How to quit college -- and get away with it!

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Notes from my talk on how to quit college. It's not for everyone, but it might be for you. This presentation presents good reasons to quit and useful tips on how to take responsibility for your own education, even if you choose to stay for the degree.

Transcript of How to quit college -- and get away with it!

  • HOW TO QUIT COLLEGE BY BOB PRITCHETT and get away with it!
  • EDUCATION IS THE BEST INVESTMENT There is no better investment of your time and resources than education Better jobs More rewarding work Higher income Intellectual stimulation and engagement Understanding For centuries college was the best place for a great education
  • COLLEGES OWNED EDUCATION Just 20 years ago, you could learn at home from: Parents Books Magazines Television (nothing worthwhile) Encyclopedia Britannica Learning more involved a trip to a library, bookstore, or school Learning a lot required going to college Colleges defined a good education Academia cherishes its role as definer of educated
  • COLLEGES ARE GUILDS FOR ACADEMICS Guilds control the practice of a craft or trade Guilds protect their members income Guilds attempt to build monopolies of practice Guilds seek government protection from competition Guilds raise prices and stifle freedom of trade/practice Fun facts: Guilds were criticized by both Adam Smith and Karl Marx Colleges still fetishize the trappings of medieval guilds, right down to the special clothing, rituals, and stone meeting halls
  • COLLEGE GOT IDOLIZED Politicians and others observed College graduates are more successful than non-graduates Not many people are college graduates People confused correlation and causation To be fair, it happens a lot If more people go to college, more people will be successful! Yes, for some reasonable values of more When more is a very large number, not so much We started subsidizing college It was expensive, but good for people, so we decided to help
  • COLLEGES ATE THE SUBSIDY Rent-seeking is manipulating economic conditions instead of creating new value You get more of what you subsidize Producers (in this case, colleges) soak up the subsidy lMyQjAxMTAzMDIwNzEyNDcyWj.html Subsidized customers (students) are less cost-conscious Colleges added stuff to capture larger available-spend Better facilities More staff More overhead
  • COLLEGE IS NOW A BAD INVESTMENT College doesnt deliver the value it once did It is both less exclusive and more expensive A college diploma is no longer the signal it once was The price has been rising at 2.5 times the rate of inflation Since 1985, the overall consumer price index has risen 115% while the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500%. The subsidy was intended to increase access It did, but since it wasnt limited to consumers without access, it increased available resources to consumers with access, leading to an increase in the overall cost.
  • COLLEGE IS FOUR MORE YEARS OF HIGH SCHOOL It has been dumbed down to accommodate more people Employers have caught on and are adjusting job requirements appropriately A masters degree is the new college diploma Four years is a long time to invest in more high school Another year or two after college is a large investment of tuition and highly-valuable time
  • EDUCATION IS THE BEST INVESTMENT Education College (it was, but now it is not)
  • EDUCATION IS FREELY AVAILABLE You carry a device in your pocket that gives you instant access to the sum of human knowledge and which lets you communicate directly with almost every intellectually or economically engaged person on earth. This is unprecedented in the course of human history This is not a modern twist on an ancient idea Ubiquitous Internet access is an amazing, spectacular, disruptive, transforming change in the human condition. This changes everything Especially education
  • CHANGE ALWAYS HAS ENEMIES Change empowers some and strips others of power Most people are slow to understand their new empowerment People being stripped of power see it faster and fight back Colleges have had power and status for 800+ years Colleges are allowed to certify competence in most fields Colleges are respected authorities on matters of policy Colleges are where much research and new learning live Colleges are praised by preachers, politicians and parents Colleges arent going to give up power without a fight
  • IN DEFENSE OF COLLEGE A community of learning Offers education that is personal, interactive, communal A time apart for learning A respite from the hectic world of doing and making, where young minds have the time and space to study and think without the daily demands of making a living A unique place dense with great minds Access to experts and scholars who, by virtue of tenure and disposition, are unusually available to teach and mentor
  • ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE A community of learning Massive classes taught by grad students A time apart for learning Not if you have to work, or like to party A unique place dense with great minds Great(er) minds are more accessible than ever before
  • THE BEST DEFENSE OF COLLEGE Nobody is going to hire you / trust you / believe in you if you dont have a college degree. Everybody (who lives a good life, makes good money, is smart and useful and acceptable in society) does it It is a necessary minimum for getting ahead in society It is just one of those things you have to do You have got to have credentials.
  • CREDENTIALISM It is true lots of people value credentials over competence This is a real problem if you dont have a college degree This is a bad sign for society as a whole This is an opportunity for those who value competence Credentialism is a luxury of a rich society where status, appearances, and politics can be esteemed over competence The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. John W. Gardner
  • STUDENT DEBT IS A MORAL ISSUE Students sacrifice four of their most productive, energetic years to an inefficient educational system that graduates many of them alone into the world with tens of thousands in debt and poor prospects for employment. Starting your adult life already in debt is foolish Do the math on a lecture hour Would you pay that much to attend any lecture on any subject? Would you pay that much for a concert? Would you pay that much for a massage while eating chocolate? Education has great value, but is not necessarily worth debt Especially when education is now free
