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Yes, there are alternatives. No, they won’t teach you how to shotgun a beer.

IF I HAD BEEN TOLD 10 years ago, before embarking on my university career as an English major, that I’d end up working 11-hour days struggling to make ends meet as a freelance writer…well, actually, I would have stubbornly applied anyway.

I value my educational background. I became more open to new things, and was given my first real taste of travel through a study abroad program at my school.

I also learned how to shotgun beer, experiment with hallucinogens, and somehow maintain a pretty good GPA despite partying three nights a week and rolling into class at 8am each morning.

But never once did I question my decision to immediately enroll in university right after high school. My friends and I talked about this recently. Alternative routes were never discussed with us before we left home. University was a given.

1. Some things you can learn on your own.

You can’t become a doctor by studying WebMD, but some careers require your own exploration. I started out as a writer by stapling pieces of paper together and creating squiggly lines that resembled words.

I was a creative kid, not a prodigy.

Lucky for us, we live in a time when any information we desire is at our fingertips.

My buddy, Dan Nahabedian, is someone who spent several years devoted to learning the tools of his trade as a photographer. In addition to a few good books (like The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby), Dan used online resources and forums to post his work and receive feedback. Now he’s a working professional, and one of the faculty members behind MatadorU’s photography program.

2. You might not be “book smart.”

Maybe you’ve heard of Howard Gardner’s theory of “multiple Intelligences,” an idea based on extensive cognitive research that proves students learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways. There’s even an “interpersonal intelligence,” the ability to effectively understand and interact with others.

Photo by Simon Shek

“Book smart” nowadays seems to be a term used to describe people who excel at their studies but fail to function as a normal person. Sometimes they miss social cues and forget to change their underwear. Unfortunately, much of college is catered to these people.

When we spend so much time studying and absorbed in text books, we may limit ourselves to other possibilities. Hey, maybe I could have been a ballerina.

3. You’re not financially prepared.

I’m more than a little pissed off about my debt.

In the USA, student loan debt is expected to exceed $1 trillion soon. In Canada, the information is a little more obscure, but is estimated at something like over $14 billion.

If there’s one thing lacking in our education system, it’s a prep course on how to handle money and a reality check for what happens once you graduate.

I spent my student loans without a thought. Hoorah, free money! Now the majority of my pay cheques go toward paying off that money I threw around.

In the USA, student loan debt is expected to exceed $1 trillion soon.

I would have worked my way through my undergrad, even if it meant taking a few extra years to finish my degree. Instead, I’ve been out of school for nearly four years, and I’m still below the “poverty” line. And my university had the cheapest tuition in Canada.

4. You haven’t had the opportunity to travel yet.

While the gap year has been basically a rite of passage for some students around the globe, especially in the UK and Australia, it’s only recently becoming more accepted here in North America.

Most parents look at it as an excuse to be careless, ditch responsibilities, and partake in a round-the-world jaunt just to party, make new friends, and to engage in unprotected coitus.

And to that I say hell fucking yeah.

Travel experience provides valuable life skills that employers consider extremely attractive on a resume these days. Attributes like confidence, awareness of the world, and people skills could be your gateway to greater things.

5. Experience can be just as valuable as a degree.

My father was a born woodsman — a lumberjack who built his own house and could survive a week in the wild with just a pocketknife and a shotgun. His skills and experience have made him more self-sufficient than most, and his ability to turn lumber into gold has made him employable for over 40 years.

Nowadays you can’t be taken seriously unless you have a Doctorate of Philosophy in Ufology.

What happened to recognizing practical skills and talent when you see it? My friend Liz from Toronto works in PR/advertising/marketing, and she’s never had any formal education. Back in her early 20s, while working as an intern at Heinz Canada, Liz became very close with the marketing department and was snatched up due to her talents.

She’s one of the most successful people I know, and she spent most of her life struggling through school.

6. Go to vocational, technical, or trade school.

When I was in high school, only the “dumb” kids went to trade school. “Smart” kids were encouraged to attend university. The dumb kids are now making six-figure incomes.

Hands-on work is in huge demand in the workforce. Trades usually takes much less time to complete, and you’ll usually pay much less.

7. Be an entrepreneur.

During my brief time working at a marketing company, I interviewed a young local guy named Scott Oldford, an entrepreneur since he was 13 years old. Now he owns a business specializing in online marketing, web development, and mobile and online applications. In less than a decade, he’s expanded his company to five other locations in Canada.

