Is College the Only Option?
Get good grades, go to college, get a good job, and work for retirement:
This is a message that was given to me and many others in our youth. This is a message that was supplied by teachers, parents, and our role models.
Does this path work, and will it bring you success?: Sometimes
Is it the only way to success and life fulfillment: Read below
College can be a great asset to many, and for some professions, a degree is required. Your degree can help you land jobs, increase your earning potential, and make you a well rounded individual.
In a capitalist economy with millions of online resources and all that life has to offer, is college the only answer to success and life fulfillment then? No. There are many ways to achieve success and life fulfillment and for many college is not included in that.
I have my own view of what a successful and fulfilling life looks like for me, and this picture is different for everyone.
- For some, its money and all the things it can offer
- For some, its a big home and big family
- For some, its a big investment portfolio, and a future of financial independence
- For some, its the experience of living in the present
- For some, its a combination of all of that in a special package
I'm twenty years old and I don't have all the answers, but I'll tell you why I chose not to go to college.
There are plenty of scalable career options that don't one-hundred percent require a degree, such as information technology, sales, or freelancing.
In highschool, I made the decision that I was not going to attend college. I knew that I was interested in developing a career in IT. I also knew that the knowledge needed to perform in an IT job could be found either for free, or for less than a fraction of of the cost of college on the internet. I started early, gathered several IT certifications, did three internships, and gave myself the knowledge and experience needed to, at MINIMUM, land and perform well in an entry level job.
I decided not to go to college for several reasons. The primary reason being cost. The average college student graduates with around 30,000 dollars in student loan debt. Read that again, thirty whole thousand dollars. The worst part of it is that it can take five to ten+ years to pay off that loan depending on what job you got yourself into.
Imagine if rather than spending four to five years in college, you started after you left highschool and landed yourself an entry level job. If you put aside five-hundred dollars every month for five years you would have that same $30,000 IN CASH. You would have an amazing credit score, and you would have five years more experience than your peers who went to college at that point in time.
That $30,000 in cash would also then open up a gateway of opportunities for you.
- You could use that money to start a side hustle and increase your income
- You could put that money in the stock market and continue contributing five-hundred dollars each month for the next thirty years. Assuming a conservative return of six percent, you would have a return close to $650,000 pre tax. You could even make this simpler and less time consuming by using a robo-advisor or by investing in target date funds.
- You could make a down payment on a duplex, live in one side, rent out the other and essentially cut out a majority of your housing cost over the next ten+ years.
- You could use that money as a down payment on a home
- You could put some of that money into a 401k and have your employer match
Life isn't quite so cut and clear. Some don't come up with the same initial opportunities available and not everyone who goes to college ends up in debt. Some have scholarships, some have parents who help pay their tuition, and some work three part time jobs to get themselves through, but the possibilities that lie outside of college are certainly something to be noted.
With the increase of online learning platforms and online resources, much of the information learned in a classroom can also be learned online for free. Heck, you can even find hundreds of college lectures filmed and available for free on YouTube.
- Want to learn how to setup something on a server?... google it.
- Want to learn some financial skills?... google it.
- Want to learn some calculus (but really, why would you)? ... google it.
- Want to learn how to code? ... google it.
- Feeling really spicy and want to learn some more? ... read a book
In college you may also get stuck learning (and paying) for things that you may never use, and frankly may not care for. I personally don't care for calculus and certainly don't want to pay almost criminal fees to learn it.
The College Experience
At this stage you are likely sensing a mild bias and you, like many others, may say: "Don, but what about all the valuable skills you learn in college that aren't related to your degree? What about learning to budget, learning to work with others, learning discipline, and learning who you are as a person?"
I've heard this rationalization several times, often as the main argument as to why one should go to college. I've also seen several people without college degrees who have these skills and have become very successful in their life. How is this possible?
It's possible because these lessons and skills aren't unique to college. It is absolutely possible to learn these skills somewhere else without going deep into debt. Where can you find these skills? ... The answer may surprise you: ...an entry level job
College is a great option for many and is required for some professions, but there are possibilities outside of it.
If you decide not to go to college you will face a few challenges. Regardless of the value you can bring, you will likely be passed up by some companies simply because you don't have a degree. You may also be filtered out of the list of potential candidates in certain recruiting software because you don't have a degree, and as a result, will find it harder to land interviews.
When you take a step back and look at the big picture, however, these are just small hurdles and you truly have a lifetime of opportunity.
It's just statistics. In a capitalist economy, if you chose the right profession and have value, someone will see that value and pay you accordingly for it.
What are your thoughts on college?
The saying goes that you should not take career advice from someone more than 10 years older than you. The landscape changes so fast now. Where college might have made sense just a few years ago, all bets are off now. You have to make your own decisions based on current information.
The pandemic has revealed what a racket colleges and universities are. They have no skin in the game. Students are able to saddle themselves with crippling debt (paid for by our own government by way of us taxpayers!) and pay that money to colleges in exchange for a degree that is not guaranteed to result in a high paying job. Even the side benefits of college that you mention (the college experience, networking, etc) are gone during the pandemic. Are students supposed to pay tens of thousands of dollars to take Zoom classes?
College is an easy next step for those who don’t know what they want to do in life. It’s also good for many professions (I’m glad doctors don’t jump straight to learning on the job). You are blessed because you know what you want to do, and your field lends itself well to on-the-job training while still paying well. It’s the golden age for the tech industry, take advantage!