College is not what you are promised it will be. It wasn’t 14 years ago when I decided to give it a try and it’s even more true today. We live in a different world these days. Everybody has a degree in something and most are not working in the field they spent 4+ years studying in.
Now I understand that you have to go to college and sometimes even further to get into certain fields. If you want to be a doctor, you will be in school for a while. Same goes for many other jobs out there, but the range in which it is required is changing and changing fast.
The cost of being a student these days is outrageous. I often hear from students that it is costing them $30,000 per year just to go to school and then you have to stack living expenses on top of that. Multiply that by 4 or 5 years and you have quite a bit of debt. For $150,000 you can buy a small house where I live. You get 30 years to pay that back and if something happens you can sell it. Education does not hold as much value as it used to. You pay a lot of money for an education that is outdated almost immediately depending on which field you go into.
Don’t worry, this article is not going to be a rant about how I think everybody should be an entrepreneur and build small businesses out of their bedroom so we can take down big business but I do want to talk a little bit about my chosen path and why I decided to quit college and do my own thing.
First let me explain how I know college would have benefited me. I know that there are a few things I would have learned along the way that I would not have had to figure out on my own. I am almost certain that my writing skills would be better than they are now if I had completed college level general education classes. Being forced to study and do homework may have helped my ability to stay focused on a task or topic more.
I believe that many companies that still want you to have a degree only want you to have a degree because they want to see that you dedicated yourself to something long enough to achieve it. Getting your degree does require some work and often times it is hard work depending on your field of choice.
I originally did not decide to quit college for good. My plan was to take a year or two off while I saved money so I could afford it. At that time I had a loan on the car I owned and I hated the loan. I hated paying it. I hated intrest. I knew I was losing money. I did not want to do this with my education, so any classes that I did take was out of my own pocket. My parents did not have an education saved up for. To be honest I am glad that they didn’t.
By the time I had started college I had already tried at an online business. Building an online business was the buzz in 1998 when I graduated high school. I wanted to be one of those dot com success stories I was starting to read about. Of course nothing that I did online panned out to much until many years later but it was a great lesson in business. I tried my hand at a few other online businesses with limited success. During this time I was also working in retail management which would later pay off when I hired my own employees for my first brick-and-mortar business.
In 2001 I had about $4500 saved up that I was thinking about spending on classes at Modesto Junior College. Instead of doing that I decided to take a risk and open a retail store. With what little $4500 got me in product and display cases I opened my first business a few months after 9/11. I should have failed according to those who were watching what I was doing, but I knew I could make it work. I kept a small inventory and ordered often. The items I kept in stock were the latest shirts, skateboard decks and accessories that were released. It was hard for the big mall stores to get the latest goods that fast. Because of this I grew. My brother was getting into motorized scooters, which were a huge thing in 2001 so I started carrying GoPed brand scooters. This decision exploded my business almost over night. Because I had some experience in online retail I also had taken my business online. In 2001 there were far fewer options when it came to ordering your skate and scooter accessories. Big online retailers like Amazon were not selling these types of products and you could not just “click to create” a website like you can today.
I taught myself everything I needed to know. Google was my best friend. I could find out anything that I needed to know to add a coupon code option to my website to give repeat customers a special deal for coming back. The internet was a much smaller place back then and I still was able to figure it out. If I was doing it today, it would have been much easier. By the time I was 24 I could have paid for my education in cash if I had wanted to go back.
The experience I obtained from starting my own business could have never been taught to me in school. You can learn concepts in school but that is it. Business classes could have helped me through some of the mistakes I made along the way but not enough to have justified me putting off my dream of starting a business until I was done with school.
I am now 32 years old and several businesses later I know that school could have never prepared me for what I am now doing as a profession. If I had completed school for computer science there would be very little that would still be applicable today. Things move way to fast. If I had gone to school for Photography, digital would have taken over a few years after I finished school. I would still be paying student loans while trying to figure out how I was going to afford to buy digital equipment.
Every venture I have stepped out to try has paved the way for the next. If it was not for starting my retail business and needing to have an online store I would have never learned website design. I could have learned website design in school but now I am a website designer who has owned and ran online ecommerce websites. It was income from building websites that paid for my photography gear and gave me time to teach myself photography and become a well known wedding photographer. It was income from my photography that allowed me to afford video gear so I could offer videography services to my wedding clients. It was income from those businesses that allowed me to be able to afford to love and enjoy Apple products and buy the first iPhone, which led me to start DailyAppShow.Com, which is an mobile app discovery website.