Plus he was diagnosed with multiple learning disorders when he was seven years old. He’s just a really, really hard worker.

Now I’m working for him, writing web copy. Go figure.

8. Start off as a volunteer.

If there’s a cause you truly care about in the world –- wildlife conservation, hunger relief, world domination –- you’d do well to start out volunteering. With some hard work, you’ll be able to prove yourself and move your way up through the ranks. At the very least, you’ll get some stellar recommendations.

9. Become an expert in something.

Jay Canter, a professional photographer whose career has taken him all over the world and even on music tours, became internationally known for his work in the motor sports world. “When I wasn’t driving a car, I was photographing them,” he says. At the age of 16, he was offered his first real gig for a magazine.

By finding his niche, Jay became an authority, and then expanded his career into other fields of photography.

Just the same, I’m not sure what you can do with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Ufology.



About The Author

Candice Walsh

Candice Walsh is a Professional Experience Collector and full-time writer, blogger, and inventor of job titles that don't make much sense. She's based out of St. John's, Newfoundland. Follow her website for more shenanigans.

  • Zak

    I’m so glad to see #6 included on this list…too many of my friends don’t even know how to drive a nail, use a table saw, or know what teflon tape is for…

    Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame) launched an initiative a while back towards addressing the decline of the trades, hoping to re-ignite trade schools as a viable alternative to college. And I have to say, at least up here in Alaska, things are starting to look up :) 

    • Candice Walsh

      Honestly, I wish I could go back and do a trade and then take up professional writing as a thing on the side (or as a lifelong learning diploma, etc.). So many interesting trades out there. 

      • Zak

        It’s never too late :)

    • Kevin Post

      The reason trade schools aren’t talked about in high school is due to the fact that high schools across the country want to be able to show that X% of their students go on to obtain college degrees and receive more funding from state and federal governments. To them, trade school isn’t as prestigious.

  • Turner

    Avoiding debt is probably the best argument out there, but I don’t think anyone can make the “experience instead of education” point anymore. As you said, most employers only care about those two or three letters on your resume: BS, BA, MA, MBA, MS, PhD. Limiting it to “high school diploma” (or even just a BA) closes so many more doors than I would have thought possible.

    • Candice Walsh

      In MANY cases, yes. But not all. I get paid to train small businesses how to use social media, for example, and I’ve never had any formal “training” in that area. 

    • Kevin Post

      Exactly! Although this is a very well written and inspiring article I find it so easy for university graduates to write essays like this. I am 26 years old and don’t have a university degree and things have been anything but easy. I am struggling to find work that pays well and worst of all can’t afford to travel. In my early twenties all I wanted to do was rock-climb, summit mountain peaks and learn languages. I worked shitty jobs to be able to achieve these goals and even borrowed money that I eventually paid back to achieve them. I speak Spanish at a C2 level, speak Turkish at an A1 level (a lot of room for improvement) and am good sport climber. I can honestly say that no employer gives a shit about these skills that I have. If anything from the gaps in my résumé they assume that I am just going to take off as soon as I get the chance (in some cases that’s not far from the truth). 

      Sure, some of the people listed above achieved success without degrees but they are a very small minority. If I could turn back time I would have used my money to have obtained a degree in foreign languages or at least become a rock-climbing instructor. With a degree it would have facilitated my chances of obtaining work abroad while I studied languages and rock-climbed.

  • RudeAudio

    this all rings so true to my heart. I am at my third post secondary school in a pile of debt.  I never failed out but I dropped out of one, failed one course in my next college program which rendered me ineligible for the rest and for my internship, and now i am at my third. I am a pretty intelligent individual, everyone tells me I am, I have a passion  for world issues, and music etc but I feel like university doesn’t cater to my strenghths or my skills. I need something to inspire me to get to class or else I don’t go. I am broke as hell because I am not allowed to make a lot of money under OSAP –which does not provide enough money for rent/groceries/bills/life.  I wish I had taken a year off after high school and really focused on what i was passionate about. Now i am 24 in my first year at uni but really my 5th year of post secondary… and still am worried of what i will do in the future.

  • RudeAudio

    I just wish I was done and travelling and exploring the world now!

