How Online Education Taught Me What NYU Couldn’t

Like many college graduates, I feigned my first proud steps as a “real adult” while carrying the dread of knowing I was horribly unprepared for the professional world. This first dawned on me during an internship I had throughout my senior year where I worked for an author and did a fair amount of copywriting. After a month or so, my Creative Director approached me and said, “Joseph, are you good with WordPress?”

“What’s WordPress?” I responded nervously. She produced a shocked expression as if she had just watched me devolve into a monkey.

“It’s a content management system,” she continued. “It’s okay though. Maybe I can have you do some newsletters on MailChimp instead.”

“Um…what’s MailChimp?” I said, that feeling of dread starting to well up in my stomach.

At first, I felt like a complete moron and blamed myself entirely for my lack of knowledge and professional skills. Then I realized that I had never once heard about either of these tools during my time at NYU. I was supposed to be getting education to become a better writer but my knowledge of writing platforms had never ascended beyond Microsoft Word. Once I graduated and started trying to get a job as a writer, I learned that most of the available jobs were copywriting jobs and that many of them stressed these tools I was only beginning to tackle. I knew that online education was an option. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of assuming something so easily accessible could not possibly have the kind of value I wanted much less a value comparable to NYU’s in-person classes.

My attitude about online education started changing once I obtained a freelance gig working for an online course curation start-up, so I quickly delved deep into the world of online education and courses. Since I had to write about them for my job, I began doing lots of research on online courses, which at times involved taking them. The rate at which I began to improve my skills surprised me. In only a few weeks, things that seemed so impossibly complicated before such as HTML and WordPress began to make sense to me. I still can’t get over the irony that I am making my living and learning from the very thing I had scoffed at before.

I was happy to finally be properly learning these things but also upset that I hadn’t been able to do so sooner. It occurred to me that, to an extent, the time and money my family and I had invested in a prestigious university (kids pay around $60,000 a year for tuition at NYU these days) often amounted to nothing more than a stamp on my resume; something for employers to glance over as they perused my skills and writing samples. Don’t get me wrong. NYU has been valuable to my career as a sexy brand and it has definitely provided me with priceless connections. The courses I took there also did wonders in improving my writing in general (never copywriting though). However, the painful truth was that I had not taken a single class that had directly built or even improved the skills that I was now using to pay my rent. After all, NYU does not have a Copywriting major as far as I know.

I’m not saying that traditional college education is worthless, especially since my career is only one of thousands of options. However, I do strongly believe that traditional colleges should start changing by increasing emphasis on bestowing valuable and marketable professional skills. But online education is a great resource — not only for those who can’t shell out the money for a tony college experience, but also for supplementing a traditional education and getting better prepared for the professional world. Don’t underestimate it the way I did. TC mark

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  • http://aworriedstudent.wordpress.com aworriedstudent

    Yes, many of the top universities across the world charge amazing amounts just so you can put their name on your resume. Of course this does not mean their education is not bad, it just simply should not be that expensive. What we have now is almost a fashion culture surrounding universities where the best brand can charge the most.

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