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Why I didn’t choose a ‘real’ degree?

10 December 2019

7 mins

How & why I chose to follow my passions into Higher Education.

Since 2014, the number of A-level entries in arts subjects, which include drama, music and art, in England has fallen by 13,000, almost 17%. Similarly, there has been an 8% decrease in modern languages and more than a 25% decline in English. As a Second Year Graphic Communication and Illustration Student who LOVES my degree, seeing these stats is quite upsetting.  

I have an unusual skill set and my A-Level Grades demonstrate this very well. I got an A in Geography, a B in Maths, a B in Product Design and a Distinction in AS Performing Arts. This shows that I have an academic side and a creative one. Having achieved high results in my academics both at GCSE and A Levelmany people questioned why I wanted to go and study Graphic Design. There is a simple answer to this…IT IS WHAT I ENJOY!

Whilst you should play to your strengths in life, I wasn’t going to go study Maths or Geography at University if it wasn’t what I enjoy the most and could see myself having a career in. As shown by the title image of this blog, I was delighted on results day to find out I was going to Loughborough University to continue my journey towards a creative career (yes it was taken in the office of the jewellers I worked in…YES it is advisable to get a part-time job to get money before University even if it means working on results day)!  

Ever since a young age I have loved to express myself creatively

Creative beginnings

As shown by the image of me doing a pottery class at a young age (the full fringe was a big mistake), I have always had this creative spark! Whilst I have my academic side, creativity is where I thrive and it is what I love doing. I asked my Mum what I was like growing up and I feel she summed it up quite well:  

“Emma has loved being creative since she was a young girl. On a weekend she would ask her Dad to set her an arts and crafts project for her to work on. As long as it avoided glitter, I was happy to support her creative mind! She could never sit still and would always want to be drawing or making something!”. 

I have followed this creative spark that my mum discovered when I was young and I hope to develop it even further when I graduate and enter industry.  

Loughborough excels in lots of areas other than Sports & Engineering

Challenging perceptions

The amount of times I have had to explain why I go to Loughborough, a highly ranked academic University, yet do a creative course is ridiculous. I hate the stigma of ‘Oh you go to Loughborough University, that’s really good for engineering and sport right?’. YES but NOT JUST THAT! As shown by the stats above, Loughborough is high up there in the ranks for my course too. 

also hate the stigma that STEM subjects are the only way to be successful in the future and that creative courses are ‘easy’. People don’t get it when I have very little contact hours compared to them and they don’t realise the number of hours that go in behind the scenes. Just because I have less lectures, does not mean I have less work. 

Another frustrating aspect is people seeing I only have 2 deadlines this year and thinking that I have nothing to do. Yes my first deadline isn’t until January but I have SO MUCH work due for that date. Just because it isn’t split into lots of essays and exams like other degrees, doesn’t mean it is easy.  

The amount of career paths I could choose to go onto is endless. This was highlighted in a recent lecture where we all had to say our current dream job title. The list ranged from Art Directors to Graphic Designers to Brand Strategists; there were LOADS of different jobs. A Degree in the arts doesn’t mean you are less employable and please don’t think that! Just because the job may be less obvious, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Do your research before judging and seeing a degree as ‘pointless’. 

Caroline reads English so can relate with me, having encountered similar issues with her choice of degree

It’s not just me!

Kindly my friend, and fellow student blogger, Caroline has given her view on the matter as an English student: 

One thing that I noticed when I began Uni was the judgement of my peers when I started! I always thought that English was an academic degree to choose since it is such a core subject at school growing up! However, I was met with laughter at the lack of employability of English. I, however, whole heartedly disagree. My degree gives me creative skills that other courses don’t as I have opportunities to creatively write and perform, giving an outlet which is so good mentally but also allows for some incredible work from my course-mates to be produced. It gives me amazing language skills to which I have proofread my friends’ array of essays from Geography to Economics to Media! It provides me with time-balancing skills as I write 3 different 3000-word essays at the same time. It allows me to understand culture and language to a new level! I could successfully interview for so many jobs with these skills that have been nurtured throughout my degree.” 

Stay true to yourself

I suppose what I’m trying to say is don’t let other people’s opinions about your degree ruin it for you! Most of us artsy people absolutely adore our degrees whereas other people study more purely vocational degrees as a means to an end. There’s nothing wrong with either, and everything absolutely right about loving your degree and pursuing your passions at such a wonderful University as Loughborough is! 

To round up Caroline’s pointers with mine, no one should ever feel judged or that their degree is less worthy. Everyone has different priorities and careers paths in mind. Think twice before saying someone’s degree is ‘easy’, as just because someone doesn’t sit an exam doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot on as well.

Don’t just follow your friends, study what YOU want to study and what you think YOU will enjoy. Whilst I know some people look for degrees that will lead to jobs that pay well (I get this is something to consider as we grow up), please still choose something you will ENJOYThe arts are great and should in no way be side-lined. My degree may not be ‘real’ to others but it is surely real to me and that is all that matters.  

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