“My brother’s friend became a social media millionaire. College is a waste of time.”
Everyone has a story like this. We all have an acquaintance who didn’t bother with college or dropped out to start a wildly successful business. The business now generates millions of dollars. This person is a major success and now nobody needs to ever go to college again.
I’m tired of these articles that bash the idea of an education. College isn’t a waste of time. Not everyone will start a billion dollar app.
I don’t regret attending college. I’m tired of famous bloggers that constantly tell everyone how they shouldn’t go to school. I love the writing of James Altucher and others, but some people need college.
Here’s the reality of this whole debate between college and entrepreneurship:
Not everyone wants to start a business and live off an unpredictable income. Some people know what they want to study. They know where they want to work and they want to get a high paying job so that they won’t have to stress about paying the bills.
Ask yourself these questions when someone rants and raves about what a waste of time college is:
- How many people do you actually know that got rich off starting an app or doing something extraordinary?
- Do you have the risk tolerance to live off an unpredictable income?
- Are you really that ambitious?
- Do you see yourself putting in that same work that the famous blogger bashing college did?
I get it.
You want to one day start a business that makes millions of dollars for you while you sleep in.
Who doesn’t want to be an insanely popular entrepreneur on the cover of Forbes?
I have hundreds of pro wrestlers on my Facebook. Only two ever made real money from it. There are a few that make a decent salary. You won’t always be able to live the life chasing your passions.
[Side note: see what happened when Matt discovered the dark side of a successful business.]
Why’s college not a waste of time for everyone?
Most of us aren’t extreme outliers.
Not everyone wants to sell all of their possessions to live in Thailand.
Not everyone wants to chase down clients for payment.
Not everyone has it in them to start a billion dollar business in the basement. Most people in the basement just play video games and wake up at noon.
The social media world is filled with unique stories that inspire us:
- The couple who sold all of their stuff to live in a van.
- The guy who started an app that sold for billions.
- The lady who runs a successful vegan crossfit blog.
These are awesome stories. We all live vicariously through these people.
Sure, your friend’s neighbor started a business that’s worth billions. What are the odds of you doing this?
If you know what you want to study, you’ll make more money.
According to The Economist:
“College graduates aged 25 to 32 who are working full-time earn about $17,500 more annually than their peers who have only a high school diploma.”
Okay, I know that these generic stats don’t always tell the full story.
Here’s the thing…
If you want to be an accountant or a doctor or a teacher you kind of have to study this stuff. Would you trust an accountant that didn’t attend college? You want your doctor to be highly educated. Don’t try to operate on my knee if you didn’t spend at least 8 years in school.
The truth is that the more you learn, the more you earn.
You can even pick up skills in college and then turn around to use them as an entrepreneur. This is what I did. I was inspired by how behind some of my business courses were when it came to personal finance. I ended up started a personal finance blog.
You have to stay out of trouble.
What are you going to do with all of your free time? How will you stay busy?
In the perfect world, you’ll start a profitable business while you learn three languages and play the guitar. In reality, you’re going to wake up at noon and watch the world pass you by.
I’m not shy to admit that I was on the wrong path until I started studying business in college. I was hanging out with losers who just wanted to sit around all day.
I then ended up reading business-related books in my spare time as I got more involved with Studenomics and blogging.
Yes, there’s lots of binge drinking in college. I get that. However, you can get yourself into trouble with all of that free time at such a young age. I’ve seen this happen first hand.
You’re going to be around like-minded folks.
If you play sports or have a specific interest, college will help you be around similar folks.
If you’re really into engineering or sports nutrition, you’ll also get to be around like-minded people.
Where do you think Mark Zuckerberg got the idea for Facebook?
What if you’re not sure of what you want to study?
Don’t get me wrong. There are many flaws with the educational system. It’s unfair to claim that college is a total waste of time for everyone. You don’t have to rush into a degree program either.
Don’t attend until you’re ready.
I wish I took a leap year or some time off. I went straight from high school to community college to university. I never took much time to myself. Then suddenly one day I was done.
Nobody’s forcing you to jump into college right away. You can take some time to work on yourself, upgrade your courses, or work. More on this later.
Take some courses/try something else.
You don’t have to jump into a four-year program. You can start off with other options.
What are your choices when it comes to higher learning?
- Take a few courses to get a feel for what you like.
- Attend community college. I did this before moving over to university.
- Study part-time. You can work during the day.
Work like an animal.
Take a job. Get a second job. Keep on working. Nothing will motivate you more than working a job that you hate with little pay. You may also figure out what interests you and what you want to study.
I met a buddy on the first day of college who spent four years working minimum wage jobs. This dude was ready to crush it in college because he was tired of low paying jobs.
I have nothing against honest hard work. My entire family is made up of immigrants that had to work labor-intensive jobs. They had no choice. They couldn’t speak English. We have choices and options.
If you have a chance to better yourself then take it.
How do you know if college is right for you?
- If your business is booming and you really don’t have much to gain from being away for four years, then there’s no need for you to go away for school.
- If you want to work a trade, then go do that.
If you know what you want to do for a living and how to get there, then go and study it.
I wrote an entire piece on deciding if you should go back to college in your 20s if you’re stuck.
Add the numbers up.
The return has to be there. Try to run the numbers.
It’s okay if you want the college experience. You don’t have to let it ruin the rest of your life.
Do you have to finance everything about college?
Look at what the average salary is in your field. Look at what top earners make. Is this amount worth the debt? Can you work during the term? Can you work in the summer? Can you get a work term?
When is college a waste of time?
When you have no idea what you want to do next.
There are better ways to “find yourself.” There are also cheaper options. Don’t go to college if you have no idea of what your interests are or what direction you want to go in. You’re better off working for a bit.
When you’re just avoiding life.
You know when this is the case. I don’t have to tell you when you’re obviously trying to hide behind school. I won’t lecture you either.
When you have to finance everything in debt with little hope of a future income.
Once again, I don’t want to see you ruin the next 30 year of your life because you racked up $100k worth of debt to pick up a history degree because you wanted to live in a house by campus and have steak for dinner every night.
If you didn’t attend college, you don’t have to bash those that did. I’m sure that I would be more bitter if I graduated with debt.
College isn’t for everyone. I’m not saying that you should force your kids to attend or that you should feel obligated to go. I just had to write an article that doesn’t bash college.
Don’t drop out of college or avoid school because a famous blogger selling an eBook on how to make passive income told you to.