Do You Really Need to go to the University?
If you want to work on the Internet or to be an entrepreneur, I really don’t think you need to.
I always tell my friends that if I had the mind that I have today (in terms of knowing what I want to do, and what knowledge and tools I need to do that) five years ago, I would not have enrolled myself in the university.
At the time I had no clue where I was going, however, so getting a degree seemed like the smartest choice. Everyone else was doing it, after all!
I studied International Economics because it was a pretty eclectic degree, and it would allow me to work on virtually any business segment. Then 18 months ago I started working on the Internet with my own websites and with other entrepreneurial projects, and I guess I have being using 5% of what I learned in the university, if that.
Now the main argument of the university proponents is that apart from the knowledge itself, which you might or might not use later on, passing all those years studying will teach you how to gather, analyze and present information. It will give you a framework, upon which you will build on.
That is true, the university will give you that, but I don’t think that a person that starts working straight out of high school would lose that. He would also learn how to gather, analyze and present information, and he would also gain a framework, but those would come from real working experience rather than from theoretical classes and lectures.
I honestly think that if I had spent the same years that I did in the university working with my own projects and trying to make a living online, I would have learned much more (and that knowledge would have been practical rather than theoretical).
Again, this is valid only for certain classes of professionals. If you want to be a doctor or a civil engineer there is no alternative to going to the university and learning what you need to there.
Another downside of universities is that they focus on giving you knowledge, rather than making you develop competencies and attitudes. The latter two are immensely more important for your professional success.
I wrote about this sometime ago, on an article titled Knowledge, Competencies and Attitudes). Summing it up: Knowledge is practical information gained through learning, experience or association (e.g., second degree equations). Competencies, on the other hand, refer to the ability to perform specific tasks (e.g., the ability to communicate effectively). Attitudes involve how people react to certain situations and how they behave in general (e.g., whether you are proactive, arrogant, if you get along with people and so on).
Here is an example that I used to illustrate why competencies and attitudes are more important than knowledge:
Consider two different men, John and Mark, working for a financial services company. Both of them are eager to succeed so that they spend lots of time trying to grow professionally.
John uses his time gaining as much knowledge as possible: he studies balance sheets, financial reports, accounting practices and the like. He even takes related courses on the local university.
Mark, on the other hand, gets only the knowledge that is necessary to carry out his job. Other than that, he uses his time to improve his writing skills, his ability to solve problems, his ability to understand and empathize with other people and so on.
Should the financial services sector enter a downturn some day forcing both men to find another job, who do you think will have a harder time? Yeah, I am sure you have guessed it.
As you can see I am not arguing that you don’t need to go to the university because you will learn everything working. You will still need to study and go through the pain of learning and improving yourself. The only difference is that if you do this on your own you will be able to focus on the competencies and attitudes that you know you need to develop.
The knowledge that a university will give you is available for everyone, anywhere in the world. Sure, there is a difference between knowledge and information. but with the right motivation and some help from other people even a kid in Sri Lanka can absorb the information available online and transform it into knowledge.
So what should your strategy be? Focus on developing the right attitudes and competencies, and grab the necessary knowledge as you go.
66 Responses to “Do You Really Need to go to the University?”
My son wants to go to uni, he doesn’t really know what he wants to do, he has decided on machanical engineering. He does not know what he wants from life. He is confussed as to whether he wants ‘ loads of money’ or enjoy something he likes doing? Trouble is he does not know what he would enjoy. I think uni would help him sort through his indecission. We as parents are confussed, his father is thinking of telling him to get a job, which I know would devastate him as we have always encouraged him to want to go to uni. So to tell him now to go out and find a job instead of uni, I think is wrong. We are Weston people, living in indonesia, our son has not lived in a Weston country since the age of six, he is nineteen now and I think he needs time to a gust. Would love any coments, for or against unkversity
Honestly, everyone has to go to university to attend a degree, a degree helps you with getting really good jobs and you get payed alot of money and a good education which is nice. So I am saying that you should go to university if u want to be rich…
I think having a degree does have some benefits (I think). The benefit to me seems to be the knowledge gained through study, but I donâ€™t think it has much effect on the earning ability as far as the Internet goes.My son has been a web designer for several different Internet companies since before he graduated from high school. Went to college for one semester and decided it wasnâ€™t for him and he is making probably 20xâ€™s the money on the Internet without a degree than I was with a degree outside the Internet.
