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The Most Adulty Choice Yet

I’ve been putting off writing about this degree option for a while now, but I figure it’s probably time to put it out there.  I think I was kinda hoping that it would just kind of fade away and I would forget about it completely.  Unfortunately, that super pragmatic part of me keeps coming back to it, and so it deserves discussion.

The majority of my adult work history has been in the hospitality and tourism industry.  15 years of it, in fact.  I was hired by my first hotel back in 2002, at just 21 years old, working the front desk in Guest Services.  After that, I went to work for AirTran Airways for a few years as a Customer Service Specialist in one of their call centers.  Before too long, I found myself back in another hotel, doing the same role as before, for a couple of more years.  After that, I became a Travel Agent for a little over six years, and I was pretty damn good at it, too.

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I only very recently left that job (in February of this year, so just 4 months ago) for my current administrative position… which is in a completely different field.  Why did I abandon my beloved travel industry?  Actually, it really came down to just two reasons, but both were pretty major factors:

  • Money. See, most travel agents work solely on commission, which is something I could never do.  It’s too unpredictable, especially living paycheck-to-paycheck.  But the agency I worked for was different.  They didn’t pay commission, but instead paid an hourly wage, so I knew what my income would be every two weeks and could budget accordingly.  Unfortunately, that wage was extremely low given the amount of work and level of knowledge and skill required.  I was barely clearing $23,000 annually, ya’ll.  But I made it work for all those years even though it was definitely tough.  The hardest part, though, was that I knew I was worth more.  So when an opportunity presented itself, even though it meant leaving the tourism industry, I jumped on it.
  • While I loved the industry itself, I was completely, truly, 110% burnt out on customer service and sales.  Every time the door would open or the phone would ring, my chest would get tight and my anxiety and irritability levels would skyrocket.  I still very much enjoyed the research and planning part, learning about destinations and assembling dream vacations for clients.  I just hated dealing with them.  Pasting on the fake plastic smile every day became more and more of hardship.

So I left, and never looked back.  Until now.

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The University of South Carolina offers a completely online Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management degree completion program, and it’s even administered out of the Beaufort campus.  So.  Let’s weigh the cons and pros of this one, shall we?

CONS

1. I fucking hate customer service and sales.  Maybe in 5 years by the time I graduate, I’ll have been away from it for long enough that I’ll get over that some.  Plus, in management, yes I’ll have a good deal of front-facing guest/client interactions, but a lot more back-of-house work, too.  And I’m really good at both, I just don’t love the first part.

2. In the curriculum are a required 9 hours of food/restaurant classes, as well as some sort of departmental partnership with hospitality and concessions during the annual RBC Heritage golf tournament out on Hilton Head… all of which sounds absolutely fucking miserable to me.  I mean, it’s just 3 classes and one week a year for a couple years, so I suppose I could suck it up.  But UGH.

PROS

1. I wouldn’t be throwing away 15 years of industry experience.  This is honestly the top reason I’m considering this degree.  In fact, I might even be able to get out of some classes and practicums with my work history being as tourism-rich as it is.

2. While the classes are administered online like all of the programs I’m considering, I do love that the campus is right here in my town.  I know I’ve talked several times on this blog about how my preference is to go to schools within a reasonable driving distance, so that when I need to go to the school and fight with Financial Aid or whatever, I can easily do so.  Well, I really can’t get any closer than USCB.  Plus I know they have a relationship with Technical College of the Lowcountry, so all of my credits are more likely to transfer.

3. Something I have only touched on briefly in this blog is my long-held dream of relocating to the central Florida area.  Not just because of Walt Disney World either (though that is a huge part of it), but I genuinely enjoy the area and all that it has to offer.  I’ve actually been kind of in love with Florida in general ever since I would spend summers there as a child with my bio-dad’s family.  As such, all of the degree paths I’ve looked into so far have been low-key in the context of “Could this take me to Orlando?”  Well, this is the one degree that the answer is a resounding YES.  With all the other degrees I’ve considered, my lack of work experience in those fields is going to be a major hurdle to overcome.  However, with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism, combined with my work experience, I could potentially land a great job in Orlando straight out of school.  Not to mention that the salaries are pretty nice in that area for tourism management positions.

4. Once I’m in Orlando, I would be perfectly positioned to pursue my Masters degree should I decide that I want to do so.  The University of Central Florida (which I’ve talked about here many times) has the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, which is a huge school for hospitality and tourism.  They don’t offer a bachelor’s degree program online, but they DO offer an online Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management.  And really, having that could only enable me to get even better employment and salary offers, so I most likely would do it.

5. Though I’ve put vacationing on hold for the most part while I focus on school, I do still love to travel and likely always will.  There’s still so much of the world on my bucket list.  By staying in the tourism industry, I’ll have access to so many benefits and discounts and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise.

