Modelling or School – Should I Drop Out to Pursue My Modelling Dream?

  • Melissa Keen

A lot of aspiring models have one simple question; modelling or school?Today, more people go to university than ever before. The number of young people from the UK applying to university increased by 1% in 2018, where a record 50.2% of English 17 to 30-year-olds participated in higher education.

For some, it is a necessity to earn a degree. Doctors, lawyers and teachers all require a degree to fulfil their career goals.

However, in creative industries where every applicant has been to university, the employers are looking for something extra. This may be work experience, a blog or entrepreneurial ideas.

When choosing the next steps in your career, it’s important to think about every option. If you are currently working as a teen model or have been offered an opportunity and you are at a crossroads, it’s time to consider all avenues available.

Why You Shouldn’t Drop Out of School

If an opportunity arises whilst in full-time education and you are under 16 years of age, it’s still vitally important that you attend all your classes. For specific photoshoots, you may be allowed to take time off from school with permission from your parents and headteacher. While gaining experience for a future career in modelling is important, passing your exams and getting a good education is also essential.

Many aspiring models aged 15-16 may feel education is a waste of time. A lot of models consider dropping out to pursue their modelling. However, it’s important to remember that it is highly beneficial to complete your high school education. If you are undecided about further education, you may want to defer and take a gap year to see how many opportunities arise.

Modelling AND Studying

The question shouldn’t be modelling or school, it should be modelling AND school! It is very possible to do both at the same time. While this isn’t always easy, it’s an excellent way to failsafe your future. Modelling isn’t a sure thing, and if it ends up not working out for you it will be a relief to have something else to fall back on. University is also a fantastic opportunity to spread your wings as an adult; not only will you make plenty of friends but you’ll also experience new opportunities, like living away from home.

Whilst difficult, it is possible to manage your two passions. You need to be very organised and may need to bypass the odd student party. You will need to prioritise your health, too; burning out is a reality for many who fail to organise themselves properly. Ensure you are eating well and getting plenty of sleep to fuel your busy lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to say no if you can’t squeeze something in.

Some people may feel inspired by Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, who both famously dropped out of college to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas. But unfortunately, they are a rarity. These two businessmen are the minority; they worked hard and were extremely lucky. Although it worked for them, in general college graduates are more likely to find a rewarding job and earn a higher income.

Modelling Doesn’t Last Forever

In such a fickle world, the fashion industry is a young person’s playground. A lucky few manage to capture the attention and imagination of fashion designers and photographers for a twenty-year period (Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss), but they are few and far between.

Most models have to retire in their late twenties and early thirties, whilst others still get a couple of years in the limelight and are then forgotten. Staying in school or deferring for a couple of years is wise as you will have something to fall back on.

High school graduates have more choice if your modelling career doesn’t go as you were hoping. Every model needs alternative options. Even those in the top modelling world who walk in high-end fashion shows have other interests.

Models With Degrees

  1. Karlie Kloss, an ex Victoria’s Secret model, is learning how to code
  2. Joan Smalls, another VS model, has a degree in Psychology
  3. Iman studied Political Science
  4. Edie Campbell has a degree in the History of Art
  5. Cameron Russell has a degree in Economics and Political Science
  6. Kate Grigorieva has a degree in Marketing
  7. Lily Cole has a 1st in History of Arts from Cambridge
  8. Lyndsey Scott is a computer programmer and has a degree in Computer Science & Theater

Keep your options open. Those who complete their school education will have the opportunity to study further at a later date if needed.

There are so many avenues open to you if you’re finding studying and modelling difficult. An online course is an option open to you if you’re struggling with full-time education. These part-time opportunities tend to be more flexible, allowing you to accommodate other careers you wish to pursue.

Reasons Why You Should Stay in School

Failing to graduate from school could end up being a bad decision for your future. It is understandable that the glamour, excitement and buzz of fashion lures you in, but don’t let it cloud your judgement. Don’t allow yourself to make a quick decision that you may later regret. You don’t have to choose between modelling or school; there are other viable options available to you.

  • There are very limited opportunities available without a good education.
  • Having some A-levels or a college diploma will give you the option to study at a later date.
  • Your parents could get in serious trouble if you do not attend school. Remember, underage models must always legally have a parent or guardian with them.
  • Being a student is a time when you can make lifelong friendships and see these friends daily – this becomes less easy as an adult.
  • It is a chance to study a variety of subjects to find out what you are truly interested in.
  • It is a time where you have little responsibility and can act like a teenager. You’ll have plenty of time to be an adult soon – don’t wish away your youth.
  • Top models have their personality and background taken into consideration, as well as their looks, when applying for jobs. Having a good education will help you to stand out.

What Education is Needed to Become a Model?

Technically, no qualifications are needed to become a model. The right look, a collection of poses, hard work and a killer walk is more than enough to make it.

However, to be truly successful in the industry a business brain is definitely required. It is up to you to understand contracts, ensure that you are not being taken for a ride, ensure you are paid fairly, and know how to market yourself. Too many young people get taken advantage of in the modelling industry due to lack of knowledge. It’s therefore strongly advised that you take some sort of business course. This could simply be a night class at a community college, a part-time course or a full-time degree depending on how much time and money you have.

A lack of understanding is the perfect scenario for scam artists to con you. Make sure you have the confidence to speak up and understand the business side of the industry. An understanding of business is also handy if you ever want to pursue other ventures. A lot of top models move into business when their modelling careers are coming to an end.

Returning to Studies After/During Modelling

It is widely known that many fashion models have started a degree during their career. Whether this is alongside their modelling jobs or during a career break, striving for academic success is brave, inspirational and sensible. However, it’s important to remember that graduating from school is what made further education possible for them. If they hadn’t, the following opportunities would not have been available to them. College dropouts will have fewer, if any, university courses available to them.

Both American models Christy Turlington and Karlie Kloss are perfect examples of individuals who decided to return to school. Both chose New York University in the United States as their stomping ground and are an inspiration to young models. Karlie admits it’s hard work yet she is investing in her future. Famously, she left Victoria’s Secret to begin her studies. Christy earned a B.A. in Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy and went on to do a Masters at 40. It’s never too late.

Modelling or School? Make Your Own Journey

A traditional degree and the university lifestyle is not for everyone. Some people hate studying and do not like the idea of getting into such a big debt. Others still are naturally clever and, with some luck, are able to achieve success without education.

Take time to consider the options that compliment your modelling aspirations. Nowadays, more and more people take the freelance route and juggle various professions. It is a great time to mould a career tailored to you. It will take a lot of hard work, but will be worth it in the end.

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Posted by Melissa Keen

Melissa's experience in the beauty and fashion world as a writer and blogger spans over five years. Her other interests include reading, yoga and music.