Why You Shouldn’t Go to College

In the past I’ve written a fair amount about my dissatisfaction with the current model for higher education. Posts like “Create Your Own College Education” and “How to Get Your Education for $48,000 Less Than I Did” sum up my thoughts pretty well.

That said, I want to reframe things a little bit in a way that might hit you over the head a little bit more.

I understand the majority of my audience is out of high school, and most of you are out of college.  However, if you know someone who might benefit from looking at things in a different perspective as it comes to their education, I encourage you to share this with them.

You Just Won the Lottery

Just for a second imagine someone placed $50,000 in a bank account with your name on it.  You can do anything you want with this money.

Anything.

It’s all yours.

You can travel, build a business, invest it, or spend it on a 4 year college education.

Now, traditional society would obviously have you believe that the college education is the best bet.  I question whether or not that is still true.  With tuition rising, and job placement out of school being at dismally low levels, is it really the sure thing it once was?  Your parents may think so.  Your grandparents probably think so.  But things have changed, and I don’t think it’s the investment it once was.

I mean think about this. If I gave you $50,000 and told you to turn it into $100,000 in the shortest amount of time possible.  What would you do?  Get a 4 year degree?

Doubt it.

It would take you 4 years, and at that time you would have nothing in the bank, and be lucky if you could get a job paying $50,000/year.  Throw all of your expenses on top of that, and you’re looking at the better part of a decade before you actually have $100k in the bank.

$50,000 for school is real money. This is the fact most college students don’t realize.  You do have to pay that back, even if it is at a low(ish) interest rate.  It’s just like someone handed you $50k and you spent it all.  They’re called student loans for a reason.

I’m still paying mine off.  It’s the only debt I have left. $121 a month for the foreseeable future.

If you’re in high school or college I want to encourage you to go against the masses for a moment.  Think about why you’re in school.  Is it to learn something you can’t learn elsewhere?  Is it to get a piece of paper so you can go to work for Goldman Sachs?  Or is it just because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

I bet you a buffalo head nickel it’s the latter.

And that’s the wrong answer.

For way less time and money you can get a more useful education that will allow you to be an entrepreneur or freelancer.  If neither of those interest you, by creating an education custom tailored to your interests, not only are you saving money, but you’re setting yourself up for a life that you’ll actually be happy to live.

This isn’t play money.  This is an investment in your life and future.  I just question if it’s the best investment you can make.

The Business School Fallacy

A month or so ago I received an email from a guy who said he “wanted my life”.  He wanted to be an entrepreneur and work from anywhere.  He emailed me because he wanted my opinion on whether or not he should get his business degree at Wharton or pursue something else.

For those of you who don’t know, the Wharton School of Business is one of the most prestigious business schools in the country.

I gave him my two cents, which were this:

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, there are a million better ways to spend $100,000.”

He agreed with all of my points (which went in to a bit more detail than that), and then finished by saying “so I think I’m going to go to school, and then pursue my goal of being an entpreneur.”

This is what’s wrong with traditional education.  If someone gave me that kind of money to spend building a business, the options would be limitless. Instead this kid is going to have to deal with $100k in debt while he tries to build a business later on in life, in which his schooling has not prepared him for.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with the concept of school in general.  That said, you need to tailor it to your goals.  My college education did nothing to prepare me for what I wanted to do. Yet, if I’d put more thought into it and been more willing to go against the grain, it had the potential to be.

If you’re considering going into higher education or going back to school, think about what you really want to accomplish.  And please, for the love of God, don’t let the answer to that be “I want to get a piece of paper (MBA) so I can get a job or a promotion.”

Wrong Answer.

Do it because you can’t learn a certain skill set anywhere else. If you want to be a nurse or a lawyer for instance, then by all means, go to school.  But if you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t fool yourself into thinking that will get you there.  Entrepreneur’s do things on their own, save some money and start doing that now.

