True or False? 6 Things You’ll Inevitably Hear if You Don’t Pursue Higher Education

When I told my parents that I was going to leave Pepperdine University to start a business, they didn’t bat an eye. In a way they had expected it; I was the kid who got antsy if I stayed in one place for too long. The one who never read the instructions for anything. The girl who was always creating, and now the woman who couldn’t fathom the idea of taking on almost $100k of student debt when I could be doing something else. My parents heard my reasoning, and let me make the call. However, it was everyone else who was seemingly ‘worried for my well being’.

“Why would anyone want to hire a college dropout?” My aunt asked me.

“You’re never going to make any money.” My cousin sneered.

“What the hell are you doing?” My own brain turned against me.

But in the moment I knew that leaving college was the right thing for me to do.

In our society, there is a very clear ‘roadmap to success’ that every student is indoctrinated with: Do well in school, get into a good college, graduate with a degree, and then magically land the job of your dreams. But the thing is, this roadmap was created for one kind of student with one kind of personality.

Don’t get me wrong; getting a college degree is very admirable. For some, this environment of learning is what empowers them to succeed in the world and prepares them for life outside of the classroom. But for others, it’s restrictive and doesn’t encourage a ‘learn by doing’ mentality. To require every single student to walk the down the path of higher education in order to receive society’s ‘seal of approval’ is unfair and not celebratory of the diversity of human learning styles.

Not attending or finishing college is NOT for everyone. But if you are considering foregoing college to pursue other interests or begin your career, let’s identify some of the statements people will inevitably make and how to decipher through what is true and what conclusions are based on stereotypes.

Statement 1. “You’ll never be successful without a degree.” – False 

This is a common claim among those who have gone through the higher education system and have not done their research. The idea that you are automatically disqualified from having any meaningful kind of success because you don’t have a degree is completely FALSE. Some of the most influential, innovative and successful people in the world did not finish college – such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Rachel Ray, Mary Kay Ash and Michael Dell, just to name a few. (You can see an extensive list from Elite Daily here). Did these people just sit on their butts and wait for their empires to drop on their heads like Newton’s apple? Of course not! But these, and many other successful entrepreneurs, business people and philanthropists did not rely on a college degree – or their lack of one – to dictate their level of success. They just used what they had to create the future they defined for themselves, and you can do the same.

Statement 2. “Not having a college degree will make finding a job more difficult.” – Sometimes True

Depending on the industry you are looking to enter, this can unfortunately be true. Most employers at white collar companies do look at what college you graduated from when considering you for a position. However, this is not the be all end all of your ability to get a good job – it’s just an objection you might need to overcome. When you are asked about your college career in a job interview, don’t lie! Explain why you decided not to enter or finish college, what your career goals are, and the awesome things that your ‘unconventional’ choices in regards to your education have empowered you to accomplish.

For example, when I was being interviewed for my current job, I told my now-boss that I was an experiential learner who picked up skills by entering the workforce early. Instead of reading about business in a class, I started a business of my own and gained the experience necessary to excel in the position I was interviewing for. Lo and behold, I got the job.

Statement 3. “You won’t be respected without a degree.” – False 

A diploma is not what warrants respect. You earn respect by showcasing your willingness to work hard, using your skill set to add value wherever you are, and respecting yourself and others. If you exhibit confidence and good character, you will be able to earn the respect even of those who are initially blinded by prejudice. You control how people see you by the way you act not by the paper you receive at a University.

Statement 4. “You won’t have the knowledge or skills needed to make it in the real world.” – False

In his article, ‘Millennials are Struggling to Get Jobs – Here’s Why and What to Do About it’, Forbes contributor Larry Alton writes,

“According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, many employers believe recent college graduates are underdeveloped in key workplace skills like interpersonal communication, critical thinking, and organization. These are skills that aren’t taught in higher education—there’s no “general workplace skills” class in most universities, and instead, college students focus on theoretical studies in their respective disciplines.”   

College – for better or worse – can be a bubble. Four years of your life are planned out for you. Theoretical knowledge is acquired while careers are studied before being entered. And none of this is inherently bad (In fact, there are some fields, such as medicine, law, and dental that absolutely require this study before beginning in practice). But when you don’t attend or drop out of college, you have to overcome learning curves completely by trial and error without much knowledge of what to expect. You are thrust into a completely foreign environment and forced to create opinions about the industry and your role on the spot. This makes you develop certain skills, such as listening, adaptability and even a level of humility that you might not have otherwise developed if you just spent that time in the classroom.

Statement 5. “You’ll miss out on the college experience.” – True 

This one is pretty obvious! It is common for students to want to go to college to have the ‘college experience’ – the friends that all live on the same campus, the parties that never end, and the ability to continue the social and academic pattern that was established in high school. Four years of this lifestyle can be a lot of fun! But it can also be expensive. USA Today reports that over 68% of students graduate with student loan debt, averaging at about $31,000. Therefore, it’s important to remember that the lifestyle, the learning and the financial implications are all apart of what makes up the college experience. It’s up to you on whether you want to take part in it.  

Statement 6. “You’ll regret it.” – Depends!

There is no easy true or false label to stick on the end of this statement. Every person is different. To be honest, there were times when I was looking for a job and didn’t know what my next move was that I wondered if I made the right decision to leave college. But that feeling was temporary and stemmed from fear of straying from the status quo (Learn about what practical steps I used to overcome this fear by checking my blog in the coming weeks!). Looking back, jumping straight into the workforce was the best decision I could’ve made for myself. I have learned so much by immersing myself into different industries and experiencing the work force myself rather than by being taught about it. I feel more confident in my skills and abilities than I would’ve been if I had stayed in the classroom for all four years.

I am not advocating that you drop out of college. My point is that the expected road is not for everyone, and we have to learn to accept that. If you are feeling that college or a higher education is not for you, that’s ok! Take some time to figure yourself out. Understand that there will be challenges associated with not getting a degree because of what a diploma ‘represents’ in our society, but that there are upsides too. Both can make you stronger depending on how you approach them. And just remember; if you find that you’re consistently wishing you had gotten your degree, you can always go back! It’s all up to you.

Originally published October 29th, 2017 on