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So.  That’s two pretty lame Cons versus five really practical Pros.  The choice is kind of obvious, right?  As much as I would love to pursue a different path, this one just makes the most practical sense and will likely benefit me the most both immediately and in the long term.

It’s just going to require a lot of adulting and patience on my part.

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All The Turkey Legs

Remember how I predicted that I would be back this week with another potential change to my degree plans? Well, here we are.  Who’s surprised? Show of hands? Anybody?

No? Okay, then let’s continue.

This time it’s not a terribly drastic change, I promise…

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So I took another look at the University of Central Florida‘s online bachelor’s degree programs, specifically that Creative Writing degree.  Despite last week’s assertions of “I don’t like writing silly fufu fiction!,” I have to admit that I do still feel drawn to this school and this program. When I look over the degree requirements, I just feel like I would enjoy this course of study more… Even if it means that the potential career options aren’t quite as numerous or adulty.

As it’s an English degree, it requires more Literature courses, and most of you already know what a bookworm I am. (Or at least I was until recently. The hours that previously were dedicated to recreational reading have been seasonally usurped by my Algebra studies.) So that’s right on up my nerdy alley.

Plus, this program offers more courses focusing specifically on Writing, which is the skill I’m most looking to hone. I’d have to take a few classes and workshops in Fiction and Poetry, etc, but is that really so bad? Yes, it would certainly be challenging for me, and it would force me out of my writing comfort zone. However, maybe that’s a good thing? I’m sure that would likely make me a better writer in the long run, and isn’t that the entire point?

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However, all of this doesn’t necessarily mean I would have to completely abandon the idea of also developing a skill set that would help me to qualify for jobs in advertising and marketing. Today I discovered UCF’s online minor in Mass Communications, which would add the following courses to my curriculum:

  • MMC 2004: Mass Media
  • MMC 3630: Social Media as Mass Communication
  • ADV 3008: Principles of Advertising
  • RTV 3007: Development and Structure of Electronic Media and New Technology
  • VIC 3001: Visual Communication
  • COM 3330: Computer Mediated Communication

So basically, I would walk away from school with a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a Concentration in Creative Writing and a Minor in Mass Communications. By adding that minor (instead of something neat like Anthropology, as previously suggested), I’m creating a program for myself that is kinda-sorta similar to the track I would have been on an SNHU, but lighter on the marketing & communications classes and heavier on the literature & writing classes.

Plus, I’m not gonna lie, the fact that the school is located in Orlando is a huge selling point for me. The reasons are primarily because the location satisfies my preference of a main campus within a 5-hour range, and it’s nice that it’s a drive that I’m already super familiar with.

And. Also. Like. I mean. You know. DISNEY WORLD, OKAY?!?! Which yes, I do fully realize should NOT be factoring into my choice of a school at all. But I am who I am. Don’t judge me.

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Eat ALL the turkey legs.  All of them.

Seriously, though. I still haven’t given up on my long-held dreams of relocating to the central Florida area within the next few years, and I likely never will. (Not that I currently have an actual plan for how to make that happen yet or anything.) So if I do manage to accomplish that goal, then gaining frequent access to the campus and it’s resources would be incredibly helpful during my studies.

Sigh. Why must making this decision be so ridiculously difficult for me, ya’ll?

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Adulthood Is A Bitch

Get comfortable, dear reader, because this is gonna be a lengthy one. Why, you ask? Because I think I might be scrapping the whole Clinical Mental Health Counselor career path.

 

I know, I know. I sound flaky as fuck right now. But but but reasons! I have them!

Basically, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’ve never been 100% comfortable with the idea of having to go to grad school in order to make my Bachelors worth anything. If I complete my B.A./B.S. and then decide that I want to go to grad school at that point, that’s whole ‘nother story. But with my advanced age as I start out my undergraduate degree, I’ve just not been in love with the idea of feeling obligated to continue on to grad school. But I was willing to suck it up and just accept it as part of my academic path.

Now I’ve known all along that in order to obtain my licensure as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), after grad school I would have to work for a couple of years as an Intern (or LPC-I), under direct supervision. Cool, sure, no worries. Right?

 

Yeah, about that.  What I learned this week is that supervision doesn’t come free. Well, let me back up… It theoretically can if after grad school you land a job interning with a agency who provides your supervision hours as part of your employment with them. It’s considered a perk of the job. However, those opportunities are fewer than you might think (especially in a small town like mine), and the ones that do exist are extremely competitive.

Because of these factors, most LPC-I’s have to find supervision in private practice, and that costs money. Big money. Like, $100-200 per week. For real, ya’ll. So let’s use some of my blossoming fancy math skills, shall we? Based on the median weekly amount of $150 per week, the equation looks something like this:

($150 x 52 weeks) 2 years = $15,600

 

Keep in mind this is AFTER grad school, so no more grants, no more loans, no financial aid at all. That cool 15 Grand+ would be coming completely out of my relatively empty, freshly-graduated pocket.

