So, you’ve been accepted to your college of choice, and you’re about to graduate from high school. Congratulations! It’s not easy to get through those fourteen years in the classroom.
I was in your shoes just one year ago: scholarship and acceptance letter lined up and my future seemingly laid out before me. I had done well in school and was told by just about everyone around me that I would excel in college and my career if I continued the path I had taken. I had it made, right?
Well, it was actually a terrifying prospect. I didn’t really want to spend four more years waiting for permission to create the life I wanted to live. I wanted to be free to learn, not shepherded into something just because everyone else was doing it. I did not want to insulate myself with my peers for four years of frantic partying, academic hoop-jumping, and philosophical sterility. Perhaps you’re feeling the same way. It’s natural, and it’s just as natural to feel afraid to do anything else. After all, it’s probable that no one has told you that there are alternatives.
I’d like to show that you don’t have to do something you don’t really want to do. You don’t have to be an outlier or genius startup founder to justify opting out of college. You only have to care enough to take a deeply personal interest in creating the life you want. Praxis exists for those who want to start doing what makes them come alive. I can say without reservation that applying was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Instead of spending the last eight months coping with freshman general ed classes and densely concentrated immaturity, I have had the chance to work with one of my favorite technology startups, learn with intellectuals on the cutting edge of thought in their fields, and make genuine friendships and self-discoveries that will be sticking with me for some time into the future.
You can do the same with this time in your life. In fact, you can do far better. With the applications now open for the fall and winter classes, here are some reasons why you should go for it:
1. The Real World Is (So Much) Better.
Have you ever noticed how your teachers and other adults talk about the real world as something that exists outside of school? They’re right, you know. They’re wrong in thinking that you should be shielded from it. It’s actually quite a wonderful place, if you take the responsibility to face it independently.
Since joining Praxis, I have moved to a new city, lived on my own for the first time, and put my finances and reputation on the line for the sake of the work and ideas I care about. All of this has shown me that very little of what looms so large in school matters once you are out. I have found that swiftly jettisoning the assumptions, attitudes, and training of the classroom is the best path to the competency and courage needed to live well as a young person. If you’re wiser than me, you probably figured this out years ago. Here’s a way to experience something better.
2. You’ll Create Something Worthwhile.
It is telling that everyone talks about students as “products” of an educational system. Don’t be a product. Be the producer of your education, your life, and everything else that matters. Working with one of the small businesses and startups in the Praxis network is hands-down one of the best ways to get your start in actively learning and creating value.
My own time working with my company BitPay has allowed me to grow professionally through the challenges, pivots, and successes of an innovative startup. If your work experience is anything like is like mine, you will find out just how little you know and how much you are capable of mastering (often in the same workday). You will do things which you did not think were possible for you at your age or skill level. Take this opportunity to learn by fully immersing yourself in entrepreneurship and purposeful creativity.
3. You’ll Find the Freedom to Learn.
I’ve always enjoyed learning, whether through reading great works or having great discussions, but the Praxis curriculum experience truly surprised me. I’ve never found a better or more enjoyable combination of rigor and freedom in studying. Throughout the program, I’ve had ongoing philosophical conversations with our founders and fellow participants, the chance to test my knowledge with brilliant professors and entrepreneurs, and the resources to prove my learning through writing, communicating, and creating.
This is what self-directed and self-interested education looks like. If your reason for going to college is to engage big ideas and questions, you should know that it is possible, if not advantageous, to be an unschooled intellectual. Praxis is a great way to find this independent footing in the world of thought.
4. You’ll Meet Kickass People.
You’re going to meet some seriously impressive people if you’re out in the world challenging yourself and working hard. It’s possible to find great mentors in school and university, but there’s something far better about finding and building those relationships outside of school. To put it bluntly, you can drop the inferiority complex that comes with having not done anything with your life yet. You can be interesting on your own merits, and you can build friendships and professional relationships on your own terms.
I’ve had the chance to work directly with each member of the Praxis team and can say that you will not find the passion and philosophical focus of this founding team anywhere in academia. My fellow participants have been just as inspiring. These are people who are serious about doing things with their lives. Some of them already have, and all of them have a spark for learning and building things. I’m guessing you have that, and I’m guessing that you’re in a place now where that isn’t very common. Take this as your chance to find your tribe. I’ve certainly found mine.
5. It’s An Adventure.
“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life.” – George Mallory on his reasons for climbing Mt. Everest. (Unlike Mallory, you will survive. I promise.)
When did we become so jaded as to give up on the idea of adventure? It’s one of the finest things in life, and all it takes is the willingness to be slightly uncomfortable and disoriented for sustained periods of time. That’s not such a bad thing. These are the side effects of exhilaration.
If you’re feeling it, I hope that you will listen to this best of your instincts. You can join a team of entrepreneurs and learners in the adventure of transforming personal education. Go ahead. Apply. Even if you don’t make it in, you’ll know that something like this exists and that you went for it. If you do, you’ll be in for the experience of your life.