  • Mutant

    “Experience can be just as valuable as a degree.”
    Only with extraordinary luck, since–on balance–businesses are still more likely to require a degree than not. Can you really suggest someone take the gamble?

    • Carlo Alcos

      Why is not going to college a gamble? Why is going to college *not* a gamble? Going to college is as much a gamble as not going. You take the gamble that you will be able to find a job to pay back your loans (if you needed them), you take the gamble that you will still like what you took by the end of your education, you take the gamble that you will enjoy your career that you will most likely feel pressured to stay in regardless of how you feel after years (or months/weeks) of doing it, but because of the time and money invested in the education you will not leave it to pursue something else that you actually enjoy doing. 

    • Patrick Hearn

      It is indeed a gamble; you can waste years on something to discover you don’t want to do it for the rest of your life. Of course, that doesn’t have to be wasted time, if you find yourself in the process.

      I spent two years as a Comp Sci major before realizing – hey, I want to travel, not sit behind a desk all of my life. So I switched to my true passion of writing, and I freelance to earn money now. It wasn’t wasted time, but something I wish I had known before I threw two years into studying Java.

  • Blogger Dan

    A college education, which I have, is extremely overrated.  Unless a high school senior has a good, solid career plan, financial backing and a strong drive, I would say stay away from college and find another way.  And if you don’t have the money to pay for it, don’t go to college taking out loan after loan.  If you do, you’ll be enslaved to Sallie Mae for life!

  • Markwiz

    I finally got my BS at the age of 48. 25 years earlier.  I started as technician at a computer company. They later re-trained me as a programmer. This was fine until the dot-com bust. Everybody was getting laid off. The only reason I survived was I had some really valuable skills. I knew if I did get laid off, I would be competing with people with masters, let alone BS’s. I got my BS and then got an MBA. If I had gotten my BS earlier, I would probably be making 20k more a year. 

  • EzequielBruni

    To all of those here saying that the lack of a degree makes for missed opportunities, ask yourselves: which opportunities? Today’s culture is constantly pushing for people to get desk jobs, and regards other forms of employment as lower class.

    I say this is bull. Additionally, the best kinds of desk jobs are the ones where your employer is more impressed by what you can demonstrably do, and not those little letters on your resume.

    Two friends of mine are English teachers, getting paid quite well, and neither have degrees. One is a Japanese 20 year old in Mexico, and the other is an Italian, working in a state-run school in Italy. From what I hear, Italian state-run schools have the highest standards in the country.

    I myself am a self-employed web designer. I got a couple of jobs working for local companies based solely on my portfolio. Now, I freelance, and make even more money doing it. No, I’m not making six figures, yet. I am paying my bills, I’m not in debt, and I can afford the occasional fancy toy.  And my business is getting better.

    The question here is, “Does everyone *need* a degree?” I say that the answer depends on what you want to do, and where you want to do it. If you don’t want to get stuck at a desk all day, learn a craft of some kind that allows you to do what you love. Craftsmen who work with their hands are in high demand these days, in more developed countries (here in Mexico… they don’t get paid very well).

    And if you love your desk, then ask yourself whether or not a company that values certification over actual practical experience is really worth your time.

    Of course, there will always be jobs that simply require specialized training. If that’s what you need, then by all means, find a way to get it. When I need rocket surgery done in my spleen, I don’t want no self-taught amateur doing it.

  • Rho Drummond

    When 68% of the jobs out there require college degrees for positions that did not require them ten years ago, things are looking pretty bleak, at least in the U.S.

  • The Truth

    English majors who are out of touch with the real world – “Hooray, free money”??!!! – should not be allowed to right such articles. 

    • And they say the Truth Hurts

      Well, the word is “write” but I agree with you.  This person clearly doesn’t get it – yes if you become a “freelance writer” you will struggle with money and be in debt.  That said, I got my undergrad degree in Economics and Mechanical engineering, then got a masters in finance, and through applying in the corporate world myself now make a great living as a consultant (4 years out of school, started @ 55k now up to $100k).  Get a BS English degree, get a BS job.  Granted its probably much more fun to spend 12 hours a day writing these puff piece articles than actually making business decisions…

      • Candice Walsh

        It’d be a sad world if we took away the arts, especially if we let engineers “right” all our articles. 

        Congrats all on your success, you sound like a person I’d love to hang out with! 