Or just try and land one of Peter Thiel’s $100,000 fellowships for dropping out.

While I learned some of the fundamentals of business while I was in school, I learned way more about how a business actually works by owning a house painting business during my years at school. Management, marketing, accounting, you name it.  If you don’t have a way to get hands on and actually apply your skills and make mistakes on your own, you’re not actually learning much.

I realize I’ll probably get a fair amount of negative feedback for this post.  Telling someone not to go to college is still a pretty taboo thing to say.  But mark my words, over the next decade we will see a dramatic shift in the way the education system works and they way it’s perceived by potential incoming students.

Stop doing what everyone thinks you should do.  Do what makes the most sense for what you really want to get out of life.

If you’re serious about making personal strides in your own life be on the look out next Monday because there is going to be a really special offer here that doesn’t come around very often.  I’ll tell you right now, this is the most excited I’ve been for a deal in a long time, so if you’re looking to make some fundamental changes in your life, come back on next week to see what’s up :)

If you enjoyed this post check out my free ecourse over there in the sidebar.  If you want a little more Location 180 goodness then hit up the Twitter stream and Facebook page.  And if you’re serious about building a business, you’ll want to hit up Location Rebel.

Simon June 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

I completely agree with you. While there is nothing wrong with traditional college path, especially due to the people you will meet and limitless networking opportunities, it does not guarantee success in the business world.

Knowledge can surly be obtained in college, but business skills must be practiced and acquired in the real world in order to succeed. Time and money could indeed be spent better elsewhere. Cheers

Whitney June 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

You should re-title this “Why you shouldn’t go to college if you want to be an entrepreneur” instead. For example, good luck being a research scientist without a degree. Or a teacher. Or an engineer. Or a doctor. Most high-paying jobs require college. If you’re spending $50,000 on an English degree, yes, you just blew it. But, there are lots of jobs – that make way more than $50,000/year starting – that require schooling. If you’re blazing your own path and building your own company, that’s one thing. But if your career path lies elsewhere, there’s not much option but to jump on the college train.

Sean June 16, 2011 at 9:49 am

Very good points Whitney. I touched on that a little bit, but probably should have gone into a little more detail to strengthen the argument. I agree, if any of those careers are your calling, then school is essential. This isn’t aimed at them. This is for people who are merely doing it because it’s what they are supposed to do.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Peter Zink June 16, 2011 at 9:48 am

Well put. While I don’t have the debt, I have to pay back my college through years of doing something I don’t like. I got a Poli Sci degree which is pretty much useless for anything I want to do. I could’ve become a better writer by just writing articles and starting my own business sooner.

If I was going to do it all over again, I’d want to read this badass ebook by a guy named J. J. Luna called “Skip College: Go Into Business for Yourself”. He is in his 60s or 70s now but he has run successful one-man businesses his entire life. His first one was selling parking spots on his aunt’s front lawn during baseball games. Pretty interesting stuff:

Harley June 16, 2011 at 9:53 am

Excellent article!

You mentioned at the end about seeing a dramatic shift in the way the education system works. I believe it’s already happening. I graduated from college a year ago and my degree is worth little more than a high school diploma.

I 100% agree.

Radman June 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

Our educational system has missed the point for so long now. Do you think the ones doing the teaching ever learn? Too bad there isn’t a school for them.

As an example: all those responsible for the bank failures are either professors or in the current cabinet. And they are teaching the next generation! Oh, I guess I’m the one missing the point since they’re making the big bucks and not having to do time.

I suppose it’s back to school for me!

Radman (aka – school of hard-knocks)

Therese Schwenkler June 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

Nice one, Sean.

you said that your college degree didn’t prepare you for what you wanted to do– here’s an interesting piece that speaks to that same issue:

http://blog.brazencareerist.com/2011/05/24/why-the-future-of-college-isnt-on-campus/

The author writes that in college, “I learned that grades are more important than knowledge, and getting a degree is much more important than anything else you might do in college.”