  • EMPLOYERS ARE OVER COLLEGE Job ads require more education than ever before Thats because employers have realized how little value a bachelors degree represents With lots of college graduates unemployed, why not require a degree for jobs that previously didnt? Why not require a masters for jobs that required a bachelors? In reality, employers seek competence The degree is better than nothing Or equivalent experience is code for we dont really care about your degree if you can do the job well a-big-deal.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&smid=tw-nytimesbusiness&partner=socialflow
  • QUIT COLLEGE NOW If you know how to use the Internet If you can learn on your own If you have a good job offer in your field
  • QUIT, DONT SKIP! Having gotten in and attended is nearly as good a signal to employers and others as having graduated It is a relatively cheap way to get most of the credential value It minimizes social stigma and complicated explanations You can still say Back in college You have the shared experience Explanations are easy I didnt want to go further into debt. I was learning more on my own. I got an amazing job offer. Just use the word attended in place of graduated
  • GET AWAY WITH IT There is a small social stigma to dropping out of college This is going away, and will likely be completely gone before you are midway through your career More importantly, employers stop caring about college once you have experience with another employer Questions at interviews for your first job will be about your education Questions at interviews for following jobs will be about your previous job You need a strategy to get away with having quit college
  • DONT APOLOGIZE Breaking out of the mold is a step forward You can explain, but shouldnt apologize I just wasnt seeing the value. It wasnt worth going into debt for. I already knew what I needed to succeed in my field. I found I was learning more on my own. Not finishing college can be a form of countersignaling I wouldnt take a degree if they gave it to me. Works well if youre smart Works even better as you are more successful Puts you in an exclusive club: too cool for school
  • ACTUALLY EDUCATE YOURSELF Quitting college is not about quitting education Quitting college is about taking responsibility for your own education
  • FIND MENTORS Identify and recruit smart, educated people People will give you time when you are young Successful people like to give back to young people If you ask good questions and listen youll be invited back Get the mentors now, while youre young In a few years these people wont respond Theyre afraid of wasting time with salespeople Dont ask them to be mentors It sounds like too much work Ask to meet for specific advice Send possible questions in advance
  • READ Read widely Read in your field The syllabi for all the classes you didnt take are online The syllabi for the better versions of those classes at the better schools are online Use these syllabi as reading guides Read outside your field College isnt a vocational school; there is value in a broad liberal arts education Use published curriculum and read across the disciplines
  • WATCH The best colleges in the world are putting much of their curriculum online for free You can get all the best of what colleges offer while fast- forwarding through the overhead Millions of people are teaching each other through web video Businesses provide free video training for their tools These videos often teach the discipline as well as the tool
  • DO AND WRITE Get an internship in your field Smart employers wont care you arent enrolled anymore Do your own projects in the field you are studying Write up your experience as a blog post Writing about doing helps you understand Write book reviews for your reading Post them to your blog or a book review site Writing about your reading helps you learn and retain Tweet what you learn as you learn Condensing things to tweets is helpful for learning
  • TEACH If you really want to learn something, teach it to someone else You can teach at a school, write tutorials on the web, or just show someone how to do something you learned.
  • CONNECT Writers (of books, blogs, magazines, etc.) are starved for attention and feedback from their audience Comment on blogs Email the author of every (non-fiction) book you read Send compliments Ask questions Write to the authors of articles Email academics questions about their journal articles Join the conversation Participate in web forums that have developed communities Engage other writers in your blogging
  • SEEK ALTERNATE CREDENTIALS It helps to have something people can refer to when they dont have time to really check you out Many people lack the confidence to judge your competence In your field In their own Find or make credentials that demonstrate competence Publish something in your field Maintain a blog Win an award Start a business or organization Speak at a conference Establish yourself as an expert in something anything
  • BE HIGHLY VISIBLE People get more comfortable with people they see more often Visibility is important to establishing alternate credentials Make sure your LinkedIn profile is filled out completely Build online identities on sites specific to your field Get to know the community in your field Attend meet-ups and conferences Take experts to lunch or coffee Participate in online discussions
  • GOOD REASONS TO FINISH COLLEGE You are not good at learning on your own You lack confidence in your ability or willingness to learn without accountability You dont know what you want to do You are highly motivated by your GPA and transcript You can afford it without incurring debt You want to join the academic guild You absolutely must have the credential to pursue your intended occupation
  • CREDENTIALISMS SECRET WEAPON Occupational licensing is the guild in the workplace Doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. need special education Some competency testing remains, but few professions allow participation without credentials from approved institutions More than 500 occupations require licensing in some state Doctor, Lawyer, Undertaker, Falconer, Ferret breeder, etc. You may have no choice but college in these professions Follow the tips on doing it for less money, in less time
  • IF YOU STAY Maximize your investment Read ahead of your classes Test out of every course you can Get to know your professors Minimize your spending Take core classes at community colleges where classes cost less and transfer to your school Avoid switching majors late in the game, delaying graduation
  • WANT MORE? Follow me on Twitter @BobPritchett Read my blog Join my mailing list at Ill mail you when I write more Read my book 5 stars at Free chapters and summaries online