Being a College Dropout can be a Great Thing

I just wrote an article on Temphunt’s Blog where I threw out a thought about where formal education is going.  I mentioned that in the 1950’s, parents (and others) gave kids the advice to “go to school and get a degree so that you can get a good job”.  In the 1970’s parents started adding “getting a bachelors degree” to that advice.  Today, a graduate degree is equivalent to what a bachelors was back then and a high school diploma was in the 50’s.

Steve Jobs just resigned as the CEO of Apple and I was really disappointed with the headline that the Montreal Gazette chose to use for their feature on him.  The headline was something to the effect of “from college dropout to visionary”.  They said “dropout” like it was a bad thing and he was a visionary even when he was in college.

I’ve been thinking about the value of formal education and I believe that there is value in it but I don’t think that it is the end all and be all.  College can be a place where you learn about yourself, find out what you want to do in life and study to get a degree which will hopefully open some doors for you.  I’ve had several arguments recently where people were so adamant about how important it was to get a college degree.  I feel that they’re just missing the forest because all the trees are in the way.

Think about it.  Why should you get a degree?  The answers you will get are probably, “to open doors”, “to get a good job” or to “get a career”.  You always hear stories about athletes in college who consider dropping out to play in the professional leagues.  There are always naysayers who criticize them for dropping out of college but if making money and opening doors is the reason for the degree then why would they consider staying if they are offered a position on a professional team which will give them a better job that will make more money than anything they can possibly make with a college degree and they will be doing something that they love.   You may say that they might get injured and then be stuck with no options.  That’s not true because professional athletes buy disability insurance that will take care of them for the rest of their lives if anything ever happens to them.  Besides, if anything happened to their career, they can always go back to school and start where they left off.

Not everybody is professional athlete material but finding a career that doesn’t need a college degree is not limited to athletes.  Some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time are college dropouts such as Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple Computers), Michael Dell (Dell Computers) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook).

I see the value of a college degree but I also see that if a college student can start a business or find a career that will get him closer to his ultimate goal than the degree can, he should probably drop out.  Sticking around would probably just be wasting his time.  If your goal is making money, there is no reason to stick around college if you found a career or started a business that is already making you more money in college than you can make at your highest earning potential with a degree.

What I am saying is think about your ultimate goals and work backwards from there.  Don’t just follow advice because everyone tells you to do it and everyone else is doing it.  Wake up and focus, if you look hard enough, you’ll notice that the trees are part of the forest.

Do you agree? Disagree?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Pic Cred: laughlin