University entrance scores are released this week but never fear. Your results, and getting into the course you’ve been told is the be all and end all of your tertiary career isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Paris Geller after her spectacular Harvard rejection meltdown.
Since about year ten, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and that I would go to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) to study the craft. I spent all of year eleven, and most of year twelve (before my inevitable burnout) hunkering down to study. To get into the course of my dreams, I needed a score of at least a 90, which only the top percentage of students receive. Though I can’t remember exactly what I got now, I believe it was somewhere in the 70s which meant I wasn’t going to RMIT.
Since I hadn’t really researched other schools apart from Melbourne University (which also required a score upwards of 90 for its journalism and writing courses), I believed that my academic and professional future would go down the drain.
It wasn’t until I met with a careers advisor relatively late in the game (because high schools are also questionable for providing life skills) that I realised I could go to a smaller, less prestigious university for a similar course. I ended up getting into a Bachelor of Arts Professional & Creative Writing at Deakin University, so all wasn’t lost.
Fast forward three and a half years to when my dream of working in magazines had also gone down the drain and I found myself with a hefty HECS debt and no idea how to pay it off and put the degree to use and a pre-quarter life crisis that’s still kind of lingering. So I wasn’t going to be a writer after all…
It wasn’t until about six months later, after I got a customer service position in a government job and moved to Melbourne from my small Victorian town that I thought I could make a go of this writing thing on the side.
I started a blog in 2010, started pitching freelance article, and two years later I had my first paid article published on The Vine. More remunerated articles followed, until this past year I finally started getting enough work that I could glimpse the full-time freelancing light at the end of the side-hustle tunnel.
Many of the writers I admire today also don’t use their degree or didn’t go to uni at all. I remember emailing then-editor of Cosmopolitan, my then-dream publication, Sarah Wilson after receiving my results and she told me that a uni degree was not the only path to being a writer. She herself didn’t go to uni but there she was, the editor of a major magazine, followed by the host of MasterChef and now a widely published author. And don’t think that uni is going to help you with practical skills as to how to actually get a job or even interview for one.
Obviously not getting into your dream course or not going to uni at all is not an option for many career paths. If you want to be a doctor or accountant or even a librarian you’re going to need that degree. But for many fields, life experience and just getting in there and doing it is the best way to make your dreams come true.
I hardly learnt anything about developing my voice or even how to pitch editors at uni: those things I found out by reading writers I admire, contacting editors whose publications I want to work for, and just writing. I imagine the same is true for other creative fields. And just to sneak in another Gilmore Girls reference, look at where a prestigious college degree got Rory: a failed journalist back in her hometown with [redacted for #lastfourwords spoilers].
Whatever career you’re eyeing off there are many things you can do to further your chances of getting a job and learning more about the industry. Why not join some groups (online or otherwise), read some books or articles from people you admire about their craft and attend events to grow your network and make connections in the field you want to work.
Right now, you’ve been conditioned to believe that your university entrance score is all that matters. It’s not. If for some reason you don’t get the marks you were hoping for, you can reassess. Is that course really what you want to do? Does TAFE or other universities offer similar courses? Maybe you can take a gap year or two and get into the course as a mature-age student. Or maybe you’ll realise that a uni degree is not the only way to reach your goals. Once you get out into the world beyond the school gate, you’ll see there are many other options.