Sixty-eight thousand four hundred seventy-two.
Awfully large number… I’ll see if numerically helps:
Nope. Still large.
68,472… 68,472… 68,472…
Shoot, it doesn’t get smaller after repeating. Ugh!
So what is this number? It’s not my favorite number, that’s for sure. Actually, this number is the amount of student loan debt I accrued over my three years in college. 3 years = $68,472 … whoah! That’s roughly $62 a day, every day for three solid years.
The Debt Snowball
Before getting into it, let’s first travel back to my 18th year of life. I have a thriving business (I started when I was 12) implementing technology in residences & offices, as well as designing websites for businesses. I’m maintaining a 3.9 Advanced Honors GPA without any effort. And I have zero debt. Basically, life is good.
Having grown up as a minority from an Indian reservation along with a superior ACT score, I am besieged by college recruiters. From Ivy leagues to west coast universities, I truly have the pick of any school in the nation. But being a nervous teenager leaving my loving home for the first time, I choose the best private college within a half-day’s driving distance. And I love it. New friends, new town, new everything… College life is for me.
Fast-forward to 4 months later. I find myself in a seemingly endless line waiting to sell back my books from a successful first semester… After an absurd couple of hours in line, I’m up! From a wave of seller’s remorse, I keep my Intro to Psych textbook as well as my Econ book out of sheer interest in the subjects. But I decide to ditch the Middle East History book and an overpriced piece of crap that is my Business Computing book. Or so I thought.
Apparently history changes because the college didn’t renew my history book, which means they wouldn’t buy it back. But that’s understandable, there’s a lot going on over there and times are changing.
But the real kick in the pants?
They would not accept the Business Computing book due to a campus wide Microsoft Office upgrade…
Which means I spent the past semester force-fed outdated information.
My Educational Catharsis
Two days later – heartbroken from the realization in the bookstore – I return home for the winter break. There I reconnect with my older brother, Frank, who knowingly or unknowingly changes my life forever. A simple gesture, yet with powerful effects, he gives me an audiobook. And no, not a fictional book about vampires and elves. He gives me How to Win Friends and Influence People. And a complete paradigm shift ensues.
In about 6 hours during a roadtrip to Chicago, I learn more valuable life information from this $20 CD set than I had learned the previous three months of college classes. More importantly, for the first time in my life I actually enjoy a non-fiction book. Partly because of the great content, but mostly because I voluntarily listened to the book.
And that is the key, I want to listen, not required to listen – no professor assigned the book, I’m genuinely interested in the topic.
What follows is a endless quest to find more books I want to read or listen.
I now start listening to books on my three hour drive to and from campus on weekends & holidays. And am learning exponentially more life altering information in a car than in these busy-work college courses. It’s remarkable how in a few short hours, I can learn someone’s complete life’s work on a subject.
And the beauty of these audiobooks is that I can now listen to one or two amazing books a week while attending school.
I wasn’t going to let college get in the way of my learning.
My Biggest Mistake
Unfortunately, being the responsible student, I decide to stick it out and finish my college education. I figured that by having a piece of paper with the college’s name on it, life would improve and I could create the career path of my dreams. Therefore, I shape my class choices in order to fast track the process, receiving a degree in Business with a minor in Psychology and emphasis in Economics, in three years.
But it’s too late, I’ve accrued a mortgage payment equivalent monthly loan amount. Before consolidation I’m looking at $750 a month just to pay interest. I’ve been out of college 4 years and I still have yet to begin paying down the principal.
Don’t get me wrong…
I’m not here to complain about my financial misfortune nor about the astronomically high costs of attending college. I’m here to disclose the perils of a high-achieving, self-starter’s education. And the misconception that college is a must.
Imagine if I had the $70k back in my pocket to invest into my business? What would my business I started as a teenager look like today? Instead I dissolved my business based on preconceived notions that college is a requirement for success in business and in life.
Furthermore, what I failed to recognize while taking these business classes, is that traditional schooling breeds you to become a well-trained employee. To fall in-line with the masses. To lead an unremarkable life.
College, at the outset, is positioned as an experience that inspires you to strive for more. But in reality, it creates a workforce of mindless drones, set to take orders from the corporate hierarchy. It does not create the Steve Jobs of the world.
Caveat: This only applies to self-starters who do not live by the status quo. To those who have problems with authority, who believe their way is the best way. But also readily look for mentors and others to help them grow as a person. For those who seek out problems to solve and have an unquenchable thirst to continually learn about the world around them. And most importantly, for those who know they were put on this planet to serve the greater good. That their purpose is to help others more than they help themselves.
If the above is you, read on:
You do not need to go to college. We are living in the most wonderful age of humankind. Where information is readily available from a search box in Google or from your home feed on Twitter. You can read books from a Kindle on a beach in Maui, listen to audiobooks on your smartphone while working out, and watch videos on YouTube, TED, or my startup, Academy on the Go from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.
Information does not need to be learned through 16 semester hours a week filled with bullshit busy-work taught by professors who are so far removed from reality that they distort your mind into believing you’re a product on a factory line.
You are unique. Never forget this. You have been born into this world to improve it. And you will not do so with a pile of student loan debt sitting in a cubicle taking orders from a thoughtless manager going through a mid-life crisis.
YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD
and you don’t need a college diploma to do so…
Alright, enough of me talking, it’s your turn:
Is college worth it for entrepreneurs or anyone else who knows their mission is to improve the lives of others around them?