You Don’t Need a College Degree. Here’s Why

A university education is more expensive than ever. Here's why you don't need one.

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So you consider yourself a budding entrepreneur. At some point, you’ve probably asked yourself the question:

Should I get my degree?

You’ve read the success stories. Steve Jobs dropped out of college after six months. Mark Zuckerberg did the same his sophomore year. Richard Branson? He never even graduated high school.

Of course, one could argue that these men are the exception and not the rule. (According to the most recent U.S. census data, about 51% of American business owners have a degree.) But as college tuition and student debt continue to rise, while information becomes ever more accessible, the value of the college degree shouldn’t be accepted without scrutiny.

Don’t get me wrong; I believe strongly in education. I’m not against everything a college education has to offer, and neither are the examples mentioned above. Jobs technically dropped out before completing his first year of study, but he credits the calligraphy course he took afterwards as profoundly influencing his (and his company’s) sense for design.

Nonetheless, I think that pushing the traditional path of higher education as the only way to success just isn’t right.

I’m not the only one. Peter Thiel, the serial entrepreneur best known for co-founding PayPal and becoming Facebook’s first outside investor, agrees. Thiel himself graduated from Stanford and recognizes that a university degree is necessary for certain career paths. He argues, however, that for other career paths (such as entrepreneurship), higher education leads young people to waste years of their lives. Years that they could have used to do something more productive.

In a column he penned for The New York Times entitled College Doesn’t Create Success, Thiel opined:

“For some people in some careers, some colleges may be worth the price they charge. But millions of other people are paying more than quadruple what their parents paid 25 years ago (plus inflation) for a vague credential, not much knowledge or skills, and a crippling amount of debt.”

Some argue that it’s the overall experience of college that’s beneficial, not just the degree. Fair enough. But for entrepreneurs (among others), life is about challenging the status quo. Finding a different way. Not just “fitting in”. To which I ask:

Is going to college really the best way to learn this?

What are the alternatives? You could try volunteering for a non-profit. Maybe travel around the country–even better, the world–for a quarter of the cost of going to some universities. Of course, there’s also the obvious: You can try starting your own business. Or two. Or three.

I attended college full-time for a year, before leaving and never looking back. I had a unique set of experiences over the last 20 years, and stumbled across entrepreneurship when I moved to Germany four years ago. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

The truth is, everyone has to make a decision for him or herself. And that’s really the beauty of it.

It’s your decision–so make the decision that’s right for youBut whatever you decide, remember this:

School can teach you a lot. But life will teach you more.

Never stop learning.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

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