I hear what everyone is saying but I don’t know if you hear yourself. I am glad that we have a choice to create our own path in life, or do we? Some people can’t afford to go to college so they may be more ambitious to succeed at their job because society teaches them they don’t have a backup. If there are two people going for the same position and both have the same amount of time in, is it fair for the one with the degree to get the position just because of the degree, I don’t think so. Just because you have a degree does not mean you are a good worker and you are the best one for the job, hell it doesn’t even mean that your smart. Obviously we need schools and education, but as stated before there are other ways to get educated besides college and degrees. If you have the time and the money for college sure its a great experience but that doesn’t mean the person that didn’t get to go or even chose not to go is less of a person.
There was a time in history when it was believed that you could learn anything you want just by reading the right books and doing research by yourself. For example, Nathaniel Greene, the American Revoultionary War General, who was an avid reader, bought books and read widel on the arts of war, and proved a competent commander (more than a number than some professional British military commanders) though he had never attended military college and actually had a physical limp. That doesn’t mean attending military college would have been bad (it certainly instills discipline), its just that it goes to show that there are other avenues of learning other than college.
In todays world especially, it should not be difficult for someone to educate himself in almost anything if he wanted to.
College certainly isn’t for everyone in my opinion, and only a limited number of people I know have really benefited from their college for their carrers in my opinion. Long story short, you should really study something because you would enjoy it. And certainly college is not the only avenue for a good education
Eliza Mc Namara
I think that people should focus on what they want to achieve and use that as their compass to guide them into real action in the real world where you get paid in direct proportion to your ability to evoke positive emotion in the world-In other words you get paid to create value for others. That is the bottom line. It’s not rocket science it’s really quite simple. If you know how you can create value for others and you are disciplined enough to take action and do what it takes to succeed in the real world of business then you don’t need a degree. But I must add that if you need a degree to operate in your preferred industry then of course you should go out there and get one. My issue is with people who have a choice, who don’t need a degree to do what they want to do, but think that it’s going to make life in the real world of business a breeze! That’s total BS! Many people use university as an excuse to extend their school years they want to party and be in a safe school like environment that doesn’t put them in a position of responsibility. These days you can get the piece of paper without the extra hassle of going into a university just by being self sufficient and going to an open university. That way quick learners dont get annoyed and frustrated. I went to uni for a year and quit when I realized I was learning more from the books I bought through my own research and efforts than I ever could of in university! Now I still learn more applicable knowledge reading one book every week no matter how busy I am. We’re always learning and when you stop learning you stop growing and that which doesn’t grow dies. Now I earn in excess of $200,00 a year in my own seminar business Anthony Robbins style! My objective is to help people to lose the shackles of conformity and peer pressure and find out what they truly want from life so they can be a success in their own eyes. That’s what success is all about, being who you want to be whether that means being a plumber having a farm or competing with microsoft is irrelevant because success is happiness and happiness comes from being yourself.
I’m in no way saying that you can’t make it without a college degree, however I think encouraging people to drop out of college is a very slippery slope. Everyone can’t stay home and be a “web entrepreneur”. I’m not saying that they aren’t successful, what I’m saying is that it’s dangerous. Does no one remember the DOT com bubble popping? Everyone can’t be self employed and the simple fact is a LOT of employers require a college degree.
There are a LOT of passionate people living under bridges. Passion doesn’t pay the any bills. There has to be a backup plan.
Those of you who went to college and complain that you only use a fraction of what you learned; life is a journey. Whether you realize it or not college has helped to shape you into the individual you are now (at least it did for me).
