“College students are stuck on traditional, “safe” paths and end up with jobs they don’t like so they can buy shit they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” –Nat Eliason

My main issue with college isn’t with the education itself, it’s with the concept that people are better off with a college degree and $60,000-250,000 in debt. Taking on a huge amount of debt greatly reduces your options in life and your ability to take risks.

A recent study showed that three-fourths of colleges have a higher 20-year annualized ROI than the S&P 500. This means that from a financial standpoint, you’re objectively better off investing your money in the stock market than going to a bottom 3/4ths college.

Obviously, if you have a full scholarship or if you’re pursuing a career that requires college (i.e. doctor, lawyer, teacher) this is a different conversation though.

Optimizing to be an owner vs. an employee

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, skip the school and go straight for execution.” –Neil Patel

Whether college is worth it comes down to the core philosophical belief of whether you’re optimizing to be an owner or an employee in both your career and in life.

College is the safe, common, and standard path. This means that if you’re trying to live a normal and common life then this is the best path. But if you aren’t, then you need to think long and hard about the cost of what college will provide for you that you can’t gain on your own.

If you’re optimizing to spend your career as an employee and live within society’s normal confines, then college is the safe and standard option. If you’re optimizing to live life on your terms, run businesses, and/or pursue your passion in entrepreneurial ways then college is likely a waste of your time and money.

Why?

The only benefit you gain from college that you can’t create (at minimal cost) on your own is a credibility stamp.

Everything else that you gain from college are things that you can re-create:

1. Learn new things

Whatever you could possibly want to learn: the information exists on the internet for you to consume. Want to become a professional painter? There are hundreds of thousands of hours of tutorials and demos online. Literally anything that you want to learn, you can learn from the best in the world in that category. See Masterclass, YouTube, Udemy, Coursera, etc.

Times have changed, education has changed, but universities have not changed. My most valuable lessons in college were learned from listening to successful people speak on YouTube and building businesses (things that you don’t need a college degree to do).

2. Exposes you to lots of new people and helps you network

This is something that you can easily re-create cheaply by backpacking around the world and by working hard to network and meet new people.

Many of the most interesting people that I’ve met have been a result of cold emailing them. This isn’t something that costs any money.

3. Buys you time to find your path in life

Why spend $15k-60k per year to buy yourself time when you could get paid to learn new things and figure things out by building a business?

What To Do Instead of College:

1. Travel the world

The best way to re-create the social aspects of college is by backpacking.

2. Embrace the journey of self-learning

Learning how to use the internet to teach yourself new things is one of the most important skills you can learn. In an unstructured learning environment, becoming good at this is an absolute must.

3. Pursue your passions, start a business, or learn in-demand skills (i.e. engineering, design, etc.)

Starting an online business is easier than ever before. And there are many online schools where you can learn a new skill and get a $60k-100k job within 6-12 months.

If I were going back in time, I would’ve picked up an in-demand skill, got a job, and skipped college.

Final Thoughts:

“Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.” –William Deresiewicz

I don’t plan to send my kids to college because it’s a poor financial investment and because the most exciting part of life is chasing your passions and living your life on your terms. Both of which are frequently blocked by the burden of college debt.