I also wrote a piece on my blog awhile back stressing the fact that a college degree alone doesn’t do a whole lot for you– you’ve got to step up to the plate with your own initiative and contribution. It’s aptly entitled “Why Your College Degree Doesn’t Mean Sh**”:

http://www.theunlost.com/?portfolio=why-your-college-degree-doesnt-mean-sh

“Do what makes the most sense for what you really want to get out of life” — simple and yet difficult advice for us all.

JC Deen June 16, 2011 at 10:28 am

Great post – I agree with Whitney in that I think you could’ve touched a bit more on some of the jobs that require schooling. But like you said – unless you’re going into a field that is highly technical, college can be a waste of time.

However, I also feel just as you do about college in that we have this unnecessary pressure to go just because “it’s the thing to do.”

In saying that, if you are unsure of what you wanna do post high school, go get a dead-end job until you figure that out. No point in enrolling and paying for an education that won’t serve you.

I am currently back in college after a 3 year drop out and I’ve found that for what I’m studying (marketing/advertising), none of it’s super applicable to what I do for money. I currently work as a fitness pro and web designer – both of which I learned about on my own over the last 3 years or so.

I continue to study because I am on scholarship and I am taking design classes that force me to learn new aspects of design that I may not be akin to doing on my own. However, if I weren’t on scholarship, I would not be getting into anymore student debt.

Christina June 16, 2011 at 10:47 am

Fantastic advice! I completely agree. I have struggled, off and on for many years, with my decision not to pursue higher education; a crazy move to many who become privy to my secret.

I didn’t want the debt straight out of high school because I didn’t know, at the time, what I wanted to do with my life. I put off going to college and instead, learned about myself and business via various apprenticeship-type jobs.

While I have made more money than I ever thought possible without that degree, I have also found that many people still look down on my decision and some employers can’t get past the lack of University credentials on my resume and yet I know many people with the debt and the piece of paper who are not doing anything related to their degree. Some can’t even find a job.

At the end of the day, it is most important to figure out who you are and what you want for your life. If it requires a college degree, fine; if not, you can still become a well-rounded and financially prosperous individual regardless of what society says.

Thanks for writing this post!

Michelle June 16, 2011 at 11:00 am

I’m in total agreement with you, Sean. Of course, there are exceptions (like Wendy pointed out), but I don’t think that they’re necessarily the majority – I think there are just as many careers or paths that don’t require college education. I only lasted a semester of college myself before I got fed up with it and dropped out.

The attitude that it should be done because it’s just done is a frustrating one to me, especially because it saddles the student with such an incredible amount of debt. Not to mention that it seems to keep many students in sort of an extended adolescence – I know that not everyone who goes to college does it this way, but I’ve seen more than a few people relying on student loans and/or their parents for everything during college. Cost of food, cost of living, etc. It’s a weird situation to be around, because I’ve met people several years older than me (I’m currently 22) who have never had a job. They’ve simply relied on outside sources for their income for their entire adult life. Aside from racking up a hell of a lot of debt, that doesn’t exactly teach self-sufficiency either!

Nikki June 16, 2011 at 11:02 am

This article is outstanding and I’m going to share it with my two daughters starting college this fall. One is pursuing a degree in fine arts, though she has already started an online comic magazine and is building her business. The other wants to be a photographer, and while college feels safe to everyone in the family, I believe that this type of skill set is best learned in the age old apprenticeship model. But what do I know, I’m just the crazy free-thinking (gasp) mom.

I’m also an educator, I teach at a community college while I’m building my own coaching business. My issue with higher education is that we do nothing to prepare students for real jobs. I teach Industrial Technology, which is a fairly technical engineering “lite” curriculum. The information taught in my department is outdated and out of touch with the job market. I push for relevance and guidance from the industry, but the politics of higher education push back. Of course, I’m only speaking for my own school, but there is a lack of innovation that is masked by fancy lab equipment that no one uses (or knows how to use). The modus operandi is to get them in school and get them out. It doesn’t matter much what they know before they leave; we need to push them through so that our numbers are up so we can get funding. It’s sickening.

