• Emily Wilkerson

Was college worth it?

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

I hear a lot of millennials complaining that college is a waste. I'm a millennial. I've said that exact thing. I've felt a lot of regret about going to college because I worked part-time in my field for like 6 months and that was it. Now I'm working as a photographer, which was largely a self-taught skill for me (though I've had so many excellent teachers along the journey.)

After I finished school, I had one cosmetology degree and one counseling degree. But I started a photography business. It kind of started itself, really, because it was just a hobby for a long time, then I got pretty good at it, then the next thing I knew people were paying me for pictures. I was... a photographer? Hold up now- what about my two degrees that I'll be paying off for like 900 years? Shouldn't I be "working in my field?"

I felt like I was wasting my formal education because I was making a living with a self-taught skill. That seemed awkward to me, to graduate from college then immediately do something different than what I trained for. So I downplayed my photography. I glossed over what I did because I'd paid thousands and thousands of dollars for a degree I thought I wasn’t using.

But every time someone would quietly confide in me before a session, “hey, you should know, I’m really uncomfortable in front of a camera. I always feel awkward.” I would comfortingly smile and say, “that’s fine! I have a counseling degree so I’m great with people yada yada yada…” And they would visibly lighten up and place trust in me to help them navigate this awkward situation!

I realized I’m using my counseling degree every single time I take a photo. I studied psychology for YEARS. I studied SO MANY CREDITS of therapy and coping skills and trauma and intimacy. I studied communication and counseling and people-reading and how to use question-asking as a tool. There are so many ways to use those formal skills to enhance what I offer as a photographer.

That was the biggest epiphany for me. I'd subconsciously been relying on my training in the counseling field already, but once I truly paused and thought about all the ways I could improve client's experiences because of my degree, I realized I held so much power to create an environment to usher people into their safe place, to help them bloom out of their comfort zone, to equip them to feel genuine emotion and connectedness to their loved ones - to transform a photo session into a family experience or a romantic date!

I realized my counseling degree enabled me to help people’s personality shine so they could have stunning memories connected to happy feelings. I began to watch people come alive because nobody knows how to get inside your head like a shrink, am I right?

I was probably glowing when I told Zach the great news about a session system I was going to develop…. and I asked him if it was okay to spend something around 4k on advertising (which scared the FIRE out of me, but at least there was a payment plan…) because it was time to next-level photography from a part-time passion to my full-time career. Well, he said yes, and now since Jan 1, 2020 I have booked 16 weddings with brides all over the East Coast and Midwest. That's pretty dang exciting.

So no, my college degree was not a waste. It serves me well every single day. I learned how to learn, which is such a precious investment. Don't scrap your college degrees. You chose what you studied because you were interested in it, and it's not irrelevant. Very little ever gets wasted. When next month comes around and you send another payment in, know that you grew as a person so much from that investment even if you don't work in your field.

April & Jake, thank you guys for letting me test out all my new stuff on you. I am so glad you're in love with each other. I want you to still be this happy in 50 years. You are true, genuine friends to each other and that's rarer than it should be.

Thanks for reading, friends! Keep scrolling to see how the rest of the photoshoot turned out. I'm really proud of the system I made- thanks, #quarantine.

Lastly, my favorite: When April betrayed Jake by winning "Sushi Go" when he thought it was just a prop for photos.

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© 2018 by Emily Wilkerson because she is too fussy to let someone else do this. Proudly created with Wix.com

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Lifestyle photography, documentary videography. Authentic, unposed storytelling.