Dealing with college degrees and comparison | Personal

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I get asked three different types of questions from different people.

For the ones who don’t know me, but can guess what age group I am in, they ask me, “What school do you go to?”

If the person knows my age and kind of knows my story of life, they ask, “Did you ever picture your life the way it is now?”

Or I have been asked, “You photograph high school and college seniors. How do you feel about photographing college students when you didn’t finish college?”

Whether you know my story or you do not, I thought I would share a blog post about it today. It has been on my heart, as this season of graduation has been happening. While I share my story, I also hope and want others to feel that it is okay to be where you are in life right now. We all have different stories and walks in life, especially as we are heading into “adulthood.”

With that being said, let’s get started.

It’s officially June and in two weeks it will be 4 years since I graduated high shcool. My high school classmates are graduating with college degrees now, while I only have one semester of college under my belt. How am I feeling? Well… Continue reading!

I once had a dream to go to college to become a teacher. I wanted to teach 1st-3rd grade. In high school, when my passion for photography turned into a business, my dreams switched. At the age of 16, I started a career I didn’t think would happen. Of course it wasn’t a thought to be a career then, until I hit the age of 18 when I realized I have this huge passion for photography. During my senior year, I photographed multiple portrait sessions and my first wedding. As graduation was approaching, I had the pressure of letting others know where I was going to school. Since my parents (and myself) could not financially pay for schooling, I planned to go to a community college  before going to a university.

Since my passion for teaching switched to photography, my plan was to study business.

My first semester was spent attending general ed classes.

After that semester, I was told that my financial aid wasn’t going through for the next semester. The news was broken to me, during the time the next semester started. Since my parents and I could not financially pay for the classes, I was forced to take a semester off.

I was upset, but I was not 100% heart broken. Why? During my first semester, I got good grades, but my heart was not in it. My mind was always thinking of my clients. I was stressed between going to school full time, working part-time, and doing my passion: photography. I was juggling a lot. I felt like a huge relief knowing I had more time for work and taking care of clients.

During this time I was also worrying about society and being called a college drop out. I was forced to be one semester behind from everyone else. It ate at me during that time of my life.

By the time summer came, I decided not to go back to school for fall. I thought of myself as being crazy because I was just battling myself for being a “potential college drop out and I was behind.” This ended up being the best decision for me and I still am so thankful I had the emotional support from family and friends.

This huge decision allowed me to start booking more clients for the fall and further out. I was also able to work more hours at my part time job to help pay for my education.

You might be thinking, “Education? What do you mean? You just stopped going to college.” Yes, I might have stopped my college education, but I did not stop my education as a whole. & I still don’t plan on stopping my education.

I invested in (and still continue to invest in) classes/workshops that help in my field of work.

(Photo by: Laura & Rachel Photography)

During this transition, my mindset also changed. College classes will ALWAYS be there. The past four years I have been investing in my future in other ways, with out going into debt with college loans. When, and if I am ready to go back, school will be there. I will also have the money to pay for it all myself with a career that helped me invest in a college degree.

While all (as what it feels like, but I know it’s not 100% all) my high school classmates are graduating from college with different types of degrees, I am happy for them, but I’m also happy with myself. I am happy for myself because I pushed through what society thinks of me. I may not be a 22 year old with a degree, but I am a 22 year old who left school and her part time job to pursue her passion. I am a 22 year old who might have materialistic things that might consider me “successful” (when really, it’s just adulting! haha! Examples: a car & apartment) that I worked hard for myself, but I am also a 22 year old who is happy. Being happy is what is most important to me and I hope being happy is important to you too.

If a college degree makes you happy, continue working after it! If it’s working under your family business, keep at it!

(Photo collage from 2015, when I talked to high school students from the school I graduated from. I had the chance to tell them my story on how I started a photography business before I graduated high school & how they can do it too.)

If you are around my age (or heck, even if you’re 50 years old and feeling this way,) and feeling like society is yelling at you to do what is “the normal” (AKA going with the flow of college) and not graduating within four years of going to school, it’s okay. Whether you are pushed back a semester because of a failed class or you still have years to go because something happened in your family, it’s okay. Whether you couldn’t afford school or you chose not to go to school from the beginning and chasing your dreams in different ways, it’s okay. We are ALL living different lives and we all have different purposes. Just because you don’t have a degree yet, does not mean you are not making a difference.

If you are a college graduate reading this, I want to say that I am proud of you! Whatever route you took: Community or university college, it’s hard. You have those long hours of studying, typing essays, working to reach that degree, you did it! You may or may have not worked another job to help pay for college… That’s tough too! You should be proud and happy you accomplished something you put your mind too! Photographing college graduates makes me happy, knowing they are so excited to be finishing a chapter they worked so hard on.

(Photo by: Shuttergram Portraits)

To really answer the three main questions I asked in the beginning of this post:

“What school do you go to?” I answer, “I actually don’t attend any college right now. I currently own a photography business and learn in classes from other who have been successful in this career field of mine.”

“Did you ever picture your life the way it is now?” I typically answer with, “Absolutely not! But I am oh-SO-thankful for it all!”

“You photograph high school and college seniors. How do you feel about photographing college students when you didn’t finish college?” I answer confidently, “Happiness! I get to offer them a huge passion of mine while celebrating with them. They deserve to feel proud of themselves and that is what I am to offer them at every session.”

So, as I’ve said before and will say again, where ever you might be in your life, you are right where you need to be. Choose to be happy, because life is too short. Be positive, be kind, and love hard.

Thank you so much for reading in hopes to help motivate you to continue working hard! 🙂

Shelby Danielle
{Follow me of Instagram for daily updates: @ShelbyDaniellePhotography}

About Me

I am a wedding & portrait photographer based in Southern California and beyond!

I started at the young age of 16 in my hometown of Orange in Orange
County, California. As my photography business grew and I got married,
life took me to the Chino Hills area, making me more centered to all
major Southern California counties.

Here on the blog, you will
see a variety of posts regarding tips, sessions & weddings, and my
personal life of being a wife, mother, and business owner. To learn more
about me or to see more daily adventures, follow me on Instagram and/or

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