Life Update #2: Helicopter Cemeteries & Computer Screens

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My bird-chasing sidekick, Lana.

It’s been about six months since I first posted on WP so, why not bore you with a life update? It’s been nine months since I moved to Hawaii and started my career in publishing, 10 months since I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, and 4 weeks since I started grad school. That’s pretty much my life right now: work, school, family things. It’s been 7 months since I adopted a dog at the shelter in Honolulu. I never thought that I’d be a dog person but, I’m really enjoying having this creature follow me around everywhere. Every few days I walk my dog through the manicured, identical housing complexes of a military post, past a field where they keep retired helicopters. This is how I get my fresh air! It’s also time to detach from real life and a way I find a little peace.

I work mostly in front of a computer screen now, for both school and work. There are days where I’m at my computer for 10 hours straight. My days start at 7 AM and if I’m lucky, they end at 11 PM and I get to do something that I want to do. My current guilty pleasure is The Dead Files and just about anything that plays on InvestigationID. I also make time to read. A few days out of the month I drive an hour to work so I make time to listen to audio books, too.

If you’re thinking about going to George Washington University for your graduate degree in publishing, well, I’ve got a few things to say to you. That whole, “it’s a part-time degree so you can work full-time” stuff is total bogus. You’ll be tethered to your class and textbook all day regardless, but you’ll have a cohort to stress out with. The whole, “it’s a great school and the online programs are really good” stuff is totally true, though. I honestly thought it was going to suck because I’ve taken online programs before and it was all independent work. My GWU experience has been completely different and great so far.

Yes. Things are pretty routine now but I can’t complain. I’m really looking forward to Halloween! Another thing that has been in the back of my mind: how to help people through my chosen profession. I get a lot of satisfaction from what I do now, don’t get me wrong. I just wish that I could do more good in the world. You know, play a larger role in making things better. I’m still mulling over how and if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.  It’ll come to me eventually–I hope.

Hope that was boring as hell for you because it was for me.

-E

Dear English Major

Recently,  I was asked what advice I could provide for prospective graduating English majors. If you pick up a brochure from a university in Connecticut, you may see that I am the first name listed there. Though I wanted to be helpful, this subject always brings up mixed feelings for me. This subject brings on a certain sadness in me and not because there is a certain sadness about the subject itself, but because I know what it means to pick this particular major out of many. I hit the after-graduation wall, too, and I know I’m not alone. It was tough and it’s still tough.

It wasn’t event until a month ago,  on a trip to Asia when I found out that my cousin has decided to major in English as well, that I was prompted to write something truly honest about it. Though I know that every degree holds their own strengths, weaknesses, and stereotypes, this message is for my fellow English majors.

Dear prospective English major graduate,

Foremost, I want to congratulate you on finding the direction you want to take your life and career because knowing what the heck you want to do with your life is half the battle. If you really don’t know what you want to do after college, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate your motives for getting your degree. If you’re looking for easy money, save yourself the time and abort your plans to major in English–quick, fast, and in a hurry! Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Get out now before you have to face the storm that’s coming: your education wasn’t free and collectors are coming. Worse, you’ve given up years of your life; you can make more money but you can’t make more time. You have other options besides college: join the work force, take a vacation, enter the military, run off with the Peace Corps, but if you don’t love English by now and have no goal-oriented plans on how to productively use it after graduation, don’t bother. 

Many people won’t consider taking the risk or challenge of majoring in English simply because it has no obvious career direction–except for teaching. Understandable. The sooner you get your head out of that book and learn early that a degree is only as valuable as the person holding it and the economy it will serve, the better you’ll be.  You cannot ride to glory on your hopes, list of books you love, or the manuscripts you plan on working on. In college you will be injected with an unrealistic enthusiasm by your peers and professors that could get you hurt. A college degree will not save someone who is  unwilling to put in hard work or take humble positions starting out. It also won’t magically provide you with the amazing job that you’re hoping for if the company hiring for it doesn’t exist or you can’t convince them that you have the experience to compliment your degree.  Who knows, maybe you’re that anomaly who ends up making $100k a year on a fresh bachelors, but for now, just consider what I have to say.  

On your journey toward graduation you will be accused of not being as important as a math or science major. Others will even chastise you for deciding to major in English so it’s imperative that during your freshman year–or as soon as possible– you a have a comeback for when the volleys of negativity come launching toward your head. If you don’t, the stigma that you and your major are worthless will continue to exist. Unfortunately, telling everyone to screw or mind their own business won’t be good enough as these criticisms will most likely come from friends and family first. Having a plan for your degree that you can verbalize to others doesn’t just clarify which goals you need to set, it also keeps your friends and family from just assuming you’re going to be a writer or an English teacher. Let’s face it, sure some will end up as English teachers but many English grads will land positions that being an English major indirectly prepared them for. Skills in research, grant writing, analytical thinking, creativity, and effective communication make English majors great candidates for non-profit work, advertising, management, communications, social media, or even a degree in law. Have a plan that’s broken down by accomplishable goals and time frames!