      • EHA

        “The Truth” is that you wouldn’t be quite as happy if you didn’t have a little journalism, art, and debate to cheer you up after a long day at the  grind that you’ve chosen to commit your life to. Your profession is admirable. Someone has to do it. But all of the artsy people out there are around for a reason. You consult stuffy people in three piece suits all day, and we create culture, we write self reflective articles that you choose to spend your limited free time commenting on anonymously. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss someone else’s contributions to this world, especially when it’s interesting enough to warrant your attention.

  • Gray

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say people shouldn’t or don’t need to go to college. Statistics will bear out that those with an undergraduate degree earn about $1 million more over their lifetime than those without one. Of course, if you don’t care how much money you make, feel free to do what you want. I can honestly say, from the position of someone who has been on the hiring end of things, I wouldn’t even look at a resume of someone who doesn’t have a college degree for a white collar job. Sorry, but that’s reality. The education system definitely has problems, the biggest one being cost, but it’s still very important to get that education. I do think most people would benefit from taking a couple of years off between high school and college, though. Most 18 year olds don’t know what they want to do with their lives. Forcing them to choose a career path at that age is crazy and results in a lot of them winding up unhappy in their career paths. Let them get some real life experience–working, traveling, volunteering–before they go to college, and they’ll have a better idea of what they want to do with their lives. People who know what they want get more out of the college experience than those who are only there because mom and dad are paying for it. Now, having said all that…I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going to trade school if that’s where your passion lies. God knows plumbers and electricians make more money than a lot of us.

    • Candice Walsh

      But I’m not saying DON’T go to college, not at all. Just question it. Do you want it? If you don’t want it, why are you doing it? 

      • Gray

         Okay, well, the title of your article threw me, Candice. It does imply that you’re suggesting college is not necessary. I will agree with you that people need to ask themselves some serious questions before just jumping into college blindly–Do you want it, are you cut out for it, are you ready for it, should you take some time off before going to college to figure out what you want to do with your life? Knowing that you’ll graduate with debt, do you need to go to the most expensive school or would a less expensive state college suffice? Would you be better off going to trade school? All good questions.

  • Engineers Rule

    Your being under the poverty line 10 years after graduation is not because of tuition cost.. it’s because of your major!

  • Carlo Alcos

    From comments I’ve read here and on Digg, this seems to be a polarizing issue…the article is set up on one side of the debate, but I think more importantly what it does is provide a different perspective than what is popular thought in our society. I don’t think Candice is trying to tell anyone to not go to college, she’s just saying: think about it, and here are some reasons to think about.

    Going or not going to college is a personal choice that is unique to every individual. The most important thing is that there is healthy questioning before the decision is made. There is a feeling that going to college after highschool is a given…there’s pressure from parents/family, from society, that to be “successful” this is what one does…I don’t know how many young people I’ve met during my travels that have degrees/masters, who are in a shit-load of debt, and who don’t even like what they took in school and, in many cases, can’t get a job. There will always be examples of people who have “education” and have high-paying jobs, but there will always be examples of “educated” people who can’t get a job, and people with little or no “education” who have high-paying jobs…what about your “average” person who, “educated” or not, makes enough to support a lifestyle he/she wants to live, and is content?

    The paradigm of graduating highschool, getting a degree, and having a lifelong career in that field is dying. For one, job security, as it used to be, doesn’t exist anymore (this is thanks in large part to the death of labour unions…but that’s another topic altogether). But more than anything, I think these days people are becoming more aware of passion and are questioning happiness in their lives. The notion of the nuclear family, while still strong, isn’t the given anymore that it used to be. A shift is occurring, yet we hold tight to the way things used to be, and have a hard time imagining it being any other way. 

    This isn’t a black and white issue. Nothing is. Think critically about everything you do.

    • Candice Walsh

      Precisely. I don’t regret my education, but I wish I had gone about things differently, or had even been encouraged to question how to go about things differently. 

  • Missbiancab

    College was a very valuable part of my growing up. I understand that the costs of school are daunting and you study something that you may not even care about 4 years after you get that piece of paper, but the safety in becoming an adult in a structured environment taught me so much.  It was/is a rite of passage for so many and its worth it just for that reason alone. 

