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You Don’t Need College To Succeed

Posted By Jim On 06/18/2007 @ 8:09 am In Devil's Advocate | 30 Comments

Thinking about college? Good for you! College is very important and it’s something everyone should consider, whether or not you end up attending one, but before you make that decision, I think it’s important for you to know that you don’t need college to succeed in life. This isn’t going to be an article where I redefine success as having a happy and healthy family (which is one very good definition of success for some), no, by success I mean financial success. Financial success differs from one person to another but at the most basic level it means you have enough money to do whatever you want, within reason. Based on that definition of success, I believe you don’t need to attend college to be successful.

College Doesn’t Guarantee Success, It Guarantees Debt
Compared to not having a degree, graduating college gives you a better chance at landing a job, that point is not disputed. However, a degree does not guarantee anything except the fact that you’ll have paid thousands of dollars and likely be in debt. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition + room & board) for a 4 year public institution for the 2004-5 academic year was $11,441/yr, for a 2 year public institution it was $6,334/yr. At a 4 year private institution, the cost jumped to $26,489/yr and at a 2 year private institution you could expect to pay about $19,899/yr. (Source [3]) That puts the total price of a four year institution on average anywhere from $45,764 (public) to $105,956 (private)!

On The Job Training
In school I learned all sorts of algorithms, discrete math problems, and numerous other theoretical constructs of computer science – in three years I’ve only had to use one sorting algorithm I remembered in college. With the advent of Google and other powerful searching engines that have opened up the world of knowledge to me and the average worker, if you’re smart you can learn something quickly and on the job. Everything I’ve learned about blogging was learned as I went along. The college education I received personally was invaluable but not indispensable. While it did prove I had the fortitude and determination to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem (I had more than a few of those in college, not one of which was convincing my current fiancee to go out with me), that alone isn’t a requirement of success. It may be a necessary but not a sufficient precondition of success (I once was going to fence, yeah with foils, a logic professor of mine and when I asked him if I needed to let him win to pass the test, he told me ‘that’s a necessary but not a sufficient condition’… it’s an awesome line for all you nerds out there).

You Can Succeed Without College
Bill Gates (Harvard). Steve Jobs (Reed College). Michael Dell )University of Texas). Rush Limbaugh (Southeastern Missouri State University). Tom Hanks (CalState Sacramento). F Scott Fitzgerald (Princeton). There are plenty more… a college degree is not a prerequisite for success.

College Is For Networking As Much As Learning
I had a friend whose brother attended Harvard and everyone he knew was either the son/daughter/nephew/niece of a Senator, Representative, officer in an armed service, or otherwise famous individual; or an All-American athlete; or, and this was a smaller group, brilliant. There was and still is grade inflation (who wants to give Senator XYZ’s son an F?) and college life is essentially one giant networking session designed to put the children of those people in the system in touch with each other to build that network. While there is much learning involved, that network is the most valuable thing you leave college with.

What this means is that if you’re good at networking, you don’t need to go to college. If you’re capable of finding ways of extending your network, you don’t need to go to college in order to build that solid network from which you can reach out to in your times of need. My first internship was at a company that my high school friend’s dad worked at. Sure I had to prove I had the skills to do the job, at least marginally well considering, but I basically got that job because of my friend’s dad… otherwise I wouldn’t have had the opportunity. My second and third summer internships were also through friends I met in college. History is full of these types of stories and mine is not atypical.

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[3] Source: http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76

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