 

Can you actually hear my feet on the floor, backpedaling like a boss right now? (They’re pretty big feet, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you could.)

 

 

Needless to say, I’m feeling quite discouraged about the LPC career path now, and reevaluating all the choices I’ve made up to this point. Getting my Bachelor’s in Psychology isn’t going to lead me anywhere I want to be without having to follow it up with grad school and licensure, so I’ve been exploring other options.

The first and closest online equivalent I’ve found would be to get a Bachelor of Science in Human Services. It’s administered through the University of South Carolina, right here at the Beaufort campus. With it, I could go on to become a Substance Abuse Counselor. No grad school required, but I would still have to intern and do supervised hours for two years. However, from everything I’m reading, the opportunities for employment that provides your supervision are far more numerous. But would I enjoy it? Ehh. Maybe? I’m not sure. If I’m being completely honest, I just don’t feel quite so drawn to this field as I did Mental Health counseling.  And also because, well…

 

Another option from USC is one that I’ve mentioned before, the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, which is administered online through the main campus up in Columbia. I would probably enjoy the coursework for the major, as I could focus on Psychology, Sociology, and English courses. And at the end of 4-5 years, I would be able to say “Hey, look! I got me a Bachelor’s degree, ya’ll!” But on it’s own, it would be worth about as much as that Psychology degree that I’m reconsidering. Hrmph.

So that got me to thinking… What if I did get me a good old “useless” degree after all?  Instead of worrying about career paths and earning potential and adulting, what if I just majored in something I would enjoy? I mean, I have a decent job that I love. I’m already far beyond entry-level. And wasn’t the entire original point of me going back to college more personal than professional anyhow? To finish what I started 20 years ago?

Which leads me to…

 

 

Yeah… Writing.  Oh, come on, don’t look at me like that.  And really, I mean, if you’re reading and enjoying this blog right now, that idea hopefully doesn’t shock you. (Unless it does, and you’re only reading this blog right now to mock me to your co-workers, which I acknowledge is entirely possible.) After all, I mean, I did get that perfect score on the writing section of my placement exams. So maaaaybe there’s something to that worth exploring?

 

After some research, I’ve created a shortlist of schools that I would be interested in transferring to, all of which offer online Bachelor’s degrees in English with a concentration in Writing:

 

 

#3: University of Colorado (Denver Campus), Bachelor of Arts in English Writing
UC Denver is an extremely reputable school and is definitely a great option (hence why it made the list), but of the three, it has the most drawbacks for me. I don’t love that it’s all the way in Colorado should I need to visit the campus. Also, it’s coursework has slightly less focus on creative writing and more on technical writing, which is both good and bad: It would probably be better for employment opportunities, but also pretty boring. It’s also the most expensive of my current three choices, coming in at $467 per hour.

#2: Southern New Hampshire University, Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing & English
Yes, the same SNHU that you see the commercials for. I hesitated on this one, as generally the majority of the mass-marketed online schools are just for-profit diploma mills. But I did a lot of research, and it turns out that SNHU is completely legit, and their online programs are very much geared towards online non-traditional students like myself. And at $320 per hour, it’s the most affordable.

 

#1: University of Central Florida, Bachelor of Arts in English: Creative Writing
This program seems to have the most of what I’m looking for: A creative Writing bachelor’s program that can be completed online, strong support for online students, an entire Transfer & Transition Services department that I can speak with while I’m at my community college these next two years to make sure I’m on the right track for an eventual transfer to UCF, prerequisites that I can actually complete at TCL, and a main campus located within a 5-hour driving distance from me. In fact, it’s a drive I’m extremely familiar with and make at least once a year anyhow. That’s right, ya’ll… UCF is located in Orlando. And as far as price goes, it’s only a little more than SNHU at $384 per credit hour.

As far as a minor goes, I probably should minor in something related to my major, like Technical Writing or Journalism.  Orrrrr I could just minor in something fun, right?  You know, like Anthropology!

 

I’m totally serious, James Franco.  I mean, for fuck’s sake, just look at the titles of the courses I would get to choose from!

  • ANT 3026: Mummies, Zombies, and Vampires: Anthropology of the Undead
  • ANT 3107: Blood and Valor in the Viking World
  • ANT 3177: Archaeology of Caribbean Piracy
  • ANT 3241: Magic, Ritual, and Belief
  • ANT 4013: Anthropology of Fast Food
I’m #sorrynotsorry, but that all sounds completely freakin’ AWESOME to me.

 

But anyhow.  All of that being said, if after completing my Bachelor’s I decide that I do want to continue on to grad school after all, I have an extremely convenient option. Savannah College of Art and Design, just an hour down the road from me, offers a fully-online Master of Fine Arts in Writing. So clearly, SCAD would be the obvious choice for my graduate degree.

 

 

So that’s kinda where things stand now. Or not stand, since they’re all up in the air. That’s where things float now? Whatever. More importantly, how on Earth is it even possible that I’m 36 years old and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up?