  • Simpletips

    The unfortunate fact is that school (high school and college) is really not designed for certain people who are very talented, and often it’s not cost effective to go to college.  Part of this is simple math.  If you have two people who get out of high school, where one goes to college and the other doesn’t, what you find is that if the one that doesn’t (this is a big ‘if’) starts working and saving money right away, even if they make substantially less than the person going to college makes, due to compounding interest they could have more money saved than the person that goes to school.  This isn’t always the case, but take this (very simplistic) example.  Let’s say that I get out of high school at age 18 and go straight to work.  I keep my expenses in check and save $300/month (so $3600/yr) which grows at 5% per year for 33 years (when I want to retire).  At the end I’ll have about $302k.  If I go to college and make a 25% higher salary I can save $400/month ($4800/yr).  Now, I’ll point out that if I’ve got student loans I won’t be able to save as much money to begin with, probably not even what my counterpart is saving, but for the sake of this example let’s say my parents paid for it.  I keep my expenses in check and save $400/month at 5% per year for 29 years.  I’m going to have $314k.  It’s a little more, and there is a lot that (again) isn’t taken into consideration.  If you have to pay for college yourself, at all, it wouldn’t be.  There are companies that (I’ve found) initially won’t consider you if you don’t have a degree, but at least in my field (software development), they’ve been few and far between.  My experience almost always puts me on their radar.  College was not that interesting to me, mostly because I wanted to work more than anything else (which gave me the ability to save money really early), but because most of the people I went to college (for the year I went) with weren’t all that bright.  They did the footwork, listened and took notes, but at the end of the day they couldn’t really think critically and were not prepared for the real world.  Most of the folks I went to school with a struggling in this economy (other than the ones who went on to become Doctors, they’ve done very well) and have crushing student debts.  I could have saved more money than most of them if I had only saved half of what I did in the past 15 years.  I think finishing college makes a lot of sense if your end game is to become a Doctor or get your Ph.D. and teach, or if you want to be a teacher in general.  Also, if you want to go into certain trades (like be an attorney or CPA) it’s pretty necessary.  What I think mostly determines success is interpersonal skills, the ability to think creatively and common sense.  I would also suggest that the ability to live within your means (something they don’t teach at college) will predict who will save money and who won’t.  An actual salary is only a small part of the equation.

  • Whalley

    Thanks for putting this message out, I couldn’t agree more. My story is very similar… I was a creative hard-working kid and when it came time to graduate from high school I really wanted to go to ITT tech for drafting.  My parents didn’t want their kid being “blue collar” so they said go to 4 year college or else you’re on your own. I wasn’t ready for that so I went to a private liberal arts university, struggling for 4 years and racking up $25,000 in debt before dropping out.  After leaving, I went on a walkabout for a couple years and finally settled down in the biotech industry.  My first job was entry level and it was managing inventory in a manufacturing plant.  Growing up I had maintained the inventory at my family’s small bookstore so I was able to use that experience to convince the hiring manager.  That was 14 years ago and since then I’ve developed my skills and grown into a management position in computer compliance.  For the last 8 years I’ve made over $100,000 a year and I just finally paid off my student loan debt.  Overall, I’m very grateful to have had the college experience but I haven’t found the absence of a degree to be a major problem.  The biggest issue for me has been self-esteem.  There’s a lot of messaging in our society that drop-outs are bad.  Additionally, I didn’t have a strong sense of self in the first place or else I would’ve made a different choice after high school.  I think the key is to find yourself and believe in yourself, and to find supportive friends and family to help you do whatever it is you want to do.  If you are adaptable and hardworking, you can make something from nothing. 

  • GRCgirl

    I paid cash for two years and then supported my son’s decision to be an entrepreneur.  You are so right about life in debt.  We spent nearly 100K cash and not one penny was noted in a tax break. The system is broken. 

  • Dennis of

    Great points.. I’m all for #7.. The thing that confuses people is they think that college is the answer. No college is a path you take. The answer is hard work and determination. 

    It just so happens in these days, college is not looking like the best path and that same path is riddled with corporations selling text books for profit and money hungry executives. 

    I would never tell anyone not to go to college but I would never tell anyone to go either. I’m actually glad I didn’t go to college. The years I spent in the world grinding taught me a lot about how huge corporations don’t give 2 pennies about you. Degree or no degree..

    As long as you’re working for someone, you are just helping them fulfill their american dream; and I’m all for fulfilling dreams but at some point you have to fulfill your own. 