All I’m saying is just like you argue college isn’t for everyone, that same goes for blogging.
Hey, somebody has to go be Doctors and Scientists right?
Having a degree can help.
But I don’t have one and am doing rather well and have worked in technical positions in huge companies like AOL and Microsoft. If you don’t go to a University, you should at least find ways to get some good experience in your chosen fields.
Renato, my advice would be: never do something because friends, family or society in general is pressuring you to.
If you want to have a degree or think it would help your professional life, then go for it.
If you don’t think is necessary, though, don’t listen to the people who tell you otherwise.
You don’t have a university degree, so what? That is a piece of paper, and it does not affect the person you are in any way.
Your values, principles, skills and competencies is what make you, not a piece of paper.
I am very glad that you published this article. I have dropped out of university and make my living online. The problem is that i can not stand the social pressure of people looking at me condescendingly just because i do not have a college degree, so i am thinking seriously to re enroll just to get a diploma and public acknowledgment.
Any advice for me?
Although, I made $3000/month but I’m not quit from my day job because I want to meet new friend. I love to have more friend at work.
Oh ya, great post again Daniel! *thumbs up*
Same here. Wish i’d blogged more seriously in uni rather than after grad… if only i’d figured out what i wanted earlier – to be a web entrepreneur.
I think it all comes down to FIGURING OUT YOUR GOAL EARLY rather than later, and often times, we tend to follow the crowd ie go thru schools –> get into uni –> get a degree –> get a *good job*… and miss out what we really wanted in the first place.
I believe both parents and education should constantly encourage PASSION more than skills/knowledge. Passion will uncover the real talents within thus lead us to our goal and the ultimate joy in life.
Footballers who enjoy their games never *retire*, the same applies to us web entrepreneurs. We just need our RSS breakfasts every morning 😀
The Masked Millionaire
University=Cost To Much Money
The Masked Millionaire
In our society still a university degree is necessary. In the society of esteem which I developed (www.sikantis.org) only the talent counts. There you don’t need to have any degree or title. You are esteemed as person and as user of your talents!
I both agree and disagree. In order for people to take me seriously as a professional, I usually need the piece of paper saying I went to school. On the other hand, although I only graduated about 7 months ago…I only use about 15% of what I learned in school in my daily job functions. I don’t regret my college education. But I wish those that create the curriculuum actually get what is needed in professional careers. Great post!
No one needs a college degree.
Bottom line a LOT of jobs won’t even let you peep in the window without one.
The world can’t be filled with people who don their own startups. I’m not arguing that University teaches you anything. Mine didn’t teach me much I couldn’t have learned in about 6 months with some books.
Point is, college is the new high school.
You had better have a clear understanding of what you want to you and have a lil’ bit of luck if you’re planning on skipping and still doing well.
I went for a business degree, so I think much of what I learned is helping me.
Sure, there have always been people for whom the standard way was not necessary. It should also be noted that a university education shouldn’t be equated with a vocational degree. It would be better to focus on the classical liberal arts and expand your general knowledge base – as you never know what will become handy. Also you have learned how to learn & THINK – if you go to a good enough school…I spent most of my time learning languages in college – which in recent years has become more & more important as the global economy develops – I also studied Oriental Civ – which gave me some insight into Asia, and anthropology – some insight into culture….Perhaps your mistake was your degree choice! The original goal of a university education was to produce a well-educated person, and it still is not a bad one.
I have been in college for about 3 years, yet I have failed to be dedicated. These past few months I have been contemplating my future. I am not sure if I want to continue with college, considering I still have about 4 years left, due to my lack of dedication, or I could stop going to school, and I could start doing something productive for my future. I am leaning towards dropping out and finding some sort of income off the internet. I am very independent, and I don’t see myself ever working for a huge corporation, so I think in my case, it would be reasonable for me to drop out and begin my career path.
