Alternatives to College

Whenever I bring up the idea of not going to college, someone always asks me what you could do instead. That question strikes me as odd, as you could do pretty much anything that does not require a Bachelor’s (read: pretty much anything). It seems that the question is based on a mindset that if I cannot give an activity which works for them personally, then they should disregard the idea of alternatives altogether. Nonetheless, I get the question so frequently that I will try to put together a nice list.

  1. Start a business. This one is obvious, and has formed the basis for some interesting experiments. The idea here is that starting a business will contribute to society, teach you practical skills, reward creativity, etc. Lots of good things.
  2. Find a job. This one is the second obvious option. Find a job at some random place and work your way up. On average, people here will do worse than people who get a bachelor’s degree, but I think with some creativity and persuasiveness you could instead just get a 4-year jump on your peers.
  3. Take time off to volunteer/travel. Slightly less common than 1 & 2, but still not uncommon. Taking time off to travel can give a lot of ideas on how the rest of the world functions. Maybe you come back to school afterward (with reaffirmed purpose) and maybe you do something else for a while afterward. Either way, it would likely be an invaluable experience.
  4. Learn how to excel… at sports, art, math, salesmanship, cooking, anything. Take 6 months and do nothing but practice and research that one activity. Try to innovate. Try to master the toughest aspects. Read every article and book you can find. Learn from and network with experts. Put in the hard focus necessary to figure out how the experts do it well. Meet peers devoted to the same activity. Develop personal strategies that you could apply elsewhere. Challenge your assumptions. Do you think you know how to get really good or assume that school is necessary to do it? You may be wrong.
  5. Join the military. Learn teamwork, courage, discipline, leadership.
  6. Join a monastery. Focus. Understand yourself. Learn to gratitude, serenity, and acceptance.
  7. Drop in. Before you enroll in college, just go there and sit in on classes. Test yourself using online resources. Learn on your terms, tuition free!

Here are the first 7 I could imagine, but this is a work-in-progress. Please do suggest others!

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