I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Since I was six and spent my summers with my grandparents in Germany, I found the language barrier difficult to overcome, and I read whatever English books they sold at the bookstore. At the time, the Harry Potter books were being released, and I took an interest in those; sometimes, all they had was adult fiction, and I would read those too. At eleven years old, I remember taking a solid liking to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon. When my dad took me to the bookstores in my teens, he began monitoring my choices. I remember begging for I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francisca Lia Block because it had mature content, and he let it slip. While reading was a passion, so was writing. I have journals dating back to when I was seven—hundreds of journals in a chest. I have online journals that are locked. I have journals that have been lost by sites that have washed away my accounts. To say the least, if I ever had a passion, it was reading and writing.
I went to San Francisco State University for creative writing in 2008. I lasted one year, and in my second semester, I got arrested for possession of psilocybin mushrooms. My roommate called me in, and when I went to jail, the guard told me that she didn’t know they were illegal. It discouraged me from returning to the University, and I moved forward with community colleges. I began dropping out of classes and schools. I went to five different community colleges and didn’t finish more than a class or two. When I felt like I was turning my wheels, I fell into a party scene I would associate with the closest thing I had to home. It wasn’t until I met my partner that I found a new home and was able to stabilize my life.
Then I got into a car accident where I was found guilty. The world came crashing down on me. I was raising my partner’s five-year-old daughter, and the thought of what could result from the accident sent me spiraling. I wanted to be seen as a productive member of society, and at the time, I didn’t feel like that was what I was. I had been looking at Full Sail University for a while. I had lived in Florida and was familiar with the name. I have a passion for animation, and I knew this was an entertainment-driven school. They accept anyone with a high school diploma. I was passionate when I talked to the recruiter. Then I did more research and read all these bad reviews. It’s a private school for profit, and I can’t transfer my units, and it’s a big loan. I was petrified. I’ve never made a substantial amount of money, and this was an overwhelming decision.
It didn’t take long for me to make the jump. I decided on this school because they had creative writing for entertainment expedited bachelor program, which meant I could skip the four years. I didn’t have to take a zillion general ed classes, and I would learn to write for television (having a passion for animation.) In my introductory course, I made a video expressing the desires that led me to Full Sail. This passion would drive me through my program. I was an A student, receiving two B’s throughout my education. I received a grant for $1500 when my loans would not fully cover the tuition. I received the Salutatorian of my class, and I graduated in two years. Since this was an online course, I also received my Cal Grants for being a California resident and didn’t have to pay out-of-state tuition, which I am thankful for.
As great as that sounds, as many grants as I applied for, I didn’t qualify for any others besides what the school had given me. After cal grants, I was left with a $40,000 loan, subsidized and unsubsidized. There was no job placement. I met with my career counselor twice a month for four months. He encouraged me to build a website, business, and blog, which I did, but it didn’t make any money. The school calls me to ask what I’m doing with my degree and when I tell them I am not making any money with it, they ask about the blog and the small business. They use that as leverage that my degree is being utilized so that I can’t get forgiveness from FASFA or my loan agency. These are consequences I have to deal with. A year later, I joined an emergency substitute teacher program which was the first thing I used my degree towards. It is on call and makes very little money. I find a lot of fulfillment in working with kids, and I have built relationships with my students even as a sub, and I enjoy working with the schools. Then again, my mom sent me a Tik Tok that stated Substitute Teaching is the worst reason to get a degree. I had to remind her and myself that this isn’t the reason why I got a degree.
Is the school flawed? No, I got an education. They used a lot (perhaps too many) online sources accessible to anyone. I did enjoy the checklist and easy accessibility of the Launch box. They provided me with a laptop and tablet that I’d never, otherwise, be able to afford. The school was manageable, and I was able to excel where I couldn’t in community college.
Is the system flawed? Yes, there is a significant flaw in loans and accruing interest. I don’t know how anyone can smile and say I’m going to University without the heavyweight on their shoulders that they are putting themselves in debt that can double or triple. I put my family at risk that they may not be financially stable or that I will not be able to provide for them even with a degree. It’s all so incredibly overwhelming, and it makes me sad. Shouldn’t going to school make you proud?
In the end, you shouldn’t go to Full Sail if you expect to get a great job with some high-end studio. They will tell you how competitive the job market is, and this is so true. They will tell you that they have excellent job placement, but this is not true. Yet I don’t regret going at all. I am so proud of myself for finishing something, following my passion, and creating a future for myself. I am one step closer to writing a novel, writing for animation, and creating comics, all the reasons that I began this journey. I also have embedded in my mind how to structure a story, I learned how to organize my time, I was reminded to have fun, and I had great experiences collaborating with other students. The school is not what’s flawed; it is the loan system and our government for allowing them to double or even triple our loans, making it impossible to want to further our education. The solution to this would be; not to collect interest on loans that are being paid on time. If we’re paying the loans, leave us alone, we’re doing the best we can.