College : My Failed $15,000 Experiment

This post is for anyone pre-college, in college, thinking about college, and thinking about what they’re going to do. This is just my unique chain of events, but everything did happen and you might be the exact same way. I think we often hear much too much barraging from the “other side” on the importance of college, most of the time it’s from people with jobs they got from their college degree. So this is just a story from someone who has a successful job but no degree. I had my glory Year and One Month at college, and I retired in my prime.

It seemed like my entire childhood education was built upon finally going out to college, learning a trade, and getting a job with the degree I would earn. At least in high school that’s all I heard from teachers…”You think this is hard, just wait until college.”…”We’re doing this to better prepare you for college,”, etc. Throughout our high school years is when our parents encourage us to save up for college, and even set up college funds for us with their money.

So what did I put in? Two years, roughly $15,000 (including all tuitions, books, room/board, etc), and a lot of my time. What did I end up with? College certainly didn’t pay me for my time, so that’s -$15,000. Looking back, I really didn’t learn anything useful other than the fact that if you really really want to find a way to get around the system…you can. I did have some great times with great people, but this post is only talking about the education/degree factor. So I ended up with nothing but the lesson that college just isn’t necessary for some people. If I put more into it, would I have learned something and gotten a degree? Yeah, not denying that one bit. But college simply isn’t for me, and might not be for you either.

I’ll talk briefly about my college experience now for those that are interested and may be going through similar things.

Pre-college : In high school I was the kid who did nothing and got by. I hated homework, maybe just for the fact that I didn’t like the idea of having to do something I didn’t want to do. I took the test and did the big projects, but I usually avoided most small homeworks – because they could be avoided. If you really really want to find a way around the system…you can. And you don’t have to be a genius to figure it out, just take a step back and look at where you’re really going. If you know you want to go to a community college out of high school, do you really need an A? If you like working hard at things just for the sake of working hard, more power to you. But if not (like me), don’t feel like a failure because you just don’t see the point in it.

During College : I didn’t really know what direction I wanted to go in, I just figured I’d be good at business or law. But I certainly wasn’t going through all the work and hell to get through law school – life really is too short to waste 7-8 years of my life wanting to kill myself. So I chose business, and took on the easy schedule. I learned about online marketing while just starting my freshman year at school. By the start of the second semester, I knew I would be dropping out after that year. I saw the potential in the industry and had already made a few thousand bucks, it was worth it. You can always go back to college if you really need to. I started working on my business and stopped doing school work. College did indeed prove to be a bit harder than high school. Here homework usually wasn’t required, it all came down to the tests. Unfortunately those required hours of reading, so I usually read the cliff notes, or read the test of the girl in the row in front of me (she got a C on the economics exam). Once more now, if you really really want to find a way around the system…you can.

Transition Time : I resigned from college that year to work on affiliate marketing full time. I was learning 10x as much by getting out there and testing things for myself. I could either pay $20,000-100,000 (depending on what school you go to) to get a degree that will teach me how to manage my business assets. Or I could spend $1,000 testing Google Adwords to find the customers that want to buy what I have to sell. My first years in affiliate marketing, even now, have taught me an incredible amount…and I didn’t have to sacrifice a dime for it. But while I was building my business, I started to feel like I missed out on the college years of my life. So I went back…

Back to School : Last month I started school at SUNY Geneseo. It’s actually a very selective school now and they rejected my application at first. My grades weren’t even close to being good enough to get in (perhaps like trying to get a job interview with a low GPA?). So I drove down to the school, talked to the admissions officer, and told him why he should let me attend their school. All together now: if you really really want to find a way around the system, you can. After a month of taking classes that I just took out of interest (computer science, physics, and geology), working on this new product simply took up all my time. I didn’t have nearly enough time to study, and it was the best business move to just cut my losses and move back home.

Was the point of that whole story to either a) bore you, or b) lead you to believe I’m an egomaniac? No, this is for kids my age who may feel the same way about school. If you really feel that college isn’t for you, and if you really feel like you don’t need college to earn a good living, you have no reason to waste your money even trying. Why spend thousands of dollars on college, and THEN go out and try something that wouldn’t make use of your paper degree? If you’re in college now or any type of school, start working on something in your free time. Brainstorm ways to make money and put them to action. Don’t listen to anybody that tells you that you need college to be successful in “this day in age”.

Some points I want to make :

1) I am certainly not trying to encourage anybody to completely avoid college. If you want to be a doctor or nutritionist, college is completely necessary and will absolutely be helpful. I’m just making the point that many times something like college can be an individual case. Not everybody needs to be a part of the “system” in order to find their way. This is for those people, those cases…not everyone. I’m not talking about the fools with no college degree that peddle drugs, con people, or just sit and collect unemployment/welfare. Please don’t come at me with stats on college dropouts, because this article is not about that.

