Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In belated satisfaction of the requirements for a college degree

While many people do not earn a college degree, many people do. It just takes some people a little longer than others.

In 1965, a young man enrolled at California State University Long Beach, but dropped out three years later. One year after that, this degree-less man launched a successful career in Atlanta, Georgia, where his short movie "Amblin" was shown. Perhaps you've heard of this man, whose name is Steven Spielberg.

Several decades later, after a series of successes (as well as 1941), Spielberg re-enrolled at Cal State Long Beach in 2001. Cal State describes what he did:

Having already taken a majority of degree requirements while a student in the mid-1960s, Spielberg was determined to demonstrate his regard for college education by completing his degree at Long Beach. He re-enrolled in the university's Department of Film and Electronic Arts in Spring 2001.

Spielberg satisfied all requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and Electronic Arts with an option in Film/Video Production through independent and directed study.

Well, actually Spielberg satisfied most of the requirements. As Jewish News notes, one of the requirements was waived:

The school waived the requirement that seniors submit a polished 12-minute film, ruling that "Schindler's List" would do.

Spielberg isn't the only famous person who returned to college. Take UC Berkeley graduate Rocky Raccoon Clark, who was originally in college in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, but (according to TIME Magazine) Clark "left to earn money to finish his studies." Having done that, he returned to college about a decade later, and finished the coursework required for his degree. Not that Clark (whose real name is Steve Wozniak) needed the degree to succeed...or maybe he did.

Well after Apple had enjoyed its first run of blazing success, Wozniak took several years to teach elementary school students, with as little publicity as possible.

The unconventional career move was all about following his passions, Wozniak said.

Another person who took a few years to get his degree was Shaquille O'Neal. Unlike his former teammate Kobe Bryant, who never attended college, O'Neal spent several years at LSU, but left before he earned his degree. After several years playing professional basketball in Orlando and Los Angeles, O'Neal earned his degree in 2000.

His mother's reaction? "I'm very proud of him."

Five years later, Shaq added an MBA to his resume, and he's working on his Ph.D.

But despite their fame, I bet that all three of these people faced challenges upon returning to school. The Back2College website caters to people who return to school:

Going back to college as an adult can be a daunting (sometimes even scary), but very worthwhile experience. We all know that there are many talented and accomplished individuals who never went to college or for some reason or another were not able to complete their degree. For many, earning that "piece of paper" can make a significant difference in their professional or personal life (the achievement of a lifelong dream) - but the idea of returning to school after a long absence can present quite a challenge.

Often adults who are returning to school after years of not being in a classroom are apprehensive about not fitting in (for example, being thrust into a classroom with 18 to 25 year olds), taking good notes, studying, and doing well on tests. The admissions and financial aid process can be a confusing and frustrating experience.

OK, maybe Spielberg, "Clark," and O'Neal didn't worry about financial aid, but it still took some significant effort to wrap up their degrees.

Congratulation to them, and to anyone who returns to school to finish what they started years ago.
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