College Degree with limited resources?
September 6, 2007 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I need to go back to school. Can anyone point me to the resources that I need to find to do so? I am desiring to pursue a degree in photography. I have college experience for sure, but I am overwhelmed by the options and the procedure. Also I don't have much money.

Right out of highschool I went to college and I studied something that I didn't end up liking, had a miserable time, combined with a complete nervous breakdown, and ended up dropping out. After a year or so I went to the local community college and excelled in photography and art but eventually ended up lacking the resources to continue. The upside is that now I am in good standing with financial aid as I maintained good grades in the photo program. Now I want a degree. I have lots of debt and am trying to figure out where to start. I know that my photography is good, and I wonder if there are any programs that I can find that may offer a scholarship. But, as I said before, the problem is is that I am not sure where to start, frankly the system is feeling a little Kafkaesque to me right now. Can anyone point me in the right direction or give me the information I need about getting money for college? I've done tons of googling but it seems like the results are dubious at best. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
posted by tev to Education (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What type of photography? (Fashion, fine art, photojournalism, documentary, editorial, medical/science, architectural?)

Depending on your answer to that question, it may be cheapest of all to just quickly finish up your degree in whatever department you have the most credits in community college, and then get the rest of your photography education via internships and specialty photo programs that don't involve degrees.

Financial question: are you a dependent under your parents?
posted by xo at 10:42 AM on September 6, 2007

you might want to look into a state school in your area--as an in-state resident, you'll get a break on tuition. the admissions office can advise you on scholarships.

for what it's worth, you might do well if you can get a second, complimentary degree along with your bfa. in your case, journalism would be helpful, or business. that will give you skills to find a day job (because every artist needs one these days).
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:47 AM on September 6, 2007

Before you go sliding even further into debt, I would suggest you figure-out what, exactly, you expect a degree in photography to get you?
It sounds like you've gotten some good experience through the community college. Do you plan to make photography a career? Or are you simply looking for further training?
Personally, though I have a degree in my field, no employer has ever asked if I had a degree. It's always about the portfolio in the art world.

Art scholarships are usually distributed through the school itself. If you have a school in mind, I would contact their art department and inquire about possible scholarships, especially those geared toward photography.

I would also suggest looking to schools with strong journalism programs. These often include photography sections, as well.

As for actually getting money for college...yeah, it's a deeply confusing jungle and, frankly, you're never going to be certain whether you've gotten the best loan possible. Seems there's always someone bragging about their fixed-rate loan that always seems to be 5 percentage-points below what you're paying. But, somehow, you can never find that deal anywhere.

And I swear there's a new student loan website appearing every day, and no real way to determine their legitimacy. Things were sure easier back in the day when you went down to your local bank and signed for a government student a fixed rate well below any other type of loan.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:48 AM on September 6, 2007

and, posting too soon, if you have a double major, you have a second opportunity for a scholarship.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:49 AM on September 6, 2007

Go to the schools you're interested in and ask for their financial aid forms. Fill out a FAFSA. Make appointments to talk to the financial aid directors at the schools you're interested in. Depending on your age, dependency status, income, and a host of other factors, this may get you enough loan/grant money to attend a public school in your state. As for scholarships, the financial aid department should also have a list of scholarships you can apply for along with the qualifications for each. Once you're established in the (art, journalism, whatever) department at a university, you can also apply for all kinds of departmental awards, grants, and scholarships for your second and subsequent years. Apply for EVERYTHING, even if it's only for 50 dollars. It adds up.

If you're interested in art photography, this may be of interest to you: I attended a fine art program at a fairly inexpensive public university in the south (this one, specifically) that was far superior to many prohibitively expensive private schools. We had a great gallery with an amazing permanent collection, incredible professors who were all well-known and admired in their fields, and excellent facilities. Don't think you need to pay 10,000 dollars a year, or more, for a good art education.
posted by cilantro at 10:49 AM on September 6, 2007

Response by poster: I am interested in fashion/fine-art, also somewhere that offers video is of distinct interest to me as well. And I am 25 now and not a dependent of my parents. I have looked at the Maine Workshops, as a matter of fact, and a college degree is important to me, although I am not closed to other options, I think that its the most available way to pursue the goal of professional photography. yes?
posted by tev at 10:54 AM on September 6, 2007

Like others have said, if you are in the US and eligible, you should fill out the FAFSA first thing. Doing that will be a lot easier if you have your tax forms from the last year or two on hand.

If you want to pursue a career in photography, you should think about what kind of photography you want to do and whether you are willing to move. If you want to stay in one place, getting an internship with a local photographer is a great way to learn the right skills and make the right connections.

Try reading through the Education Forum on (they link to older questions in the sidebar) or searching the group discussions on for posts like this one. The discussions may be informal, but you can find some online contacts at those sites for people doing all kinds of professional photography.
posted by Kazul at 11:17 AM on September 6, 2007

If you're interested in fashion/fine art, I'd say you should come directly to NYC and start interning/assisting. If you lack particular skills, take individual classes at ICP. (If you become a TA there, you can take some classes for free, too.) Once you're a resident of NY, you can complete your degree cheaply at Hunter.
posted by xo at 12:22 PM on September 6, 2007

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