Don’t go to college

Everyone says you must go to college – after all, study after study proves that college graduates make more money than high school grads or lower.  However, there is an alternative.

Today college costs thousands or tens of thousands per year to attend.  Some college students rack up well over $100,000, and the average student debt for a bachelor’s degree is roughly $30,000.

A bachelor’s degree – to learn what?  When I was in college my roommates were all business majors.  I asked them what they were going to do when they graduated.  They all said they were going to be managers.  I said “managers of what” and more importantly, “Who are you going to manage?  High school graduates?”  They certainly weren’t going to manager other college grads who didn’t happen to get business degrees.

I was a communications major, and while that in and of itself means nothing, my particular major had a class called “applied communication” that lasted our entire senior year.  During the first semester we each had to bring working professionals in to give speeches about what they did, and how they got to where they were in their professions.  We also were taught how to write resumes, and lastly, we learned how to interview and be interviewed.  The next semester was entirely dedicated to an internship.  We had to pick a field of interest, and go find a company who would take us on.  After one year I was the single best prepared college graduate on interviews and nailed every one I went on.  I landed a job in an advertising agency after having interned in a magazine’s ad sales office.

Of course the title of this post is “Don’t go to college”.  Chances are your university does not offer a similar credit course.  Additionally, while I took some economics and business courses, I felt like I learned nothing useful (now I know why, none of it was useful).  Aside from job interviewing skills and a head start on learning about various job opportunities and getting work experience – the single biggest benefit in college to me was all of the public speaking I had to do as part of my major.  If you can’t speak in public, you will have a hard time excelling at anything that requires communication with other people.

The ONLY other benefit I see to college is if you go to a very well-regarded college like Harvard or Yale, and the sole reason for that is your future connections in the business world.  If your classmates are successful, you will have friends in very high places, and trust me, it is WHO you know.

Other than the above – here is my don’t-go-to-college plan for you:

Instead of 4 years of partying and paying and racking up debt, how about a 4 year internship?  You may not get paid, but you don’t have to pay either.

Instead of learning how to manage, or about economics, or art history or any other subject learned in college – learn it on the internet, and learn it from real world pros.  I recently stumbled on Modern Monetary Theory thanks to the internet which more accurately describes our current economic system than EVERYTHING that is taught in college.  I played baseball in college and learned more about pitching on the internet after I picked up baseball in an adult league many years later.  I was never taught how to do a budget in college.  I was never taught how to save.  I was never taught how to invest – or that doing a budget, and saving is FAR, FAR more important than any investing you can do.  I heard these things from my grandparents, but it took 20+ years of trial and error before I really learned this.  But my point is – the most useful things you can possibly learn are learned outside of college far easier, and far more practically, than inside of college.

Now let’s look at those Yale and Harvard connections that you would miss out on.  How about interning at a firm filled with Harvard and Yale grads?  How about joining any firm and volunteering to work for whoever is the smartest most upwardly mobile person in that company?  After four years you may not have the bond you would have with a roommate, but you’ll have plenty of connections.  How about doing one year each in a different company or industry?  How many connections woud you have then?  And still, not student loan debt.

What’s more, your plan may be to volunteer for 4 years – or 6 or 7 when compared to someone going to Grad school who racks up even more debt.  But you might get surprised with a paid job offer after a couple of years.  Now you are really ahead of your boozing college buddies.

So after 4 years you have more real-world experience, connections with people who are already climbing the ladder, and have learned all you please on the internet, through social clubs, and however else you choose to learn.

Do this in New York and crash all the parties you want at NYU, Columbia and other places.  Do it in Boston and crash all of the Harvard, BU and BC parties you want.  You’ll have more money then them since you aren’t racking up debt so you can buy the beer.

And if enough people take this advice….. costs will just have to come down on college education.

You may say “what about my resume” but if you have 4 years of work experience, and several professional references, and don’t list a college, and you are up against a recent Harvard grad – who do you think is going to get the job?  And if you explain that you chose not to go to college, and instead worked incredibly hard during 4 years of volunteer work while teaching yourself all the skills you desired, AND you learned how to write resumes and interview – I’m confident you will get that job.

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