While I have to be there, I’m doing my own subversive things like teaching a whole section on entrepreneurship. I get students to list the things they love to do and come up with three business ideas based on the list and three actual steps to get going. We discuss in class and brainstorm. Feedback from students is crazy. They love the idea that they could start their own small business…no one ever told them that. I also make them write about why they are in school, what their goals are and how they think a degree will help them. They hate this assignment because they hate to write; yet when I have them do the assignment again at the end of the semester so they can see how they’ve grown, they invariably say that this assignment helped them. I preach taking charge of their education, having a plan, and not to believe that exchanging a bag of money for a piece of paper is a guarantee that they will succeed.

I’m going to share this article and others on this site with my classes next semester and with any young person I know. I’ve been putting together a workshop on this topic for local recent grads to show them the options. And if they do want to go to college, to make a plan to get the most education for the dollars they spend.

Sophia June 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

When I reflect upon my own college experience, I don’t have any regrets. Aside from learning the things I was interested in in a small-class setting (geography, natural resource conservation), there are some “life-skills” that were fine tuned during my college time that help me thrive in my current pursuits:

- Being punctual
- finishing what I start
- managing multiple priorities
- living on a little budget/ making a dollar stretch
- sharing responsibilities and duties among those you live with
- fabulous network from friends and professional colleagues … many of which I have went on to visit in far-flung countries

Are there other ways to learn these skills? Sure. But for me, I am not sure I would have gained them if it wasn’t for a more structured environment, like college, during my years of 18 to 24.

However, for those who have no idea what they want to do, and college seems like the logical next step, I agree with you 100%… it can be a huge waste of time and resources.

Alex June 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

Sean, I’m with you 99% of the way, but we need some serious caveats.

1. It is rare that the potential student is given the choice between 50k and a four year degree. Often the 50k is from student loans. Student loans are brilliant and terrible. Brilliant in that they are unsecured loans at a reasonable interest rate. Terrible in that they have been exploited by for-profit institutions to bury students with English degrees, or worse, law degrees. That same person can’t just get 50k liquid. The 50k is only available because of the college. So the analogy doesn’t hold perfectly true.

2. Some people still make a killing off of school. I, by the grace of God, graduated very high from my law school class. For my first year out I made 70k in the government. In July it goes to 80. Afterward, if God’s grace comes again, I’ll roll out for 200k a year with a 50k signing bonus. To be clear, I am the exception to the sad sad reality. But my 100k gamble worked out pretty well. A degree from Wharton is a darn-near guaranteed 6 figures, plain and simple. Within two or three years of graduating, that person will have 100k liquid to start the business with. That’s particularly clutch in the current era of tight credit markets.

Having put in my caveats, I think you’re right on the whole. But if someone has the Wharton acceptance, he should run and never look back. Final thought, although I may make 250k 15 months from now, while I’m billing away in my glass prison in the clouds in some major metropolis, I will be longing in my mind to be at any one of the dozens of incredible places you visited in Thailand. Even for those of us “lucky” enough to make it big, via law school, Wharton, or whatever, rarely will we ever be as happy as I’m sure you were when you were in Thailand. And a good chunk of us would probably trade it all away for your experience.

Cheers

Rob June 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

Nice article Sean.

I definitely agree that the value of a college education isn’t often weighed against the (sometimes astronomical) costs. I’ve met and heard of so many people who are stuck in high-paying jobs they hate because they can’t switch to the lower-paying job they’ll love, or afford to try the entrepreneurial route–the break in income would crush them. There’s also tons of young Americans out there that want to buy a house, have a kid, or do something else that’s capital intensive, and just can’t because of all their debt.