2) I go back to the “if you really really want to find a way around the system…you can.” quite a few times, and wanted to clarify that as it may raise some flags. Getting around the “system” is one of the things that my college experience showed me. It’s helped me to realize that if I really want to get somewhere or do something but have no direction, I know it’s possible that I’ll find a way to get where I want. Just knowing I can get there helps me stay motivated and fixated on whatever goal I have. BUT, you have to think of this in relative terms. I’m not saying beating the system means doing anything harmful, illegal, or highly unethical. In this article’s example I mention not doing homework, cheating on a college exam, and persuading the admissions director to accept me. Using an example of cheating on a test is probably inappropriate and slightly unethical…but it didn’t harm anybody and it helps to prove my point. Proving my point is more important than my personal reputation, the goal here is to be honest with others going through the same things as I am in regards to school. Hopefully it helps or at least reassures a few people out there.

Think about this :

You want to be a marketing manager when you grow up. Now you’ve looked at job descriptions and even called ahead to employers and asked them what a marketing manager does. You learn that once you’ve been hired, you’ll be trained on everything the company does. You’ll receive information to digest, and then receive your first task. Now it’s time for college. I’d say for that job position, easily more than half of your classes will serve you little to no purpose. Will learning the war heroes of the American Revolution help you sell toothbrushes? How about doing an advanced integral in calculus? The school system thinks you need these classes for your development/work ethic/blah blah. That’s why they make them required for any degree…for a lot of people that’s just simply wrong. It’s wasting their time and money to teach them something that will have little to no effect on their end-game (a career). I couldn’t help the fact that I simply couldn’t pay attention in classes I had no interest in. I know people that have paid to have somebody go and sit through all their classes and take their exams so they could work on their business instead…I say bravo. Beat that system boii.

Something to keep in mind : I’m writing this post as I’ve said for college kids in the same position. Same position meaning school just isn’t right for some people, and with some smart thinking and work you can make things work just fine on your own. Smart thinking, and work. If your idea for selling diet pills is to give out samples to marathon runners, you should strongly consider going to college or learning a trade. Being smart about things is 100% necessary for anything I’m talking about right now.

4) I sound like a slacker with my “do as little as possible to get by” philosophy. Most people resent that way of living…I embrace it. Why should I have to do homework that don’t have to do? If I’m doing well enough on the tests I obviously know the material, so I see no point unless I enjoy it. Should you go to lecture if you can learn all the material from the reading? Hell no, you should go play basketball with your friends instead. Instead of looking at it like a “do as little as possible to get by” approach, I look at is as : “accomplish your goals while enjoying as much of it as you possibly can.”

5) I am in no way saying to drop what you’re currently doing now. If you’re in college – stay in college. If you have a full time job – stay in that job. If you’re planning on going to college next year – go to college next year. But there is time in the “meantime” that you can start to explore career options that don’t require a degree. I know firsthand how much work college can be, especially if you actually plan on doing the work/studying. I have physics major friends who stay up all night many nights every week doing homework and studying. But they also have time to play a lot of Xbox and party on the weekends. Which if you’re going to school like that you need those breaks, but not if you want more. You have to want it badly enough. I started getting into internet marketing while I was going to school. I still did all my projects and went to my part-time job, but whenever I had free time I was reading about affiliate marketing. Once I started to see results from that (and only once I saw results), I started to cut back on school.

Anyway, bit of an off-topic post. But seeing as I’m just coming off of my second college run, the thoughts are flowing freshly. Keep in mind I like to stir the pot just for the sake of stirring, so don’t take any of this too offensively.

Always remember…be smart about it.

1 Comment

  1. Megan Bucher
    February 12, 2010

    A college education is expensive, and it is hard. Whether you go right after high school or later in life is your choice, but go. I have seen a lot of people around me fail miserably with out that ‘piece of paper.’
    The car business was like this in it’s prime. You didn’t need a degree, because you could make a killing selling cars and work your way up the ladder into management. I was made fun of constantly for have a Marketing/PR degree and ‘selling cars,’ by customers and co-workers. My journey (just shy of a decade in the car biz…renting, sales, then business development) paid off because I was able to apply my education to my current job, no matter what it was.
    My point in all this is to stick with it and get a degree. Sooner or later, you’re going to need that basic qualification to fall back on or lead you into your dream job. Every journey is different, and some are more costly than others…but you get what you pay for.
    There are no shortcuts to the ‘dream job.’
    Once everyone figures this Interent Marketing and Social Media out, there will be degrees and phd’s in it, and college professors who make a living teaching it.
    The connections I’ve made and kept from being an alumni and NCAA athlete and member of the Greek community are pricesless. I continue to learn from that ‘expensive’ experience every day of my life.
    So, good luck to all of you, whichever way you choose…but to the 4 year degree grads…I say props to you.

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