I am a college dropout.

This was not the plan that my former schoolteacher parents laid out for me. According to them, all of the smart, successful people go to college, and if you don’t go to college, then you have no chance in the real world.

Here’s the thing: I am an actor. I don’t need a college education or a degree in my field. All of my high school peers have graduated from college, and, as I see what they’re going through post-college, I can only be extremely grateful that I chose the path that I did. No college education could have prepared me for what I have learned on my own, all of which came from real-life experience. Here are some examples of lessons I’ve learned without a college degree.

1.How to Sign With an Agent

College is supposed to prepare you for life, but part of Acting 101 is how to get a freaking agent. No college teaches you how to go about signing with an agent. When I go home, everyone I see is wondering how to get that elusive meeting with an agent.

2. How to Successfully Network

Networking is universal, and there are some classes that teach you basic networking skills. However, I have learned from many acting teachers the intricacies of networking in the entertainment industry, and they are very different than in other fields. Networking with casting directors is a whole other animal; so many dos and don’ts.

3. Finances

If there was a class on how to file your taxes correctly on your own, I would take it in a heartbeat. Seriously, there needs to be a class dedicated entirely to tax write-offs. We need to learn about the evils of banks, how companies want you to stay in debt, and how to successfully handle your money so your earnings multiply.

4. How To Effectively Market Yourself

Marketing yourself as an actor is different than any other field. This includes very specific kinds of social media skills, what constitutes effective headshots, and how to get your face in front of industry professionals. These are strategies that are essential to professional success.

5. How To Get into SAG

This is a big one. Becoming union is a catch-22. Basically, you need someone to hire you as a non-union actor to be in a union project, but that is a gigantic headache. You have to be Taft-Hartleyed into the project, which is a very difficult process. If a college program could make you SAG eligible, that would be a whole different story.

6. College Only Teaches You The Safety Of School

My high school peers started as toddlers in preschool and worked their way through school until they ended up in universities. They have spent their entire lives in school, where it’s safe. Maybe my friends were not always happy or secure in themselves, but they were safe. And then the people I knew in school graduated college, and it was like they emerged from a dark room to which they’d been confined for 22 years. They were blinking in the bright sunlight; wondering what to do, where to go, and how to start. It’s scary!

I went to community college for three semesters before deciding to be a dropout.

I decided to skip those extra 4 years and plunge straight into the unknown, with no degree or backup plan. My entire life has been about acting, but I’ve obtained an invaluable education that I would not have gotten from school. I have a head start; I have many credits on my resume, including feature films and national tours, while my high school classmates maybe have one or two student film credits. I’ve earned my SAG and Actors Equity cards, while they’re still stuck in the catch-22 of trying to get into the union. Since I graduated high school, I’ve consistently had an agent. I have networked and met many, many people, some of whom have written me roles in films.

I will always be four years ahead. Maybe I sound arrogant, but I know my worth from having put many years of hard, painstaking work into my field. This is not to say that nobody should go to college; it’s a great experience for many people. It just wasn’t right for me.

People throw so much judgment at me for my decision to be a college dropout.

They are constantly telling me to get back into college. Those lectures get very tiresome. I want people to respect my choices and trust the fact that I know what’s best for me. I’m moving forward on my own path, making my own choices, and dealing with the consequences. But, for now, I’m continuing on my journey and following my gut because it has always led me to the right places, and I know that it won’t fail me now.

Photo by Burst on Unsplash

Originally posted on Unwritten.

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