I do think college can be a worthwhile investment, and not just for those that want to take the highly specific and training intensive jobs of lawyer, doctor, etc. For myself, a dude coming from rural no-where-ville (pop. 2k), college opened my eyes to an entirely new world. I also met tons of people that greatly impacted my life for the better. Had I not gone to college, I almost shudder to think where I’d be.

That said, I think the real issue is taking a realistic look at college from the perspective of what it’ll do for each individual, what it’ll cost, and asking the question “Can I get this benefit for less investment in some other way?”

An amazing book that addresses all of these questions is Debt-Free U. It systematically examines the assumptions of higher education, debunks most of them, and then goes on to provide a very practical outlook for how to get a kick-ass education without going into any debt.

Graham Lutz June 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

Whitney’s points go without saying. No one said you shouldn’t go to college if you want to be a Doctor.

The point is the only discussion people are having with highschool seniors is WHICH school they are going to, not WHETHER they are going to college or not.

There is this idea that no amount of money is too much to spend on a college education, but the fact of the matter is that a college degree is worth a finite amount.

Caleb Wojcik June 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Going to college was the right thing for me at the time. It helped me mature into what I am today.

That being said, putting all our faith into college is bogus. I majored it a degree that would get me a job, worked hard, and got a job.

Okay, now what?

Even after I got my night school MBA I assumed doors would open. Not true. Its just another piece of paper that sits in my closet.

I gotta build my own doors and walk through them to get where I want to be.

Yamile Yemoonyah June 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm

When I dropped out of college my parents thought I was crazy. And to be honest, I was also a bit scared that I was making a big mistake. But I knew that a college education just wouldn’t take me where I wanted to go in life. There just had to to be another way. Then I met Matt Mullenweg, the founder and developer of WordPress and he told me he also dropped out of college. That made me feel a lot better and inspired me to invest my time in building my blog into a business.
Now I’m location independent, earn my money by helping people start/grow their own creative web biz and am about to travel through Central/South America and the Caribbean soon. I think I made the right descision :-)

Vivek Mayasandra June 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Sean,

Excellent post. I’ve got to agree with the underlying concept – which is to make the most of your time & money.

I will say, however, that the whole college “experience” of classes, dorms, parties, etc really transformed/matured me in a lot of ways. Until college, I didn’t have any solid ideas of what I wanted to do in my life, financially speaking.

My younger brother’s a senior in high school and just assumes that he’ll be going to college. It’s something I have to wrestle when giving him advice.

I hope to see either a diametric shift in the way colleges operate in the US, or more mass-crowdsourced-learning (akin to Skillshare or Khan Academy), in which people can learn anything, including general knowledge courses, at college fees, and build what they want to. It only makes sense.

Vivek

Jeffrey June 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Money aside, if you’re interested in entrepreneurship going to college can be a significant loss of time, too. Just think about how many people say “If I had just started this 4 years ago, I’d be golden right now.” I know I’ve thought that a lot myself, and I use it as motivation to not put off things any longer. While college is fun and meaningful in certain ways, it doesn’t automatically set you up for the future you want by any means.

Deborah Fike June 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm

No matter what your future endeavors, you should be purposeful. I’ve met some very purposeful people who went through all the way through their PhDs, and it’s paying off for them. Non-purposeful people going to college don’t get much out of it. They *think* a degree will guarantee them a job, but like anything else, it’s GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. If you’re using what you learn, or worse, just sleeping through class, you shouldn’t expect anything after four years.

So take a look at the other side: not going to college. I work in the software industry, and I’ve met many talented programmers who never went or dropped out of college. They were purposeful: they spent their free time honing a skill that later became a career. However, I also know many of my high school classmates who dropped out of college or never went who have “wandered” through life: no skills, no real career, and jumping from minimum wage job to job.

