a blog launched to laugh at my own expense

Confessions of a Design School Drop Out

This winter I got schooled. George Washington University S-C-H-O-O-L-E-D me. Not the kind of schooled where you graduate a semester early or the school gives you an honorary degree like you’re Michelle Obama, but the other kind of schooled. The kind of schooled that “defeats you miserably and you lose with humiliation” (to quote Urban Dictionary). And now, after crying my way through a Costco sized pallet of Tissues boxes, my Hello Kitty school supplies and I are finally ready to laugh about it.  

Most things in my life, except for the time in college when I dyed my hair red, have worked out for me. I refer to it as “luck of the womb” and basically, I just lucked into a really lucky life. Not in a spoiled brat kind of way (because spoiled brats don’t write thank you notes and I always write thank you notes) but in a I-have-never-really-failed-or-not-got-what-I-wanted-kind-of-way.

So when I announced that I was accepted by GWU and would be earning my Master’s in Interior Design and Architecture, no one batted an eye. (But they should have. Eyes should have been batted because I am a dyslexic with no formal training in either design or architecture.)

On the first day of the semester, the department head addressed the class of 20 students and informed us, “Only half of you will graduate this program.” 

I immediately felt bad for the other half of the class, automatically assuming that I was not included in that unlucky group. I was naively riding a 24 year long stretch of good luck so I had no qualms thinking I would earn an A in this uber competitive program.  

During my first studio presentation, my professor interrupted me and said, “You know this is Design School. This is not Art School.” I looked at her quizzically and she looked back at me coldly. 

I should have withdrawn from the program that instant, but instead it took me an entire (non-refundable) semester at GWU to understand what my professor’s design school vs art school comment meant. Architecture is more about perfection and less about my personal creative expression. However,  I am a creative who feels the need to express herself constantly. I ended the semester in the bottom half of the program. 

Did I fail? No.

I earned a B average but a B in GWU’s program dumps you into the bottom half.  I wailed, sobbed, screamed and cried for a 10 day period. When I finally came up for air or to make sure I hadn't burst any blood vessels in my eye, my parents reminded me, “Your name is Sarah B, not Sarah A.” Even with their jokes, nothing softened the crushing and humbling blow of being told that I wasn't good enough to pursue my design passion professionally. 

Sometimes I get emotional thinking about how I got schooled by GWU and I cry for a couple hours/days. But then I look at how bad my hair looked in my GWU student ID photo or how upset both my living room and my roommate were when I turned our home into a studio and I think “Good Riddance.” 


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