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What college is best for a career as an author

I'm a high school junior in California and I would like to stay in-state college

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Atul’s Answer

If you go to any CA State university that offers an English major, you will not incur substantial student loan debt.
One option to ponder is spending two years at a Community College and then transferring to a state university. CA state has local campuses everywhere, and there may be one near where you live.
The reality check is that too many people have substantial student loan debt, which cannot be forgiven very quickly by the Federal program. There are a few programs, but it is filled with glitches.
It also helps to know what are the job potential (teacher, technical writer, working in the publishing industry, etc.) and payscale before you decide to do major in English.
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Matthew L.’s Answer

Hi Emiliano.

Great question!

I would agree with everything Atul said in his answer and add this. Your writing career begins long before you get to college. You should start working on it now.

You're really lucky that you live in California. There a lots of great colleges and universities there. Average in-state tuition for a California state school is about $3,282 per semester (tuition and fees). It's about four times that if you are from out of state. Private schools are more expensive. So you would be very smart to stay in California and go to a state school.

That said, to be an author you have to be a really good writer. Writing is a craft that takes a long time to learn. You can and should start now. I can't tell from your question what kind of writer you want to be, but there dozens of different specialties within the field, depending on your interests and talent. Some authors write adult fiction or children's books or non-fiction travel books or text books, along with many other types of books.

The best way to become a published author is to work on your craft every chance you get starting now. First, get a really good education. Start in high school. Take creative writing classes if your school offers them. You might also consider writing for the school newspaper or television station (if you have one). At this point in your education, ALL writing is good for you. I wrote for my high school paper and loved it. I wrote news stories, sports stories, feature articles, editorials and a humor column for 3 years. It was great experience. I also realized I love writing stage and screenplays, which is what I mostly write now (other than writing for work at my law firm).

If your school does not offer enough writing classes or you've taken them all, you can probably take a writing course at your local community college (with your parents' permission of course). The classes are really cheap and you can usually get high school credit for them as well. And you'll also have college credits under your belt when you get to college, which means less classes to take. And best of all, you'll have good writing samples to show people later on (editors, mentors, employers).

As Atul pointed out, you should also take English classes and get really good at it. If you want a publisher to accept your books and to sell lots of them, they have to be well written. You have to know the rules of grammar, punctuation and structure. The very best book on this is called "Strunk and White Elements of Style." It has all the rules of writing in it. If you memorize it, you'll be fine.

You should also read everything you can get your hands on. Read all kinds of books--fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles, text books. Every type of publication has a different style of writing. Some are very complex (like college text books) while others are much simpler (young adult fiction, for example). Learn the different styles and how good writers write. Notice that good writers really understand who their audience is and they write to that audience. And read books on writing. We are incredibly lucky right now because there are dozens of books on every aspect of writing. If you want to write scary novels like Stephen King, there are books on that (actually, Stephen King wrote a great book himself on writing. Definitely worth reading).

In college you can major in a lot of different areas of study if you still want to be a writer. Common ones are journalism, communications, technical writing, literature, history, and, of course, English. Here is a good article about what writers major in. https://www.poewar.com/college-majors-for-aspiring-writers/ .

While in college, there are tons of writing opportunities. There are college newspapers, student magazines, newsletters, blogs, websites and hundreds of other places to write. Find them and keep getting better. College professors also write lots of books. Get to know your professors. Find out which ones are working on books. See if you can get a position helping them with their books (research, proofreading, typing, whatever). This way you can see how books are actually written by real authors.

Before you apply to a college, visit the college. Meet the writing professors and talk to students. Find a college that fits you and feels good. All colleges are not the same. Some have great writing programs, some have mediocre ones. Find one that fits you. See where writers you admire went to college.

Many writers also go on to get advanced degrees like an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in screen writing or creative writing. You don't need a graduate degree but if you ever want to teach writing or just feel you need the added education, this is the thing to do.

One of the most important skills you will learn along the way is how to re-write. Learning to rewrite and edit what you've written is the most important skill you can learn. First drafts are always junk. After you revise something 15 times, it's probably getting close to ready to show the public. Learning to use fewer words (and the right words) to get your point across is a key skill.

But the very best thing you can do is write like crazy. Write all the time (I still do). Keep a journal and write down your ideas in it. Write poetry, and short stories and blogs. Writing is a craft and you have to learn your craft. As you learn the rules of writing, you must practice them constantly. And don't be afraid that what you write is junk. Just write for yourself. It does not matter what other people think about it. Don't get discouraged. Just keep writing. Many great authors had their first novels rejected by hundreds of publishers. College is important and will help you become a better writer, but just sitting down and writing is the most important thing.

You should also look for internships and volunteer positions where you can write. Small newspapers, websites, churches, marketing agencies, and dozens of other businesses need copy written constantly. Many don't care that you have no experience. Keep your clippings of stories, blogs and articles that get published. Get a paying job writing if you can.

Find out what kind of writing you like and want to do. There is an excellent chance that the kind of writing you like most is what you're best at. Focus on that in your practice and in college.

And lastly, if you can find a mentor that is a really good idea. A teacher is best. Find a teacher who loves to write as much as you do and see if they will help you get better at it. Learn from them. Find different mentors throughout your life. Try to find mentors who write what you want to write and have been successful at it. Learn how they did it and follow their lead.

If you work hard at it, learn your craft, and never give up, you will be successful. You have a unique point of view. Don't let anyone tell you what you have to say is not important.


Matthew L. recommends the following next steps:

Take all the writing and English classes you can while in high school. See if you can take a creative writing class at a local community college.
Try to get on the school paper, yearbook or TV station and write everything you can. This is great practice.
Find mentors to help you with your writing. English teachers and working writers are great choices.
Find a college with a great writing program that you like. Look for writing internships.
Most importantly: Practice writing all the time. Keep a journal, write short stories, and learn to edit your own writing. Learn the rules of writing and grammar. Work hard and never give up.
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