I’m not anti-college. College is the right path for certain individuals and for certain specific career choices, yes. But…. college is not the be-all, end-all; and college is not the path for everyone; and a college degree should not be a status symbol. It’s a tool (an expensive tool), and the decision to go shouldn’t be taken lightly. The antiquated notion that *everyone* should aspire to go to college baffles me. There are many many different paths one can take to a happy, healthy, and productive life, and many of them do not involve college at all.
—  Jennifer McGrail, The Path Less Taken

People seem to frequently make the mistake of thinking that because something is meaningful and helpful in their own lives, then it must be meaningful and helpful in everyone’s lives. Which means everyone should do X, Y, or Z important thing as a Right of Passage or a Way to Find Yourself.

Sharing what’s worked in your own life can be really helpful and inspiring to others. But don’t make the assumption that just because it worked for you, it’s going to work for most (or even many) other people. We’re all individuals with different paths to pursue.

I left college two months ago because it rewards conformity rather than independence, competition rather than collaboration, regurgitation rather than learning and theory rather than application. Our creativity, innovation and curiosity are schooled out of us.
—  Dale J Stephens, UnCollege

20-year-old Dale Stephens talks at TEDxAshokaU about his UnCollege movement.

People will never stop asking you if you’re eventually going to go to college.

And unless you’re clairvoyant, you will never be able to answer this question, which doesn’t stop people from asking it all the time. No matter what you’re deciding to do with your life, your answer will never seem good enough for some people. You have to learn to mentally flip the bird to them as you respond with something light and pithy, like, “Oh, who knows! Maybe one day.” These are the same people that will eventually plague your life with questions like, “When are you going to get married?” or “Don’t you want to have a baby?” What they’re really asking is, “So where exactly do you fit into this framework of social acceptance that I have bought into?” They are judging you by their own standards, and you shouldn’t be made to feel inferior as a result of not conforming to them. Even with a college degree, you’ll never know how things are going to turn out for you. Legions of songs about the long and winding road that is life exist for this very reason.

-Rookie Mag

As the market becomes completely degree-saturated you will soon need a Ph.D to succeed as a janitor. In fact, a report last October found that 5,000 janitors in the United States have Ph.Ds.

The UnCollege Manifesto

(Report they sourced; here)

Goal In Life

Be happy with what I’m doing.

As corny as it sounds. All I want to be is happy.

I want to be happy with what I’m doing no matter what I’m doing.

This helps weed out what I hate doing: being unhappy.

So… yeah. People are gonna be rolling their eyes at me but who cares as long as I’m happy.

It's my life. MINE.

And I’m going to live it.

Better Than College

There’s a really cool looking new book out by someone in the unschooling community (and author of College Without High School), called Better than College. Here’s the description:

Do you need college in order to be taken seriously and earn a real living?
Conventional wisdom says yes. But true success relies upon self-knowledge and entrepreneurship: two qualities that you can obtain effectively and inexpensively without traditional college.

Better Than College provides the step-by-step guidance and inspiration necessary to design your own higher education. This book teaches you how to find community, stay on track, and get hired or start your own venture, all without a four-year degree. Curious college students will learn to think clearly about their motivations, plan a gap year, or navigate life after school. And Better Than College will show parents how self-directed learning can lead to a lifetime of achievement no expensive institution required.

Best thing though, is that the author is offering free PDF copies to all teens and college students! Since my head doesn’t like reading long things on the computer, I’ve requested that my library buys a copy, so I’m hoping to read it through there soon…

Say you walk into a Starbucks. You’re given a limited menu of choices - you’ve got coffee, mochas and lattes in various flavors and styles. But maybe you think about it a minute and realize you don’t want any of those things. What then? The menu never says it, but you do have another choice - you can walk out. When you go to university, you’re given the choice between a limited set of paths. No one ever tells you, but you can instead make your own choice, and walk out.
—  Dale J. Stevens, Hacking Your Education

Dale Stephens Michael Ellsberg - TEDxSF - Debating Higher Education


Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech
Neil Gaiman may have never gone to college, but he gave one of the most inspiring commencement speeches we’ve ever heard. If you don’t want to watch the whole video, we’ve summarized his main points below with input from our own experiences.

“I got out into the world, I wrote, and I became a better writer the more I wrote.”

In the typical fashion of an autodidact, Gaiman became a writer by writing. He wrote on his own terms, and pursued it because that’s what interested him. We will touch more on this at the end.

“First of all: When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing.”

In about a month my gap year- my year without college-will be concluded.

I must say, that I am glad with my decision to not pursue a bachelor’s degree. This year, I have learned far more about myself and about life than I feel I ever would have in the cog wheels of an institution. Looking back on my education, in public school, high school and community college at the same time, it was a hurdle race to nowhere. It was a frazzled rush to hurry the hell up and just get to the finish line—jump over this hurdle, and then that one, and just when you think you’re done, another row of hurdles pops up in your way.

In school, each assignment, each test, and each grade level was presented as a hurdle to be crossed and to not to be enjoyed. It’s the American mentality to put happiness in future tense: happiness is to be enjoyed in the future, never now. And we believe that the more we sacrifice ourselves in the present, the happier we will feel in some distant future. Except that future never seems to come, just more hurdles, more sacrifices, and more unhappiness. You can waste your whole life thinking this way, and end up looking back full of regret. Yes, the future is something worth working towards, but you ONLY ever live in the present.

“Happiness wasted is happiness lost.” –unknown

The problem with the hurdle race mentality is that we are all WIPs- works in progress, humans in training. You’ll never be “done” and there is no finish line to be crossed. You don’t stop learning just because you graduate school, and you cannot graduate in human. It reminds me of the quote by Leonardo da Vinci, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” That’s what I feel life is: your career, health, relationships, and spirituality. There is no finish line in life, and you either keep growing or you abandon yourself. This is not some cut-throat rat race, but it is a JOURNEY to be enjoyed.

If you aren’t enjoying the journey, then you aren’t enjoying life.

Even though I learn on my own now and set assignments and deadlines for myself, sometimes I find myself caught up in the hurdle race mentality every now and again. I’ll start to get frustrated and stressed out about the work I’ve given myself. I’ve gotten so used to believing that learning should be a struggle, but I’m getting better at letting go, course-correcting, and just having fun with it. This is a journey to be enjoyed. If you aren’t having fun, then you’re doing it wrong. -ahmunduh