If you’re 18 and can’t find a purpose, it may be worth your time doing something else for a few years before you engage in something like college, which requires a huge commitment (not all of it in the classroom) to make it work for you. Or you can try community college, which has a much lower tuition cost but still exposes you to careers you might not have pursued. Or you can try doing something on your own, if that’s your bent.

Sylvia Black June 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I agree. I did go to university more or less because I was supposed to, and I can’t say I regret it really – it was a great experience and I’m glad I had it. But in retrospect I wish I’d taken time off in between high school and university and gotten some life experience – working, traveling, perhaps being an entrepreneur, learning, growing. If I’d done that I might still have gone to school but I’d have done it much more mindfully, with a clearer idea from the start of why I was there and what I wanted to get out of it. And I’d almost certainly have picked a different major.

I may go back and get another degree one day – I have an idea of a program I might like to enroll in, and as you say, will teach me things I can’t easily learn elsewhere, but I’m approaching the idea very slowly and tentatively. I don’t want to spend all that money if I won’t get even more value out of it, and crucially, I won’t do it until I can pay for it myself out of pocket – which won’t be for a while.

TYG June 16, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Agreed completely that college isn’t for everyone.

Something should be said, though, for the students who are driven, responsible, hard-working, mature, and very academically curious. Even though they may not know exactly what they want to do going into college (let’s be honest–who does when they’re 17 or 18?), they will never experience so many different intellectual fields like at a university ever again. Economics? Microbiology? Sociology? Statistics? Easy exposure on a regular basis to these things only happens in college, and students who are learners have the chance to experience them, latch on to one or a few, and go on to do great things. Just because these students don’t have a set plan doesn’t mean they should work a part time job and “figure it out” there. They won’t figure out anything there except how to live in a very narrow world.

Chas June 16, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Two Comments- if there are funny letters and numbers above this, it just means I haven’t learned to work the Gravatar Avatar thingy, and I know you are extremely busy Sean, but, if you could edit my comment, I’d appreciate it.
The second one is that Higher Education is a business and they do a massive amount of very effective marketing; I know, because I bought the dream. I don’t think Goldman Sachs is a very good example, but, I guess that was your point, huh?

Patrick June 17, 2011 at 1:58 am

Fantastic post, Sean.

I’m currently at a point in my life where this is extremely relevant to me. I’m going to be a sophomore at one of the top 10 most expensive schools in the country(it’s like number 3) and I’m majoring in something that A) I don’t want to major in and B) will not be able to pay the damn tuition. While I’m switching my major(my mom won’t like that) I seriously have no idea how i’m going to pay for it. My mom has said that she’d pay for it only if I major in what she wants me to major in. So yeah forget that. I am an aspiring internet marketer and freelance web designer. So I’m working hard to learn how to freelance and getting my financials in order. Thanks so much for your post, it really reminded me what I’m fighting for.

Maureen @ Vaco_vitae June 17, 2011 at 6:22 am

I very much agree with your article, Sean, but I do wonder what the alternative “incubation period” would like like for the average 18 year old just out of high school. I’m not so sure that most of us went to college because it was expected, or because we didn’t know what else to do with ourselves!

Granted, paying $50,000 for a 4-year environment to cultivate maturity and self-awareness is ludicrous. But I wonder what the alternative might me. The average 18 year old doesn’t know what they want to do next week, let alone what they want to do for a career. If we’re going to dissuade them from the college option (an idea I heartily applaud, except for the obvious exceptions already mentioned by other commenters) then we need to offer something in its place.

Perhaps those of us who are entrepreneurs should consider going back to the old-fashioned idea of the apprenticeship program. What a fabulous alternative to college for the right individuals that could be!

Ash June 17, 2011 at 6:26 am

Great post.
I agree that fortune favors the bold. Any success I’ve had in life is because I went for it.

At 28, I’ve served in the US military, owned a home, taught English and traveled throughout Asia, running a small business. A college degree, whatever it’s value, is only thing I DON’T have.

