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Why You Don’t Need a Traditional College Education to Be Successful

College is no longer the no-brainer route for exiting high school students. As tuition rises and the job market becomes tougher and tougher for students with degrees, college is not for everyone. According to a survey done by the College Board, a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public school in 2016 was $24,061. If you are going to a private school, that cost is almost doubled! This could mean thousands and thousands of dollars of debt in student loans. 2/3 of all college students graduate with an average of $23,000 in debt, and 39% say that this debt will take them 10 years to pay off.

In an era where experience arguably matters more than education, many high schoolers are opting out of college. Between Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, and Mark Zuckerberg, there are plenty of incredibly successful entrepreneurs who never went to or completed college. Here are our five reasons why college doesn’t always help you on your path to entrepreneurship and can, in fact, sometimes hinder your goals and ambition.

Your mind gets put in a box

Your learning and creativity can actually be stunted by the structure of classes. Many times, students aren’t taught to think freely because you’re required to complete a task within certain parameters. Their mind gets pigeonholed and their creativity is severely stunted. In order to be a successful entrepreneur, thinking creatively with complete freedom of expression is necessary. Unfortunately, textbooks can teach a structured way of thinking, which could limit a potential entrepreneur’s growth.

You can’t teach personality 

Character development and networking are skills that cannot be taught in a classroom. Learning how to approach strangers and carry on a conversation is a skill that needs to be learned through experience. A study done by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority surveyed 1,000 entrepreneurs located in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. They found that the higher number of networking events the entrepreneurs participated in, the higher the chance of having a positive return related to profitability, revenue growth, innovation, capitalization, and talent.

No risk-taking

Every day, entrepreneurs need to be accessing their business and thinking of the next step forward. Having a five or ten-year plan is often a vital part of the vision of the business and keeps the company moving forward. Taking risks and seeing the payout (both good and bad!) is an essential part of the learning experience of an entrepreneur.

However, in college, students are taught that failure is bad. Why would a student take a risk on a project when they know they can do it an easier, safer way and get an “A?” The chances are, the students aren’t pushing their boundaries because they need to make sure they are making their grades. This, unfortunately, prepares them poorly for the real world because failure, and learning from that failure, is an essential part of success.

Learning the wrong way

 Someone’s portfolio is a better indicator of their skill set than their education. Just because you “learned” how to use Photoshop does not mean that you can apply those skills in a job. Having a strong portfolio with real-life examples can help you get a job much more effectively than a college education.

As an entrepreneur, you are able to set your own schedule and curriculum based on your interests and actual needs. Many classes in the first or second year of college are spent on required courses that are not directly related to your chosen career path. The saying goes that you can never learn too much, but why spend time learning what you will never use again? Instead, jump straight to what you need to know and start utilizing it in real life. If you are finding you are having trouble with direction, follow what many non-degree holders have done and find a mentor to guide you through the rough patches of entrepreneurship. An experienced mentor can help you in the real world, whereas your college professor might not have as much real-life experience teaching. As they say, those who can’t do, teach.



No diversity in social crowds

 When many high schoolers dream of going to college, they see it as a new way to branch out, make new friends, and have new experiences. While this can happen, we see that people tend to stick to people with whom they already share similar values and upbringing.  Instead, people looking to potentially increase their social circles should join a club or an association to learn how to work as a team. By going outside of your comfort zone, you are able to experience socializing with different types of people without it having to consume your life.

Lack of focus

 The average college freshman spends over 10 hours a week partying, 63 hours a week engaged with media and technology, which includes TV, social media networks, and cellphones, and just 8 hours a week actually studying. Going to college does not automatically mean that a student is going to become focused on what they are learning because the stakes don’t seem high enough. As an entrepreneur, you have a greater understanding of what you are fighting for and why it matters. A day without focus means no progress, and no entrepreneur wants to risk that.

Education for the wrong reasons 

As you are approaching your senior year of high school, are you feeling the pressure of applying for college? Attending college because it is expected of you rather than because you want to apply the necessary time and effort means that college might not be the best fit for your future goals.   

Before deciding if you want to join the ranks of Steve Jobs, Rachel Ray, and Michael Dell as a non-degree holder, consider your options and do soul-searching to realize what is best for your situation and your future. Because there is no correct answer to this question, you must choose what feels best for you. And whatever you choose, own that decision and never look back!


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Lindsey Conger
Associate News Writer: Lindsey is a writer originally from Chicago but can now be found somewhere in Europe. She is driven by a passion to explore every corner of the world, spread her marketing and business knowledge, and to be able to speak Spanish fluently. Follow her on Instagram at @lindseyaconger

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Associate News Writer: Lindsey is a writer originally from Chicago but can now be found somewhere in Europe. She is driven by a passion to explore every corner of the world, spread her marketing and business knowledge, and to be able to speak Spanish fluently. Follow her on Instagram at @lindseyaconger

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