The traditional approach is often time’s seen as the right approach and anything else is wrong. In the case of education the common thought is that the only answer is conventional schools and followed up with the conventional college degree. This degree has been something 70% of all college grads would adopt, people would spend or fall 200,000 dollars into debt on and spend the prime years of their lives trying to obtain the degrees. This attitude is now being challenged by a growing movement of unconventional thinkers and movers seeking to write their own education in the form of business, invention, science, journalism and other more blue collar fields. The spike can be attributed into the large amounts of student debt, the large percentage of college graduates being out of work for the long term and just the desire to try something new and better. That something better might be an emphasis on real world learning and actual problem solving over remaining in the ivy league towers and frat parties for four years.
The opponents of the uncollege ideas tend to feed on this image of a man without a degree being the man asking “Would you like fries with that.”. This image must be the first thing defeated in without bias looking at the life of an uncollegian. Someone who actually wishes to call themselves an uncollege student must understand learning does occur. It’s not a matter of sitting by and allowing themselves to have that title. In college the known values are found in networking, opening the mind to new ideas and managing to learn a lot. So if someone graduates high school and then wishes to go on xbox live everyday sleeping until 2 PM that’s just laziness and not learning. For this the uncollege life can be found in intense reading, traveling, attending events to network and creating a personal emphasis in life to challenge oneself to go beyond and learn from that. For that the class of uncollege students is much smaller than the 30% of high school grads to not go to college, but can really only be seen in the people to expand skills and horizons without seeking a degree. The only difficulty with that is it’s almost impossible to determine the exact motives or locations of these uncollege people. And for that the common examination of this movement leads to pointing at people who simply would rather not learn.
The second approach to defeat the uncollege brand would be using money as a tool to convince people to attend college. Politicians, colleges, economist and figures in media will get up and cheer “If you want to make more money go to college. You will make one million dollars more in your lifetime with a degree than without.” and for that the numbers rise every year. Those statistics are without a doubt the most cooked things in the books. When examining how much money a person will make in their lives many things are ignored and many things are added in to match the favor of the college supporters. Perhaps the largest thing is the amount of people who just got GED’s over actually completing high school. The GED is perhaps the most basic diploma and in a job market will produce no value. Many people who get them had issues earlier on and only wanted to work in blue collar fields where having a large salary is fairly unlikely. So they become a weight that holds down the actual value of a high school degree owner compared to a college degree owner. Another thing not done is actually taking things into account such as GPA while in college, majors chosen or what colleges. It’s obvious that the people with the 4.0’s coming from Harvard MBA programs will have more job opportunities with more many than the philosophy majors pulling a 2.3 GPA from a minor liberal arts school. So for that many people are persuaded to go to college on the idea that they will be making much more money than without the degree. Yet looking at it unless they are going to be maybe in the top 10% of colleges that number can be much smaller. And finally taking the actual cost of the degree into the equation and the money a student could have earned while not in college. With some students paying 50,000 dollars a year for schools that hold little value and then the knowledge they could have worked that four years and made comparable amount of money is clear. Taking these figures into account it’s extremely likely that the magic million dollar number might not even be more than a half a million dollars.
To look at the yearbook of true uncollege grads, names such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would pop up. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both can be called geniuses who changed the world perhaps more than any men in the last 50 years. What they both did was leave college to accomplish incredible things rather than get a degree. This presents the case that the college structure is perhaps more broken than the actual economics of college. Being stuck in an ivory tower for four years focusing on getting a piece of paper is a lot different than actually trying to tackle global issues and learn from that. Inventing a cheap technology to convert existing cars into air powered vehicles for pollution choked cities is far better on a resume than getting an 4.0 in engineering. For this uncollege stretches far passed just unemployment and student debt and actually questions what is the best approach to learning.
Getting into what a good uncollege student is can be as unclear as describing what a good person is. It can’t really be determined by someone’s finances, but by actually examining how people were able to handle their pursuits without being in college. Common actions being made by someone practicing the uncollege approach would be traveling the world, doing an internship or working to form a business. At the end of the day it’s simply what that person thinks will benefit them in the long run. If someone had the mentality that they wanted to start a fortune 500 company, they’d likely spend their uncollege time focused on networking and building various businesses. And if a person had a more simple desire which was to be a baker, they might wish to spend 4 years traveling the world to master the skill working in a variety of places learning different aspects of the business. It’s something that truly is not one straight path even if it’s for the same goal. Someone who’d normally go to get an MBA looking to be a big CEO might be very different from the person seeking an MBA purely to be a worker. So they might have two very different uncollege experiences. One being actually working to create startups and invent things to get the perspective of an owner. Than another person just focusing on interning four years throughout various companies. In the end each persons individual needs are treated with uncollege and decisions can be made to make sure people are making proper life choices.
