Creative degrees, degrees that are of the arts, in my view, are ones that aim to encourage artistic and creative thinking and opinionated discussion. But these subjects, like English Literature, Philosophy and Creative Writing, for example, do, from my experience seem to have some inherent difficulties that need tackling as a student.
All degrees, naturally, require a lot of independence at a much higher level than any other previous educational stage. But creative degrees generally steer away from the teaching method of multiple lectures and contact hours, both of which see students beeing fed information to be written down and learnt, then and there. Creative degrees, of course, have some lectures but generally, are taught in a different way. Seminars and workshops, teaching methods that incite discussion and debate, are the preferred and far more effective teaching method. This is because creative degrees are built on the idea of subjectiveness, that there are more answers than one, that art and literature lead to multiple interpretations. Far away from the one-answer, factual worlds of the sciences and maths. The difficulties that arise from this learning environment is that once you’re in a seminar or workshop, the learning has already been done, students should have already read everything and need to be up to date in time for teaching. This level of required independence can be daunting and at times will simply not be kept on top of. Two years as an English Literature student has taught me that. But the best way to tackle this is to calmly take it week by week and to not resent the workload. It is important to always remember that how much you enjoy your studies and how enriching an experience studying can be, fully depends on how immersed you are willing to get into them. So be interested, try and be passionate about the work you’re assigned and absolutely stay focused.
As mentioned, the time you spend with your teachers and coursemates, outside of lectures, is very discussion-based. You will be required to make inciteful and thought-provoking points about a number of things, whether it be a book, essay or video. From my experience, most people in seminars generally sit in silence and don’t share their ideas with the whole class. Do not be one of these people. Public speaking, I completely understand, is daunting, far more for some than others but what I can confidently say is that the point you want to make or the argument you wish to raise will always be worth saying. Ask any professor who teaches a creative subject what’s the one thing you should always be doing in a seminar, the answer will be joining in. Being engaged, having lively and interesting discussions is ultimately what artistic academia is all about. We are all here to talk about the art we love. So don’t be silent, speak up.
Everyone going into university will have some experience of essay writing and assessments that require long periods of writing. However, if you go to university and choose a creative degree, your assessments will consist of some exams but generally long pieces of written work. This, admittedly, is quite a lot to get used to initially. The essays you write on art, books or history, for example, will be very lengthy compared to what you’re used to. My advice is these two things: be organised and use all your resources. Organisation is key, start as early as you can and organise your thoughts about your question/topic and then begin to plan your essay and the rest should come quite naturally. As for the resources that will be available to you, make sure you are making the most of them. Ask your professors any questions you have, go to them with your essay plan and they will reply with invaluable advice and take a look into your university’s exam/assessment skills services, a service many people neglect and overlook. Assessments are time-consuming and demanding but the sooner you start them and the way you approach them, the sooner they will be completed in their best form.
I love studying English, books are probably my favourite thing ever. That’s why I study it at university. I committed to pursuing my passion, an admirable thing in my eyes. But, sadly and rather irritatingly, not always in the eyes of everyone else. As a student studying a creative degree, you will face a lot of arrogant dismissal of your choice to study it. For a while now, our society has been turned in a direction that views STEM subjects as the undisputed holy grail of education. Now, of course, these subjects are vastly important and I would never dream of criticising a fellow student in their choice to pursue them. However, from what I’ve experienced, this does not always work both ways. There is a tendency, a righteous inclination, of some STEM subject students at university to automatically brush aside and reject any sense of importance in the subjects of the arts and humanities. Not only is this a difficulty you will have to deal with but it is also, in my view, your duty to combat these views and show them why they are so misguided in their views of the arts as something fluffy and unimportant. I will never ever be able to understand why certain people can’t seem to acknowledge the importance of art and how necessary it is in society. But I can understand why I know that it is important. An outlook that needs to be shared now more than ever.
Not only is the belief that, gaining a job after university with a creative degree is difficult, a consistent method of entitled mockery used by those I mentioned above, but it is also a complete misconception. The arts and humanities provide pathways to a multitude of great careers. Ultimately because the skills we are taught are grounded in researching and presenting a solid argument, skills that are desirable to a multitude of employers. It is worth remembering that although we are here as a route to a good career, university is a bit more than that. It is about becoming a creative thinker and feeding our brains in the best way possible but, naturally, careers must be thought about. My advice is be realistic when it comes to the career you pursue. I love writing, one day I want to work on my novel and write all sorts of fiction. But it would be ridiculous for me to dreamily wander into the real world announcing “I want to be a writer.” So, wisely I’ve decided to pursue journalism, a career that feeds my creativity and allows me to continue my passion but, on a cynical but necessary level, will also pay my bills. I am not going to play the role of the tortured failed artist who still lives at home when he’s 26. A career that allows you to continue in the field of the art you love is out there, you just have to look for it.