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Do you even need a college degree?

To dare or not to dare skipping college?

Posted at 2:30 PM on May, 16 2016


There are many hyper-successful people with no college degree. The list includes Walt Disney, Steve Wozniak (co-founder at Apple), Larry Ellison (co-founder of Oracle), David Neeleman (founder of JetBlue airlines) and many more.

There are even more people who have made it well in life after completing college. This includes millions of senior managers, CEOs, VPs and other executives of the various companies and corporations across the world. All of them have become successful and reached a position of power and financial success.

So there is no one-size-fits-all with respect to college. College works out great for some students and for others, it engulfs them in student loans and financial miseries. Also, the fact that so many prominent people have made it to the top without a college degree raises a very important question for you. Do you even need a college degree for success?

When I was younger and right out of high school, my parents enrolled me into a few colleges and I quickly dropped out of each of them.  The first was for a Math major, but something about the mode of teaching and the lack of energy in the college got to me. The next was for Physics major in a far off corner of the city. I was one of the star students in the class, and the teachers begged me to stay. Here, I had a long commute everyday which was physically strenuous. But more importantly, the lack of creativity and free thinking turned out to be too frustrating. I always wanted to be an engineer and not just a person of the sciences. Rather than moving towards research, I wanted to build things and serve the society more directly. So one day, I just stopped going to college.

My father was furious and my mother was extremely worried. We had several days of fierce verbal battles, and I prevailed, or so I thought at the time! A regular engineering college was far too expensive, so my father introduced me to a distant cousin who got his engineering degree by distance. Then I started taking engineering courses from an institution known as the institution of engineers.  There were some courses which I could afford external coaching for, and I fared well in many of the courses. There were a few that simply baffled me, and the lack of a tutor did not help my grades. Since the engineering degree was taking too long to complete, I completed a special program that led to a 3yr degree in Mathematics. My strong motivation also helped me to complete some courses in Computer science, after which I luckily got an entry-level job as a computer programmer. By utilizing all my completed course credits from the engineering courses, the Math degree and my experience, I was able to complete a 4 yr. degree in Computer information systems at a flexible college.

Mine was a combination of both a traditional and a non-traditional college experience, and I learnt a lot along the way. But I have often wondered if I would have been better off just quitting college and starting a business, instead of pursuing a college degree for so many years. For one, if I had done that, I would not have met my spouse whom I love dearly. I might have gotten married much later, and under very different circumstances. Also, the society and even my parents would have looked down upon me if I had not completed college.  My self-esteem among my peers also improved after I completed each of my college degrees.

Looking back at my choices, I guess I chose the middle route in life. I sort of fought my way to becoming an engineer and got myself a non-traditional education. But I did not go all the way to creating a career outside of the 9-to-5 drudgery. Initially, after high school, all I knew is that I wanted to become an engineer, and later on, I did that. Much later, after about 5 years from completing my 4 yr. degree, I knew I wanted to start my own business. I quit a stable job and started a business. But by then, I was so caught up in the familiar working-for-someone-else pattern, that I could not think my way out of it! I guess the best time to start a business is as soon as possible.  As we get comfortable financially in life, buy a house and car, and have a family, it becomes much more difficult to take the risk of starting a new business. I had to do a tremendous amount of unlearning to break out of the employee mentality and to finally make it successfully in business. But things could have been a lot easier if I had made the move to starting a business much sooner!

The best time to start a business is after completing college, or for many, even after completing high school. That is a time when you are legally an adult, and the society cannot force you to do things its way! But then again, there are not only rewards, but also risks with starting a business. Some businesses succeed and many others fail. So if you do not want to take the risk, then the safer option is to just go to college and then take up a job. Or if you are ok to have things a little more risky then start a business after you finish college. But if you are the dare-devil type and are willing to take the risk factor another ten notches up, then just skip college and start a business.  Beware it is quite likely that many people, including parents and close friends might discourage you from taking the plunge into business. Society tends to shun those who appear to have obviously failed, and someone with a failed business will be viewed as a failure.

Or better yet, finish high school, then start a business if you’re ready, or follow whatever passions you have. In parallel, enroll into a flexible college and do college the totally non-traditional way. Whatever you learn in business, or your hobbies, or courses, or life experience, just try and combine all those into your credits transcript at the flexible college. That’s one way to have your cake and eat it too!

Then the question “Do you even need a college degree?” becomes irrelevant. Perhaps it is better to have a college degree, than to not have one. This is especially the case if you can spend much lesser money on it, and not have to waste years just studying for college and doing nothing else for years. Whatever you do in life just adds to credits that you can use towards your college degree! We at CollegeOnomics are here to guide you to quickly get to your US college degree completion, and for the least amount of money.



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