Another argument made commonly against uncollege is that people simply cannot find your way in the fortune 500 life or find yourself working as a serious scientist without a degree. Big dreams need a degree and anyone truly ambitious should work to get into Harvard or MIT. Yet the real question to counter that would be taking the 1,000 most successful people from more standardized fields in the last 25 years and asking “Would these people still be successful without a degree”. Looking at many of them being extremely brilliant and motivated individuals the answers would likely be no. For this it makes it easy to have an argument against college being needed for success. The truth is the mind and ambitions of societies greatest thinkers will always seek to grow and hunt. And college tends to confine the mind and keep it in the base over actually going out into the battlefield of life. With so many successes of people not making college the priority and so many smart people focused on test scores over actions it makes it hard to deny the potential real world benefits of making your curriculum solve a real world problem. Instead of studying biology working in a lab and discovering a new formula to send corn oil through pipes like you can with oil could change the world. There’s no reason those achievements can’t be grasped by young people like they have been grasped in the tech industry for decades.
The only issue a uncollege student really will face seems to be having their ambitions respected by the mainstream. For the entrepreneurs, some angel investors such as David Rose will say publicly they don’t want to give money to someone without a degree even if they have a good idea. Some scientist, would ignore the ability to answer complex math problems on a chalkboard and seek to see paperwork from a known university first. For this a series of successes must come in order to break the glass window uncollege students face in being accepted. It seems for every, Sean Parker to exist there comes a thousand men like him to follow that path. Yet every year there seems to be another story of someone making it and for that more will follow. Also with the massive debt coming with a college degree and high unemployment of graduates it might be a good thing to convince students to think twice on college. With a growing education bubble it seems a burst will come like other bubbles. Than a rebuild movement can be born with perhaps a greater interest of the individual learner over the ivy league machine.
Examining my own life, I did make the individual decision to being the uncollege path when I graduated college in June of 2012. This wasn’t inspired by other individuals or the cost of tuition. I was fortunate enough to have a father that was willing to write a check for any school, grad school or medical school I’d like. Yet something happened in my high school years that made me hate the conventional model. I began to actually not do what I was told. Growing up in rural upstate New York my focus quickly became reading online and networking with people from miles away via blogs and even Facebook. I’d begin in my freshman and sophomore years of high school attending events, doing internships and seeking to start projects and learn from them over just studying for my SAT’s. In my junior year of high school, I found myself working for various non-profits, having dinners with governors and filing for LLC’s and patents. When I hit my senior year, I was organizing events at Columbia for 250 people, traveling around Manhattan and Washington DC, getting funding offers from respected angel investors, sitting at lunch with people who created large companies and more. This convinced my decision to take the uncollege approach for it simply worked better for me. In a business class I took for the University of Syracuse, I found myself learning what the difference between and LLC and incorporation was when I took and LLC and then incorporated the company prior to that point. I also had my mind opened to ideas school simply couldn’t. I found myself having sushi with scientist such as Aubrey De Grey who spent his life working on sciences that’d convince me to focus part of my life to researching and supporting the anti-aging space and forming a meetup group in manhattan devoted to talking about it. The path of not having an emphasis on school as much as the real world changed me into a better person.
Officially out of high school and not going to college, I find myself involved in non-profits, campaigns, startups and things such as finance. The day after I graduated high school, I went to Knight Capital to meet with a fund manager regarding a 30mm deal to finance an oil well. I’d than progress that to speak with firms such as Axea and Euro Pacific Capital to talk about everything from solar plants in South America to oil wells to companies seeking to buy gold mines. I’d receive emails from people asking me to do deals that were as big as selling 7% of the New York Yankees for 150mm USD on a 1% commission for my end and actually taking that deal to having clients interested in making it happen. Deals came in involving publicly traded video game companies, companies seeking financing to build algae harvesting robots, people wanting to use me to sell rubens and picassos and more all have come in to be accomplished. Going forward is an uncollege approach has provided many of the experiences four years of college will not provide and it hasn’t even been two months.
With an uncollege approach examined life becomes not 100% clear. The truth is college might be a good thing for some people. It might be a bad thing for the vast majority of people. In the end it’s something no one really knows. It’s just a truth that 200k in debt for a useless degree and some people benefiting from not going to school exist. This creates and open window where it’s just going to be a matter of time and brave people to branch out passed the educational norms.
About the Author:
Charles Peralo is an entrepreneur, futurist and activist. He has been involved in various non-profits and companies ranging in various fields. He’s been involved in deals ranging in the billions and also has taken products to the patent and funding stages. His pursuit is to engage in world changing technologies over the next decade to focus on countering poverty, curing diseases and eventually singularity.