“I’m creative. I don’t need college for that.”

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a discussion about nurturing creativity through the physical expression of yoga.  As the conversation progressed, it became more and more centered on the creative process as personalized by each participant in the group.  For many of them, college was a factor – either as a focus, or a hindrance, or as a challenge.  As a matter of fact, there was a nice mix of students, educators and independent artists.  In no case did they regret the college experience.

Those group members who were in college for their art said that they were challenged by the assignments, the standards required, and the inevitable critique.  Being able to focus on the project at hand was a commonly shared experience, too. For students, the deadline of the assignment created a necessary focus.  For others, focus came as a product of both their college experiences and self-discipline.  Those who found that college was a hindrance to their natural artistic expression (because of all of the academic requirements) also acknowledged that this was part of the challenge – which brings us full circle back to the beginning of this paragraph.

Does this mean that you HAVE to have college in order to be successful creatively?  Of course not.  What college does, though, is give you both training and knowledge that will support you in your future artistic endeavors.  Another, even more practical benefit is the connections you can make through your college for purposes of job placement and networking.

In the previous blog, I spoke about a family member who has always wanted to be a professional photographer.  She lives in a major college town and has researched the idea of attending college.  She is a Non-Traditional Student (NTS) because she has been out of school for at least 10 years.  In her case, she knew college would help her, but was intimidated by the courses.  As a matter of fact, she said that she did not want to attend college because they “wouldn’t let me take courses in my major.”  She was referring to those pesky math and English courses – which, from her perspective, has nothing to do with photography.   (See previous blog entries under “Overcoming Obstacles” for more detail on psychological barriers to pursuing college.)  Yet, in pursuit of this dream of photography, she has started to look through college catalogues and discovered all of the courses that will develop her talent.  She is, as she said, “stoked” about taking these courses – fully realizing that math and English are also on the list of the college’s “must-take” courses.  It seems that as she reviewed the photography courses over and over, read their descriptions, learned about local galleries sponsored by the school, she was beginning to see how the two – college and creativity – were linked.

So, is college absolutely necessary to have a career that expresses your creativity?  No.  One thing is certain, though:  you will artistically grow from the college experience.


Leave a reply