay thousands of dollars a semester to use a service that costs $360 dollars a year? And CodeCademy is free! How the hell do you justify that!
It was time to take matters into my own hands, and ditch college.
So rather than waiting for a professor to maybe teach me the skills I need to get hired, I did it myself. And it turns out the internet is a wonderful teacher. With a subscription to Treehouse, I was able to catch up on years of web development in just a couple of weeks. If I have problem I can’t solve on my own, I consult Stack Exchange to seek answers from those more experienced than I. CodeCademy allowed me to brush up on my coding skills on the fly. I have felt more inspired by web developers doing amazing things and blogging about it than I ever have been in a classroom setting.
In the end, I think its crucial for aspiring web designers, developers, or any other creative indivuals is to take control of their destinies. Just because you have that piece of paper saying you finished college, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed that dream job. You have to hunger for it, because the competition is fierce.