Here’s something I wish someone had told me before graduation: You don’t have to wait until after graduation to start writing your novel, tutoring, proofreading, editing, or freelancing for money. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be ready to find a job that pays in your field after graduation. In fact, I can almost guarantee that there’s a math major on your campus right now who hates editing! Find him or her and make your money! And don’t take your analytical and grammar classes lightly because this will be a source of extra income later on. In the real world, they may even prove more useful than your literary courses. Learning to edit, proofread, communicate with words, and think critically will also be how you can add value to any business and industry. They may not care about a feminist reading of Grendel’s mother but they will care how you can better their means of communication to the outside world. Let go of the Netflix binges and build your resume before graduation even if that means having to volunteer your free time. It sucks. We all want to be fairly compensated but it’s better to say that you contributed your time to something meaningful than not after graduation. Plus, you’ll learn things and network. 

On the subject of adding value to the work force, minor in something that is useful. As I’ve told my college buddies time and time again, don’t minor in creative writing. In the end, you can always prove that you can write well but after graduation it’ll be harder to prove that you have other skills outside of the realm of English. If you’re a “good” and “smart” student you’ll have published work from your university’s publications and hold excellent writing samples to show to your prospective employers. People can turn their noses up at the school newspaper if they want to, but it’ll never be easier to get work published. If you’re a really smart English major, you’ll minor in something like science so you can get paid well to write and edit for science journals. Minor in computer arts so that you can make beautiful websites, marketing material, and advertisements for people. Minoring also gives you the ability to talk about something that isn’t literature. You can be an English major and be as technical or creative as you want to be. Here’s the reality: not everyone loves Jane Austin or Proust, or whoever you have up your literary sleeve. You need to find a way to connect with people outside of your major and bring value to others or finding a job after graduation will be difficult. 

Remember, whatever you decide to do with your degree is all up to you.  

Best of luck,

E

 

 

Scholarship Matters

Getting scholarships to fund your education is a lot harder than everyone lets on! When your time comes to start looking, scholarships are what people will tell you to go out and get. What they forget to mention is that getting a scholarship is a lot like winning a pageant and exactly like winning a contest. You only get it if you’re the best candidate and the scholarship providers pick you out of thousands of other candidates. And then, even if you win, the scholarship won’t cover very much. Commonly these amounts range between $500-2,000. Sometimes you’ll see a scholarship for $10,000. In this academic climate $500-20,000 only covers your textbooks–maybe a graduate degree class if you’re lucky–but, every little helps.

I know that it seems obvious but the key to getting money for school is to not give up. There are always options for people who work hard and genuinely believe in their dreams.

Here are the 3 ways college gets paid for:

  1. Out-of-pocket for the rich.
  2. Full-rides for the few talented in specific trades or abilities
  3. A combination of out-of-pocket, scholarships,  other aide, and debt for everyone else.

What you can do:

  1. Actively let others, especially people at your university, know that you need money for school.

Who knows? Family or a willing stranger might actually respond. I struggled with being open about my needs while getting my undergraduate degree because I didn’t feel comfortable asking for help. What I found was, people actually want to help out and when they can’t they’ll at least let others know that you’re looking for money to fund your education. They may also steer you in the right direction toward opportunities that exist, saving you time and energy.  I actually got a scholarship this way! I was interviewed in a newspaper and someone from the university read the article. As a result, my university matched me with a scholarship they were looking to give away.

2. Crack open a book. Check scholarship books out at the library because these books are being updated all the time. Plus, you need to save money! These books give you clear lists of scholarships that are available to you without all of the spam and garbage associated with signing up with scholarships sites online.

Great scholarship books to reference:

3. Online sites

The problem with scholarship search sites is once you sign up for them, it’s very likely that your inbox will be flooded with junk mail! At least this is what happened to me! Not only was my inbox flooded with spam, I received a few marketing phone calls from universities trying to give me information about their schools. The only sites that were great and that I’d actually use again: Sallie Mae and UNIGO.

Watch out for Scams!

Crooks don’t play by the same rules as the rest of the world. They don’t care about your money troubles or that you’re working two jobs so just avoid them altogether! It’s a scam if you have to pay to apply for the scholarship or you’re guaranteed to win. Always do your homework and research the company offering the scholarships!

More on scams:

Best of luck!

-E

Photo credit @ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay

Why Some People Should Avoid College

 

 

 

Are you confused or stressed out about whether or not you should go to college? Good, that means you’re actually thinking critically about it. Family, friends, and society in general will tell you that it’s what you should do and that you won’t amount to very much if you decide not to go. But, I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong and not everyone should go to college. The idea that you have to go to college in order to amount to anything makes me want to vomit because it’s a lie that has been so commonly digested that it makes me sick to my stomach.

Is it a little hypocritical for someone who has a college degree (a few actually) to make this statement? Yes and no. But unlike many of the kids I graduated high school with, and the fresh high school graduates I went to university with, I didn’t graduate high school with a plan to go straight to university. In fact, I didn’t even graduate with my bachelors until I was 29 years old. At that time, I was already a mother, I had survived over 6 years in the Army, a deployment to Iraq, and had concrete work experience. My undergraduate was completely paid for and I knew why I was going to school.

