Few would dispute that education is a valuable resource. Far more people would agree that colleges have grossly overpriced their degrees, a certification meant to symbolize educational attainment. College costs have tripled in less than 20 years. The cost of a bachelor’s degree, including income foregone by not working full time, is enough to leave millions housing insecure. 17% of students have been homeless in the last year. In addition to lacking secure housing, half of the students cannot afford a healthy diet, leading 20% to lose weight over food insecurity. After years of giving up basic needs for education, 73% of college graduates land a job unrelated to their degree. It is unjust that we ask millions to give up so much in exchange for so little.
With these facts in mind, it is no surprise that attitudes towards degrees are souring. More than half of Gen Zs in the United States believe degrees aren’t a necessary ingredient for success. People of all ages feel education is shifting to an autodidact model, where people teach themselves the skills they need to succeed. Those who are completely or partially self-taught are in good historical company. American abolitionist and speaker Fredrick Douglass was denied formal schooling due to his enslaved status as a child. German scientist Melanie Klein founded the field of children’s psychology despite never attending university. More recently, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs spent less than a year at college. Thanks to the internet, more people than ever can follow the example of these larger-than-life figures.
How Easy it Really is
Finding a college-level education online is easier than you think. In an ironic twist, some of the most expensive universities to get degrees from have the widest variety of free courses on their website. MIT, UC Berkeley, and Harvard all offer a large number of classes free of charge. To search course offerings across universities, College Cliffs, edX, and Coursera are aggregate sites that collect the best courses for their users.
Beyond college websites entirely are MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. The most popular example of a MOOC is LinkedIn Learning. As part of the major professional networking site, LinkedIn Learning allows people to post their accomplishments in open-enrollment courses to their profile for employers to see. For those who don’t do well in the traditional classroom format, Codecademy and SkillShare utilize interactivity and project completion to teach in-demand skills. Some of the most popular fields for people to self-learn in are code development, data analysis, and marketing.
The Most Important Part
The most important part of self-taught education is finishing it well. You want to be able to show off what you learned to peers and potential employers. Some ways to keep yourself on course include: minimize distractions by working in a quiet place. Physically move to a different space to escape the other demands of your busy life. Follow a set study schedule you can keep up with. Most importantly, remember why you want to learn. Motivation is key to success.