Darlene June 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm

@Whitney, you said “Most high-paying jobs require college.” and while that has some truth to it I’d disagree. The key to your statement is the word “jobs” – I’d say most or many of the highest paying careers are people in business. Think Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, or Richard Branson consider what they do a “job”? Think they make a lot of money?

Or even the Facebook guy, what’s his name.

Fact is that 80% of the world’s wealth lies in the hands of less than 20% of the people and I can almost guarantee you that none of the people in that 20% even have a job.

So if you want to make a lot of money – don’t even get a job. Go into business for yourself.

@Nikki I hope you read this! I AM a photographer and did do the college training, some 20 years ago. I have mixed feelings on the subject. I do feel that if your daughter can get into a good 2 year program, it will be worth it for her to gain the technical knowledge needed. They can’t however teach “an eye” for seeing, which is somewhat natural – you got it or you don’t. And I found, at least when I went to school anyway – any sort of business education was sadly lacking. I gained most of my business knowledge by going into business for myself and learning from my fellow photographers through conventions, meetings etc. So in my field I honestly think she could go either way. Going the apprentice route can have drawbacks. 1 – sometimes studios prefer to hire the college grads because they require less technical on the job training. 2 – she could end up learning a lot of bad habits or how “not to do it” by working for someone else who may also have been self taught. It’s a double edged sword this one.

@Alex – fair enough, however . . . Most people that I know that get one of those high powered job go for the big expensive toys too. So the money they could put away to create a business goes to buy fancy condos, luxury vacations, sports cars, big screen TVs, etc. I don’t know of too many doctors, lawyers or scientists that work in their field for 2-3 years, gain top salary and then give it up to become an entrepreneur. Obviously Sean is in the minority I think.

Darlene June 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm

PS – I wanted to add Sean that this is exactly the stuff Robert Kiyosaki has been saying for years in his Rich Dad Poor Dad books. If you haven’t read at least the first one – get it!

Nicky Hajal June 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I dropped out of engineering school after investing 3 years in my education because I knew what I wanted and that it was at best not getting me there and at worst actively making it harder to get there. No surprise that I am in full support of this awesome post.

When I think back on my life, I was always me, but I was only me after I dropped out. That first Summer out almost feels like the start of my real life.

Funny I worded it that way – that’s one of the main reasons I left. The Summer before I’d spent 2 months back-packing in Europe, coding on trains, getting mugged on the street in Paris, stranded on a mountain in Switzerland, meeting locals everywhere… That was real god damn life.

School after that was torturously artificial, there was no question that I had to get out.

One of my biggest gripes with College is that everyone is placed in a bubble and sheltered from doing and learning real, relevant things. We write BS papers and analyze random beams stuck in mystery walls.

As a result, if you don’t already know what you want for yourself, it’s very hard to figure it out there. It’s either in the course catalog or it’s not and those aren’t the most exciting, soul-satisfying options.

You meet a lot of Australians, in particular, who travel the World around the age of 18. Knowing how travel ultimately affected my understanding of myself and the World, it’s amazing to think about the impact that has on shaping their lives and the culture they’re a part of.

School is absolutely worthwhile for anyone who has determined that it is an important part of getting them where they want to be. Unfortunately, these days it’s mostly used as a way to postpone figuring that at all.

-Nicky

Tim June 18, 2011 at 1:51 am

Sean,

Nice that someone comes out with a post like this and has the nerves to say it straight up. In my opinion there are a lot of really great hings you can get out of college. I am not in the same opinion of telling most people to write college off. My main problem with college is the way it is structure and the way classes are taught. For the most part they do a terrible job of preparing students for life after graduation. it is structured to tailor students to follow orders and not really think outside the box. So many times people will graduate and then feel like what do I do now. i think that is the problem with the system itself. These are opinions of my experience in business school.