If I had decided to finish school, I would have crazy amounts of student debt. I would use my student loans to buy things I didn’t need. I would have been irresponsible and would be paying for it for many years to come. I am not saying that this is the case with everybody as I know many responsible people who are not as impulsive as I am. I want to mention once again, that I am not knocking college and don’t want to discourage anyone who feels like they have no other choice. However…
If you feel that you have something that you could enjoy or find a passion for. If you feel that you could be good at something or are good at something, perhaps better than those around you who are doing it for a living. If you have determination and can motivate yourself to make something happen. If you don’t want to bury yourself in ton of debt when there is no guarantee that it will pay off in the end, then I highly suggest that you take a few years to give something a try before you take the plunge into being a student. TAKING ON THE KIND OF DEBT THAT BEING A STUDENT THESE DAYS COMES WITH SHOULD NOT BE A DECISION YOU TAKE LIGHTLY. Think about it this way…
For the most part, you have a clean slate in life. You are young, probably single and with out kids. My mindset was that if I was going to try something huge like starting my own business, I wanted to do this before I had a wife and kids to be responsible for. The worst thing that could have happened to me was that I would have no savings left and I would have to start saving for school again, but I would be a college student with first hand business experience.
What I see today is a bunch of educated people who are having a hard time finding a job because there are not many jobs out there. The people that make my coffee and serve me at restaurants are in their mid 20’s with four year degrees and student loan debt they have to pay off. I didn’t know that I would end up where I am today when I decided to take a few years off of college but at least I was not made promises that would not likely pay off either.
People often go to college because they are not sure what they are capable of. They think that by the end of their schooling that they will know what they can achieve, but this is incorrect thinking. Because of this, you end up with a four year degree in history or something like that. Four years went by and you could not figure out exactly what you wanted to do. The only difference between you and me is that I have no student loan debt and I also have years of business experience.
Will that business administration degree that you paid almost $100,000 in tuition, living expenses and materials to get pay itself back and give you back four years of time spent in school that you could have spent exploring life and the world? I had a hard time finding current information on what an education costs because it changes so much and at such a rapid increasing pace.
A young girl I know recently started a small online store on the popular do-it-yourself website Etsy. She has been at this for only a few months and has made over $10,000. She took something she enjoyed doing, which was making crafts, turned it into a business and has sold a lot of product. What a great experience. I know that you have something deep inside of you that you love to do and could probably turn it into something profitable if you just tried.
Everybody tells me how nice it must be to do something for a living that I love. IT IS! If I had got my degree in computer science I would be in some cubicle writing code all day. I am glad that my path changed and would not trade it for the world.
If you want to go on to become something big like a teacher, a lawyer or a doctor. School it up. This is the cost of admission to those fields and there is no way around that. However, if you are not 100% sure, AND I MEAN 100% SURE, what you want to do. DO NOT WASTE TIME IN SCHOOL TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT. All this does is make you older. Trust me, almost all of my friends went that route and all it did was prolong their growing up. I have 32 year old friends going through life’s growing pains that I went through when I was 22, which was before I was married and had kids. Could I have made better decisions than I ended up making? Of course. No matter what paths we choose the choices could have been better knowing then what we know now. I am just a huge advocate of not wasting your time while at the same time racking up debt that is impossible to get rid of.
You can not get rid of student debt. It follows you to the grave. Bankruptcy does not get rid of it, nothing does. If you listen to anything that I put out there listen to this: Take some time to explore your options. Try something. Believe in yourself enough to try something before deciding to go to school.
Of course if you get a scholarship, grants or your parents are paying for your school, disregard everything I had to say about debt. Just make sure you are making the most out of your time. I hear that the new thing to say is “YOLO” (You only live once). This is all the more reason to make better decisions. You only live once, so don’t waste it on poor decisions and debt. I am tired of being served coffee by college graduates. If school worked out the way they promised it would I would be the one serving coffee to college graduates. However this is not the case.
I welcome your thoughts in the comment box below.