    Plus mines only cost me a few years of my life. Many people I know went to college and we all lost the same amount of years but they paid 40k for those years…

    Want to know more about the college scam, go to youtube and watch a video called “The College Scam”.. It’s real good and explains in great detail the text book hustle that colleges are running.

    I wish everyone the overall best and your life…
      Owner of

  • Dr. Phil

    Most people lack the interpersonal skills, writing ability, and organizational ability to succeed without attending college.  The degree might not give them success, but the discipline of attending classes daily will enhance the skills they need to later succeed.  

    Some people will succeed without attending college.  Most will not.  

    Some people are suckered into piles of debt for an experience they could have received much less expensively in a junior college with a part time job.  They need a little perspective.  A wholesale rejection of the usefulness of the college experience is an excessive reaction to that situation.  

  • Rvmazzola

    I think you are giving people terrible advice. Let people expand their intellectual horizons, its woth the high price even if it doesn’t immedietely pay off.

    • EHA

      I guess it’s all in your perspective, and I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re still in college, yet to be slapped in the face by the real world. I have friends who went to private 4-year colleges and went on to pay tuition at another private school for their master’s degree for the SOLE purpose of avoiding their undergrad debt. Are two liberal arts degrees really worth upwards of $200,000?

  • Bogdan_can

    this is such an unnecessary article…for the 90% of the jobs in the market you will need a college degree…people blame college because it doesn’t teach them anything and this is because they want to be spoon fed….college is what you make of it; you have to work hard and be conscientious just like in any other aspect of life…. otherwise obviously it will feel useless. You get a great education out of college, not to mention a great network of industrial contacts as well as academic ones. Just because some people that dropped out became rich doesn’t mean anything…I think being a ‘free spirit’ and doing what you love is overrated because often people don’t have the slightest clue about how things work in the real world so they drop out and pursue something and they quickly realize they’re overwhelmed.

    You think that travelling, or becoming an expert in something or being an entrepreneur won’t leave you in debt? Where will you get the money to travel? This is such a useless suggestion…you can only travel if you have money. Pretty much anything you do will leave you in debt at the beginning, unless you live with your parents and they pay for all your bills. If you’re gonna be in debt, you might as well get something pragmatic out of it.

    • Jill

      This comment is in response to

      What a horribly narrow-minded reponse to an open and limitless discussion about alternative lifestyle choices. Certainly everything you do in life will cause you to acrue some sort of “debt,” whether it be financial or otherwise. Isn’t anything we do out of love or kindness because we believe it will make us a better person, giving us brownie points or karma points or any other sort of spiritual retribution you personally believe in? Perhaps we can consider such things “paying a debt,” but most prefer to consider doing nice things for others (in turn for personal satisfaction and growth) not a chore but a delightful part of everyday life.

      Why consider doing what you love (whether it be taking a pragmatic approach to life or being a “free spirit”) overrated? Does anyone really know how the “real world” works? Define real world in terms of pragmatism and you, sir, may have won this round. But I dare say words might escape you when you try to narrowly box up something as funny and superfluous as life in a nice, tighly contained little box. Life then loses its magic and mystery: Chasing happiness becomes a laborious chore of what we’re told to do rather than a true persuit of our own perceived path to happiness.

      You can always make more money. I have heaps of money sitting in the bank, saved from when I was an infant, waiting there. For what? For Mr. Right to sweep into my life, to change my mind about how to spend my small fortune? Just in case I might want to buy a house? Sure, it’s good to have money saved, but at the same time, I can always make more. If you believe in living a life true to yourself, at the same time believing that in life, you will find yourself where you need to be when you need to be there, it’s such a silly arrangement to throw away fun experiences like travel for cumbersome worries like “debt.” I prefer not to live as a slave to something as fickle as money.

      Perhaps you should reevaluate how you let “debt” inhibit your life. Choose your life. Don’t let it choose you.

      I don’t entirely disagree with you. Yes, you should spend money on pragmatic things. It’s a necessity and a part of life. Part of being a well-rounded adult essentially comes down to whether or not you’re able to take care of yourself. To me, having your own house with a mortgage and a nice new car doesn’t equate success. I know I’m successful that I can wake everyday, find a way to feed myself, take care of my bills, interact and be amongst those I love, and share a nice meal with friends. Hardly is there a night, after a great day with good company and after doing some amazing adventurous things, when I’m drifting off to sleep, that I’m missing my desk’s carress. The money will come. It always does. Trust in thyself and let the good things happen once in a while.

