Should you go to college?
We’ve written on the Praxis blog a number of times about why you should rethink college. One of our most popular articles, by Praxis CEO Isaac Morehouse, makes among other points the case that college no longer signals what it used to and that most people have no idea what they want out of the experience.
The truth is though that just as there is no one reason you should go to college, there is no one reason you shouldn’t. There are many reasons and a young person considering the decision should look through all of them and decide for themselves what they want to do.
Here are four more reasons you might want to rethink attending college.
1. Four years is a long time
Forget about the financial cost of college, the opportunity cost of 4 years of your life can be huge.
One of the reasons I left college during my sophomore year at the University of Michigan was because I suspected that three extra years in the real world working could be more valuable for me than 3 extra years in the classroom.
I’m able to get opportunities now that I could never have gotten if I’d stayed in school simply because I got an early start on my life. Unlike other 24-year-olds, I’ve got almost 5 years of full-time work experience.
Before you commit to at least four years in college, ask yourself “what else could I do with my time during those 4 years?” You might be surprised to find that there are other valuable ways to spend your time.
2. College debt will limit your options
If you were told “you should take out a loan of tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars” for anything but college, you would subject that decision to a good deal of scrutiny.
Unfortunately, most students don’t give a second thought to the advice when they’re told that any amount of college debt is worth it for the degree. The average college debt for a new graduate is near $40,000 and the national student debt in the United States exceeds $1.4 trillion dollars.
I’ve personally seen far too many young graduates have their options limited dramatically because of the debt they chose to take on for their degree.
It often goes something like this: the young graduate has an option to take a job at a startup that pays low but gives equity with a high upside potential. Unfortunately, he can’t take the job because he has to pay back his loans.
Or he graduates and realizes that his goals have changed and he wants to become a journalist rather than an investment banker. Most journalists work very cheaply while building up their portfolio, and he can’t afford to live like that while he’s paying off his loans.
Or he realizes he wants to travel for the next year, but now he’s stuck working because he has no option but to pay for his loans.
During the early stages of your career, the goal should be to increase optionality. It took me a few years personally to really get into the swing of things properly. It took a lot of testing, a lot of working for free, and a lot of money to figure things out. I would not have had this freedom if I’d had college debt.
3. You can build your own credential
As my colleague, Isaac Morehouse said in his 2016 speech at the Voice and Exit conference, “Compare “I graduated from college” to what you can now signal on your own. I can find out more Googling you in two minutes today than I could have found in two months with a private investigator in the past. Your degree is worth less than your Github profile, your LinkedIn profile, your personal website, your Quora answers, the projects you’ve created and the people you’ve worked with.”
It seems ridiculous when you hear it. A “credential” is typically something that is conferred by an authority figure or organization. How can an individual be their own?
Think about the successful people in your life though. Why do you see them as successful? Why do you trust them? Chances are it’s not because they graduated college. It’s not because they’re certified in anything, even though they might be. It’s because you see the practical results of their skill and their knowledge documented online.
Maybe it’s the books they’ve written or the podcasts they’ve run. Maybe it’s the business they own or the value they have created and documented as an employee. Maybe it’s the interview they just did for your local newspaper or the Facebook following they’ve developed or the job titles they’ve held.
Whatever it is, 9/10 times it’s not their degree status.
In my own work with Praxis participants, I know the ability to build your own credential, and the rewards for doing so, are accelerating quickly.
4. The cost of information has decreased dramatically
In the old days, you needed to go to expensive instructional libraries to access many of the worlds best books. Nowadays, you can get many of those books for free or cheap online through Amazon or Project Gutenberg.
You can read blogs, listen to podcasts and audiobooks, attend conferences, and access the worlds best professors via email and YouTube.
Want to learn marketing? Book a call on clarity with the Director of Marketing at as startup or join Inbound.org. Want to learn to code? Get active on Github and Quora. Want to learn to invest in Cryptocurrency? Check out Reddit. You can also get academic journal subscriptions cheaply — I subscribe to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies and The Objective Standard.
Should you go to college? The institution is no longer the informational gatekeeper it once was. Those who understand this have an opportunity to achieve massive success. Those who don’t will be left behind.
Whether you choose to go to college or not, its time to recognize that your degree and the college experience is not a surefire path to a fulfilling life.