Ryan @ PauseTheMoment.com June 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Excellent article Sean. I have to say I agree with you 100% on this topic. It’s amazing how much debt people get themselves into by enrolling in college with a major that has absolutely zero to do with what they end up working at in the long run. I know too many people that are stuck in this situation as we speak. It’s sad because they will struggle for the next 10 years to get out of debt. It’s not just the $150,000 in debt, it’s your other major bills like your mortgage/rent, car, insurance, utilities, cell phones, etc. It’s a never ending hole! Great article, keep up the good work.

Sophia June 18, 2011 at 6:06 pm

There was an NPR story on Morning Edition related to this: “Making Headlines Since The ’70s: Is College Worth It?”

Here is link to story and the audio piece:
http://n.pr/k0gmCF

Some interesting blurbs from the story:

“Since World War II, owning a house and getting a college degree was the American dream, a sign that you have truly made it. In 2009, more than 70 percent of high school graduates enrolled in college — nearly twice as many as in 1960.”

Justin Hamlin June 20, 2011 at 7:44 am

Completely agree with you on this one. I think that our generation will be the last one to really deal with going to school because you are “supposed to” – as our parents all preached to us. Once our generation has kids going to college, my guess is there will be a shift in that paradigm.

Personally, I went to college straight out of high school. After dealing with an impacted business program and the abhorrent amount of pre-requisite work (yes, I need to pay money to take anthropology 101 in order to get a business degree, that makes sense), I dropped out, took a 2 years off and went to a boot-camp style tech school. 12 months, 3-4 major IT certifications (based on your track) for $10k in student loans.

You know what I got to show for it? A telemarketing job.

Thankfully it was with an IT company that let me transition into a career IT position, so I look at it in the light that I didn’t spend two or three times that at a state college in order to have a piece of paper. I went through 12 months and got started on real world experience. Now with 10 years of experience under my belt, I can pretty much make most employers throw the “Bachelors Degree or higher required” out the window.

College isn’t the end all, be all. I just wish I had learned that a few years earlier so I didn’t waste 4 years of my life.

Anya June 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I honestly wish I hadn’t gone to college many times, but without having gone to college I wouldn’t have realized that I shouldn’t. If only I had known then what I do now so I could have used my time to start my online business. College has a way of making you lazy.

Matt June 24, 2011 at 10:43 am

I went to college and got a degree but I’m not currently using it. I don’t regret the experience but I did it for all the wrong reasons, namely because it was what my family encouraged me to do and it seemed like the logical step out of high school. But looking back I really didn’t do it for me. And I think that is what it all really comes down to. You have to do it for yourself and be happy with the decision and make the most of it whether that means going to college or not.

I’ve got two kids who will one day be at a crossroads on what they want to do with their life. I certainly won’t discourage them from going to college if that is what they really feel they want to do but I also won’t be pushing them toward college. As you’ve pointed out there are many other options that offer a greater return on your investment.

Juda @30daysintoit .com Borrayo July 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Mr. Sean Ogle,

I just randomly found your blog while searching through people on Twitter. I am incredibly impressed by how you live your life and the opportunities you have made.

And this post is awesome, and tragic.

I recently graduated from FSU. I am ecstatic about the experiences that I made by being involved in leadership positions, networking with teachers and students, and all of the awesome memories (and yes…the parties were great too).

After I graduated, I went backpacking in Latin America for 30 days. It was beyond orgasmic. I can’t wait to backpack in Thailand one day.

I agree though: school doesn’t teach you how to be successful. They do a poor job of teaching people how to start a business. Heck, nobody even taught me how to legitimately find a job, much less create my own business.

I completely agree with what Caleb Wojcik said above my comment:

“I gotta build my own doors and walk through them to get where I want to be.:

Thank you for writing this post, Sean.

Have a great Sunday,

Sincerely,

Juda A. Borrayo
30 Days Into It

Chas August 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm

A related video that everyone should watch before signing the Student Loan papers;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpZtX32sKVE

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