Because I waited, I was lucky enough to go to college with the maturity to know that what I put into my education was exactly what I was going to get out of it. While my peers were obsessing over boyfriends and rushing houses through hazy ideas about what really mattered in life, I was quietly building up my resume. I didn’t think that just because I graduated someone was going to give me a job. Also because I went to college later, I was wiser, so I wasn’t swallowed up with the desire to be well-liked. I didn’t worry about how I would sound in front of an audience. I knew that if I tried and failed, I could just try again. I didn’t have to go through the same growing pains I did during early adulthood. I thank everyday that I didn’t have to worry about my parents pressuring me to study what they wanted, at the school that they had chosen, because they were footing the bill and “knew better”.  I knew a few kids whose parents did this to them. Instead of pursuing their passions and building a wonderful career, they were destined to enter job markets that they would have to exchange their spiritual and mental health for money. Right, parents? Who cares if they’re happy and balanced adults so long as you get your money back on your investment. 

I say, what a cruel thing to do to someone just because you can. College degrees aren’t worth what they were a few decades ago. In the end it’s just a piece of card stock with your name on it.  And the truth is, degree or not, it’s the size of the fight in the dog not the size of the dog that will determine where someone ends up in life. You should go to college when you know exactly how you’re going to use your degree to get the job that you want.

Signs That you Should Avoid College

  • When asked why you want to go, you reply, “because I want a good job”.  That’s the worse answer ever. You may as well have said, “I don’t know”.  You should go to college if your answer sounds like:
    • You’re targeting certain professors and networks at that university who you want to work with or be able to have access to.
    • You’re targeting a specific skill set that is offered in the program that you can’t get anywhere else.
    • You’ve looked at the job market and know exactly from which angle you’re going to approach it from. For example, I was an English major who minored in business and constantly got confused looks by people who couldn’t understand why. I knew why. I was using the English major to expose myself to certain literary bodies of work, to see which titles were popular and why, get exposure and experience in different styles of analysis and research, develop a writing portfolio, network with potential writers and proofreaders that I could hire, and gain access to their publishing opportunities. The minor was to learn how to effectively market, use accounting processes, run product analysis, and effectively run a business.
    • You’ve conducted your own research or read satisfaction reports about how satisfied graduates were with their degree and what kinds of jobs they currently hold.
    • You actually have experience, read a book, or taken a college course that relates to this magical “good job” you want. Don’t end up like those people that choose a degree, spend the money,
  • You’re being forced to go or feel like you don’t have another choice. You should go to college only if you:
    • Know your alternatives and have decided that on-the-job training, the military, and other work programs are just not for you.
    • Exhausted everyone in your own network and no one wants to mentor you.
  • Haven’t sized up any vocational/technical schools or community colleges. If you haven’t even looked at the programs offered at these schools, you stink with the fact that you are just another victim of very good marketing.What you’ve fallen for is the university’s label, not the product. You’ve also failed to recognize that many students not only receive great instruction at these types of schools but that many start at these schools and then transfer to other universities, cutting their debt. You should, no questions asked, be paying to attend a university if you’re specializing in:
    • Medicine
    • Science
    • Law
  • You’re not sure how much your education costs. I cringed when students I went to university with would say, “I don’t know how much it costs. My parents pay for everything.” If you don’t know the price you’re paying to go, you’re not in a position to gauge what the degree is truly worth. It’s obvious that you haven’t really thought about the responsibilities associated with getting a degree. You probably also don’t know that student loans don’t disappear if you claim bankruptcy or it’s not cute graduating with a worthless degree while creditors hunt you down.

 

-E

 

Photo credit @ Pixabay

 

Life Update #1: I’m back & I’ve been accepted into a master’s program

 

Why did it take over 8 months for me to write a post? Honestly, it’s because for a long time I lost perspective.  After I was discharged from the military, like many veterans, I walked around like a lost zombie. I’m slowly coming back to life! (Insert zombie noises here).

Today, I wanted to share some spectacular news before the shock wore off! George Washington University finally sent me a decision letter in regards to an application that I had submitted for their master’s in Publishing program. Yours truly, is a little closer to accomplishing her life goals.  I graduated with my bachelors in December and then made the long haul to Hawaii to meet up with my family. I’ve been lucky so far!  In January I was graciously accepted as a proofreader by a publishing house in Honolulu. In April, there will be a writing conference that I’m excited about.

If you’re going to be in Honolulu and are a writer, publishing professional, or looking for information about publishing and the world of publishing, please come! I will be there representing the proofreading section!

More information about the 2016 Honolulu Writers, Authors, and Poets Gathering here: http://www.honoluluwritersauthorsandpoetsgathering.com/

Now, all the joy is washing away from the grad school acceptance letter; I’ve got a whole other problem: how am I going to pay for this?

March 14, 2016 update: I just received word that I have been accepted to my dream art school SCAD. I’m extremely grateful!

-E

Photo credit to Pixabay.