I Didn’t Attend College, I Am Not A Failure

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“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

Increasingly over the past few decades, Americans have come to regard college degrees as necessities for a job opportunity. So much so, that if you tell friends and family members that you will not be attending college, most people tend to look at you as if you have done something wrong. While higher education is a great opportunity, it is not the end goal. The end goal is a lifelong career. And you don’t need a diploma for that.

college isn't necessary to learn with a computer and a cup of tea
Image from Death to Stock

The Facts of the Matter

Americans’ collective student debt surpassed $1 trillion this year. There are 155,000 janitors with bachelor degrees right now. And the Bureau of Labor and Statistics points out that 75% of jobs created over the next decade won’t take a diploma.

And yet, most Millennials grew up being told that they needed to do well in school, get perfect test scores, and have a handful of extracurriculars all so they can get into college. As a society, we need to understand that the value of a college degree is based heavily on social construct. The end cost of a degree may not pay off in the long run, depending on your chosen field.

We Got Some of our Best Inventions from College Dropouts and Non-Degree Students

When you see the college dropouts on this list, you may be surprised. Some of the brightest minds in America are on here. What makes their drop out different from anyone else’s? They dropped out because they knew they had the skills to do what they wanted. If you have the knowledge to do your job, what is the point in continuing to pay for your schooling? That is time and money that can be used to start your career. The non-degree students on here worked on their skills in the real world. This is where free online learning and practical experience can really pay out. Consider the skills you have gotten from working. Can you use those to start something else?

  • founder of mary kay didn't go to college
    Image from Mary Kay

    Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress.org, dropped out of the University of Houston in 2004.

  • Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, dropped out of Harvard University in 2004
  • Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both college dropouts as well.
  • Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Inc., started her multimillion dollar cosmetics business without a college degree.
  • John Paul DeJoria was once told by his teacher that he “would never succeed at anything.” Today, the founder of Paul Mitchell products and the popular Patrón drink, is worth $4 billion. He too did not attend college.
  • Rachel Ray, popular chef and television host, hasn’t had any formal culinary training, including college.

What We Need to Do

We need to end the stereotype that people who don’t have college degrees have somehow failed in life. Mike Rowe, star and host of the show Dirty Jobs says that the biggest issue surrounding this stereotype is the representation of non-degree jobs in the media: “When’s the last time you saw a plumber or a guy who knows how to fix a refrigerator really portrayed on TV without a work belt or a yard of butt crack showing?”

Rowe is an avid advocate for non-degree jobs, both on-screen and off. He uses his show to work with people who have unconventional jobs and to highlight the extreme amount of skill and hard work that goes into them. Rowe also began a foundation to support trade themed jobs at Profoundly Disconnected.

Combat the stereotype of college and success. Tell your friends and family that you are successful without a college degree. Then tell younger students that you are successful without a college degree. Show our society that there are other options besides college, and choosing them doesn’t make you a failure.

The End Goal – Jobs

With tuition cost increasing every year, people need to reevaluate their decisions. Are you going to school because you truly want to get a degree in a specific field or are you going because you believe you have to? If all you want is to learn about one specific subject, consider free online learning or libraries before you commit to school first.

To Miss Millennia readers who didn’t go to college: don’t let anyone tell you that you have failed in some way. There are huge issues plaguing the higher education sector system, including loans, unemployment, and underemployment. You will most likely find yourself happy and free of those issues. Employers often care more about your work history and performance than they do strictly about your degree, and if you can go into an interview with the skills needed for the job (technical and professional, like confidence and ability to present well) without paying thousands of dollars in loans, then you’re really the winner, aren’t you?

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Mike Rowe – You Don’t Have to go to College

Do You Really Have to go to College?

College Degrees Aren’t Becoming More Valuable

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