  • Tiffany Hawk

    I agree that not everyone needs to go to college, but writers definitely should. To write about the world, you should have a broad background on how we got here, how things work, how to research, how to think critically.

  • Arina Kharlamova

    I totally agree with this article, and with Candice. University isn’t everything. Even for a writer. Many writers over the centuries didn’t step foot in post-secondary and still managed to churn out beautiful articles/books/poetry. High price tags do NOT equal lots of knowledge acquired. Of course, you can make the best of your experience, but college is not the high-and-mighty, or even the high-and-necessary thing it once was. People don’t have to pay hundreds of thousands to get a “broad education”. 

  • Kirstin

    I would love to see a follow-up, “9 reasons not to go to grad school”

  • Guest

    This article is so poorly written, it’s pathetic.  The introduction does nothing to set up the list and many of the items on the list are completely applicable to college.  If you’re struggling to make ends meet as a free-lance writer, it’s because you’re not every good.

    • Carlo Alcos

      Not sure why I’m feeding the trolls, but here goes…

      1. In what way does the intro not set up the list?
      2. What does “many of the items on the list are completely applicable to college” mean?
      3. You don’t know very many freelance writers do you? There are a shit ton of outstanding freelance writers who struggle to make ends meet, who take on other work to do that. Sometimes it isn’t even about writing skill…there are people who make good money “freelance writing” but who are not very good writers. They just understand the business side of things and are social media savvy.

      Crap. Just wasted 5 minutes of my day.

      • Guest

         I wasn’t trying to troll.  A friend posted this on FB and I was actually interested in what it was about. 

        1.  Her introduction is all about HER EXPERIENCE IN COLLEGE.  From what she writes in the intro, it basically sounds like her place in the world right now is directly related to her use of hallucinogens and being hungover every day at 8am.  She should’ve framed it as why college almost failed her, not why she almost failed college.  See the difference?
        2. My statement means that much of what she is suggesting can be done while going to college and nothing about college should inherently prevent someone from doing these things.  Examples: 
        -you can learn a ton of stuff, on your own, from other people, while you are at college, outside of class.  you don’t have to skip college to use the Internet…
        -you don’t have to be “book smart” to go to college and succeed.  to believe that college is all about “excelling in studies” or whatever that means, is just ignorant
        -financial issues.  Here is probably her most valid point.  Sure, that’s a reason not to go to college, but unless you want to get into a debate about cost/benefits of higher education, then it doesn’t belong on the list
        -travel?  are you kidding me?  If you live in NYC, then travel to California and go to college there.  SHE ADMITS that she traveled abroad for the first time in college! but then she is telling us not to go to college so you can travel? and I guess, use those funds that you didn’t have to pay for tuition
        -practical skills and talent can be cultivated while at college…
        -vocational/tech/trade schools, sure, this is a good point, if you’re interested in those things then you don’t need to go to college per se
        -you can start your own business before/during/after college.  Remember that Zuckerberg went to an Ivy League and started Facebook there.  I’d say he qualifies as an entrepreneur.
        -volunteering, you can do this at college and after college, heck, if you’re smart you’ll start during HS
        -no one really becomes an expert on something in college, that’s what grad school is for.  you can read all the books you want while you’re in college if you wish though, no one’s stopping you
        3. I don’t understand many free-lance writers.  The writers I know publish in academic journals, but we don’t get paid for publication, we simply have to do it or we lose our jobs, so I guess it’s similar.  But I will concede that free-lance writing success may have nothing to do with writing ability.    However, I still stand by my earlier statements.

        • Carlo Alcos

          Based on your original comment, I hope you can see why I would think you were trolling (using Guest as name doesn’t help either). But thanks for expanding on your thoughts, that kind of feedback is much more constructive than “This article is so poorly written, it’s pathetic.” Cheers.

  • Jessica

    This kind of sounds like it should be titles “9 reasons to wait to go to college”. Most people get a degree at some point but definitely good to try some of these things before. 

