Why I stopped buying textbooks (and gave higher education the middle finger)


I remember the first time I bought textbooks as I got ready for my first semester of college. After saving a couple hundred dollars from my summer job, I proudly searched the depths of Amazon and purchased “collegiate” textbooks, that ensured my novice mind that I was on the path to bigger and better things.

However, it was sometime between my first and second semester of my freshman year, that I had an inkling that I was being duped.

The mindset went something like this. But probably with more curse words, snarky eye rolls and less than clear language:

  • “Wow. I can’t wait to learn something and better myself. These books will be of great assistance.”
  • “Okay. Well you can sit down and memorize something you’re not going to remember, or you can do something more productive like sit on Facebook.”
  • “This is dumb. This book is dumb. It will be out of context in a few years. My professor doesn’t even reference it and I’m out $500. Not buying a single book next semester.”
  • Next semester: “Hey okay, let’s buy these books.”

It’s a vicious cycle where I overestimate my capabilities, and believe that I’m actually going to do hours of assigned reading everyday, when in actuality, my attention span is too short and I’m too darn lazy.

I used to think that I was really unintelligent, especially when I saw some people around me immersed in their textbooks, and reciting verbatim the content they read. I wallowed as I attempted to read page after page, but my mind was always on something else.

For my sophomore year, I decided to say “screw you” to my professors and to Amazon, and decided to keep that $500 in my wallet.

In each of my classes, my professors told us to go out and purchase the required text. I just smirked and went on with my life.

When they said, “follow the syllabus and do the assigned reading,” for me it meant, “go do something you actually want to do and screw this.”

And I did. I did a lot of things. I worked on a political campaign, met and gave a speech before Michelle Obama, wrote a ton of news articles (and then got promoted to editor), started up an electronic magazine and led an LGBTQIA group on campus.

I was busier than all of my friends and often didn’t have time to eat or sleep. And yet — I didn’t do a single bit of homework I deemed unnecessary and I definitely didn’t read the assigned text. (Instead, I used the money for textbooks and received subscriptions to some newspapers and read those all day.)

I still hold a 3.5 and above GPA. Because well, we can’t get too crazy now, can we?

Now it’s not to say that I think higher education is bad.  It’s just that for the price that I’m paying — I wish there was a way to serve the needs of different personalized learning experiences. By the time you get into college, it’s pretty hard to stray from your learning habits.

And I know many people disagree with my analysis of college (I’m assuming my friends who are education majors are cringing at this moment.) That is completely fine. What works for me, doesn’t work for everyone else. I understand the importance of being a well-rounded person and having the ability to sit down and read, and analyze information, and all of that other stuff.


It’s not for everyone.

And I’ve learned that it’s not for me.


Why I’m Not Going to Journalism School

When I realized that journalism was truly an endeavor that I wanted to partake in, my first thought was, “Holy crap I’m at the wrong school.”

Not to say that the University of Northern Iowa is a bad school by any means. (Furthest thing from it. I absolutely adore the school.) But for the typical journalistic path, it was definitely the wrong school to go to, when there were two other state schools that had successful journalism programs.

And I was very close to going to one of them. I had been accepted into the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State, and I was ready to pack my things and head there to start a new journey.

That didn’t happen.

And here’s why:

1.) You don’t need a journalism degree to do journalism

That just goes with almost anything. If it doesn’t require a specific certification, chances are, you don’t need a degree in it. For journalism, there’s really only so far studying can get you. When I first started, I had never taken a reporting class. In fact, I covered events that included visits from Republican GOP candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul without learning an ounce from a professor or a textbook.

Right now, I only have a minor in journalism. I won a journalism award this year, will be covering three beats next year and I’ll be news director of a radio station. All without going to j-school.

2.) There’s less competition

That can either be a good or bad thing. The good thing is, I can get experience at my school without competing with upper classmen or graduate students. The bad thing is, competition breeds higher quality work. But this also leads into…

3.) Experience, experience, experience

Real experience is an absolute necessity for aspiring journalists. It’s why so many programs require internships: because a whole semester of class can equal just a week of practical experience. And while some journalism classes do incorporate practical experience, but because I’m not at a j-school, I’m out looking for as much practical experience as I can get. This includes writing for the school paper, learning multimedia features, being news director, blogging and looking for freelance gigs.

At some j-schools, upper classmen status is a requirement before undertaking certain roles or productions. As an electronic media/political communications major at a school not prominent in the journalism field, I’m able to pick up experience and learn from high quality people without having to wait. I’m also not getting experience in just one thing. I have experience in a multitude of areas and I’m able to have a specification in politics.

But even while I’m content with my decision, there are many moments where I still fear not going to j-school. What will my competition be like? What am I missing from not having like minded peers? What type of journalism education am I losing from staying at UNI?

I’m still happy with the experiences I have acquired and am curious; if you’re going/have gone to j-school, why would you recommend it? Vice-versa?