The most important thing that I got out of University was that it taught me how to learn. The experience gave me some discipline. That being said, there aren’t very many jobs waiting at the end of the line for a history major, so I split school and became self-employed. I love learning though, and will never stop exercising my brain with good textbooks.
Great post. It inspired me to write this one for parents at the AmericanEnglishDoctor.com:
While I agree with you that the model for sucess has changed (several times) over the last decades, and while I agree that college may not be necessary (I’m still not sure of that completely), I do think you are presenting a false choice with your Wall Street example. Having been on Wall Street and fired, and laid off, and succeeded somewhat there, I don’t think you’ve properly capture the dynamic that goes on there. How much do the two individuals “cost”, who are their “clergy”, what favors are owed them, who are their extra curricular buddies have far more impact than mere qualifications. It’s more like Survivor and getting voted off the island.
As far as hiring on else where, I’d like to believe it’s as you say. But there is a large dolop of luck involved.
It’s a false choice, because I think you can do both. It’s not either X or Y. It’s more a matter of networking, attention and mindfulness.
Who you network with, Attention to others and Midfulness of the unemployment axe!
Thanks for provoking some thought.
Ferdinand J. Reinke
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One more thing that came to my mind –
” I went to school but it did not interfere with my education ” – Mark Twain.
Forget university, even high school is not required. I seriously dont understand why we need to know even about integral calculus. It will be definitely be tough to run a startup. That is absolutely necessary and will also bring the best out of you as you are in a desperate and tough situation. The fact that you cant get a cozy job would help you to focus on the venture you began inspite of the difficulties. That level of pressure and persistence is required to make a startup, successful. Thats why most of the successful enterpruners are dropouts and not-highly educated people. Sometimes out of choice but mostly due to lack of any other choice (option).
I have to agree with you Daniel about how you *can* learn more by not going to University. However, some people make many mistakes and not learn a single thing.
It’s quickly becoming clear that if you have the entrepreneurial spirit and you’re not risk adverse, then not going to Uni to work for yourself is a great idea. However, its not guaranteed that not going to Uni will teach you loads.
I personally wanted a safety net after school to get a good job so I could buy my own place. I did that, and my job covers my mortgage. My online exploits are fun and earn me extra cash, and make life more comfortable for me. I am risk adverse, and the route I took suits me nicely.
But then I ran my own business in addition to doing a master degree. So I fit nicely in between both situations. 🙂
Great topic. I agree with you. Some of us have the mind and opportunities available to us where we don’t need to go to a University. The Web provides us with all the daily education we need to succeed. I still think that a University is good though for many people. Because many people depend on the educational structure that a University gives you.
i think having money is best sure fire way to be successful. what i see many overlook sometimes in the whole debate of university versus no university is the ones who didnt go to college had lots of money to fund their startup companies not in all case but in many of cases. i think in todays deflated dollar society its ten fold more harder to start a business with a few hundread bucks outside of the net. so if you have money i can see why university may not be way to go. many of silicon valley tech gods never went to university but they sure had mommy and daddy fat check book funding them. so imho i think the debate shouldnt be whether you need to go to a university but if it takes money to be successful or not
A degree is a great safety net, and a confidence boost. We all know that the majority of startups flop.
So if you skipped out on uni, and spent your savings on a startup on that flops, you’re in a really bad position. Your confidence will be totally shattered (Was skipping uni a really bad decision??) and without a degree, you aren’t going to get many well paid jobs that will help you towards your next startup.
But if you have a degree behind you, your confidence will be fine (You managed the long haul of a degree, and all the new experiences you had in uni. Who doesn’t think that college grads are cocky as heck? xD ), and if it fails, you have a degree that will get you into a decent job for as long as you need it. 🙂
Going to uni can really help you grow as a person. The number of opportunities/clubs/people you will encounter will all give you the types of skills that can’t be learned.
And lastly, you have a tonne of free time during uni (Depending on your course xD ), so who says you can’t run your startup while you’re at uni? 😛
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