    • Carlo Alcos

      I prefer “9 things to think about while deciding to go to college (although it’s perfectly acceptable if you don’t)”

  • Alouise

    I really enjoyed this article and I think some valid points are brought up. College isn’t for everyone. And it’s a big decision to make, and definitely not something a person should just rush into. I didn’t go to college right after High School because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. If I had been forced to go to college I probably would’ve taken a general studies program, or worse something I had no interest in. I would have wasted money on something I didn’t want and I would’ve regretted my decision. Instead I worked for several years, and while I regret staying at a job I didn’t like for five years I don’t regret waiting until I was 26 to go to University.

    Several years ago I wanted to go into music therapy. I love music, and I love the fact that music can help a variety of people. It seemed like a perfect career. So I went back to piano (I took lessons as a kid), and looked to apply at different music schools. And while I waited I took some psychology courses that I would need for prerequisites. I remember being at the audition for a University music program and all I could think was how I hate to play piano in front of people, how I hate performing. And you can’t really be a music therapist and hate performing, it’s sort of required. Needless to say I didn’t make it into the program, and I think it was for the best. As good as this career sounded on paper for me, in reality it wouldn’t have worked.

    I went into a professional writing program after taking the MatadorU travel writing course back in 2009. I realized that I wanted to be a writer. Writing was something I always enjoyed, but a writing career didn’t seem like a possibility. And as much as I could just try to be a travel writer I also wanted to learn about other types of writing and communication. So I’m glad I’ve gone to University, because I’ve discovered other types of writing I enjoy, like technical writing. I was also careful to pick a school I could afford. I estimate that I’ll probably have about ten thousand dollars to pay in loans after I’m done school, which is a lot less than what many people have. I also picked a program that had an internship (in the last year). This will give me work experience, and hopefully I can find a paid internship. I won’t graduate until I’m 30, but I’m glad when I do graduate it’ll be from a program I’ve enjoyed, and I’ll be able to have the skills to get into a career I want to have.

  • locationlessliving

    One big issue is that most people would not have the initiative to get the experience if they were not thrust into college. We imagine people are more smart than they are.

  • AE

    I really like the alternatives that you provide for college.  I agree that traveling or volunteering can be more rewarding than going to college.

    I’m also working on my own list on my blog, 100 Reasons NOT to Go to College:

    I hope to highlight some of the pitfalls of college life and offer some good alternatives to college.

  • Drphilgood George

    well sure, but the major thing that is being overlooked is that nowadays, getting a college degree is absolutely mandatory in the professional world. The fact is, getting a job is a lot harder for people that do not have a college degree.

  • Roscoe Rudolf

    meh, the “professional” world is overrated. it won’t make it far into the future before we have to change the way we run our economies anyways (it is happening now, but the status quo is stubborn). better off to have life skills in the simple but essential things…growing food, finding abundance in simplicity, building mutually nurturing relationships.

    • Carlo Alcos

      One of the problems is that to live the “American dream” which is what most people still seem to want (buying a house, building a massive pension, having a family, etc) it costs a lot of money…but if minds were opened up to different kinds of lifestyles, more meagre and simple ones, like you said growing more of your own food, living more communal, sharing, we actually need a lot less income than we think. the way we’re set up right now is that we all have to be so independent, that we have to do everything on our own…and we build walls and isolate ourselves from everyone else.

      We work so bloody hard and long for this notion of future security…but in reality there is no such thing as security. It could all come crashing down (and really, would anyone be surprised if it did?)…what will be more important if/when a really big collapse happens is life skills…and having community to help each other through it, being more spiritually open and ready and willing to accept change.

  • Daniel Chikwelu

    nice, keep it up.

  • Ron Reed

    I agree wholeheartedly Like it says from the book Successful Intelligence “Dropping out of school and low grades do not guarantee failure the same way good grades and college degrees guarantee success”.

  • James Westave

    9 excellent reasons not to go college especially in the current economic climate. Entrepreneurism should flourish in these times. I have started a blog which one day I hope will allow me to travel the world and get paid, heres to dreaming :)


    I agree in everything. Sadly, nowadays in Spain we think like this ”When I was in high school, only the “dumb” kids went to trade school. “Smart” kids were encouraged to attend university. The dumb kids are now making six-figure incomes.”. It’s sad but it’s true. I don’t know in America but in Spain and Europe it’s difficult to find a job, they don’t mind that you have spent a lot in your graduate and postgraduate program so… you can save it.

  • Connie Mack

    Interesting tips, This will certainly help many people acquiring information for there needs.Business loans for bad credit.

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