Haley wrote to me, asking:
I came across an article about you online, skipping college to go for your business. I am in a dilemma and would love you opinion. I’m 18 years old (graduating in a few months, woo-hoo!). However, I have started my own business/Etsy store. It is going very good. I am contemplating going to a small local school to get a backup degree, but still continuing my business as I go to school, from home. I understand that you just skipped college; do you think you missed out on the “college experience.” Just wanted to get your input.
My answer (I sent the poor girl a novel) was the following:
At 18 I was really feeling the pressure to go to college from my parents, teachers, and from seeing all my friends going into it. My business was going great at this time, just as yours is, so it was easy to dismiss the idea of going to college because I had something very real going for me.
The thing is, just because everything is going great now doesn’t mean it always will be later.
Once I saved up some money, I moved across the country to live on my own and didn’t last long before I ran into some problems that made me question my choices by not “playing it safe” and having a “backup” college degree. I’m not really sure how having a degree would have helped me in any of those situations, though.
The comforting thing about the college experience is that you have people holding your hand as you mature from a teenager into a young adult.
The thing about walking the path on your own is that you are responsible for learning, being disciplined, maturing yourself, and making your own decisions. You have no schedules, no deadlines, no expectations from anyone but yourself. This is a gift and a hardship.
Since I’ve chosen to walk the path on my own, I’ve already gone through things in both my personal and business life that I see people struggle through their entire 20’s with (I’m still only 21 with much more to learn and do).
These are things that, in retrospect, I’m incredibly grateful I’ve been able to work through on my own because they taught me the true importance of being self-reliant and accountable, which I believe our age group as a whole struggles with desperately.
That being said, I’m sure there is a lot to learn from going to college. I don’t know what the college experience is really like personally, but I only ever hear my student friends talk about parties or competing over who’s the most exhausted from writing papers and taking exams all the time. I’m not interested in finding out what that feels like.
It’s also possible to audit classes and go in without being a student. I’ve sat in (and still do) on some very interesting classes and hung out on campuses as a spectator. This really helped me see and feel that the college experience wasn’t right for me, despite how nice it was being surrounded by people my age. Maybe it’ll be different for you.
But all in all, I really can’t speak on what the college experience is like since my schooling stopped after high school. Of course, those are your determinations to make. I can vouch for this, though:
When you find something that consumes you with curiosity and passion, it’s hard to give your time away to something else. It feels wrong to give your limited amount of time on Earth to something that doesn’t fill you to the bone with excitement. This takes a toll on you the longer it goes on.
I had this feeling in high school when I had to write papers instead of work on my business and I never wanted someone having power over me like that again.
If you see and believe in a future you want for yourself that doesn’t involve college, well, that’s something you should consider very seriously when making your decision.
Maybe nobody else will understand your vision or believe in you, but you will, and that’s ALL that matters since YOU are the one that has to make it a reality.
I traded my college experience for life experience. Life doesn’t have to start after college (as it does for most people), it can start now.
You’ll only be “missing out” if you aren’t spending your time the way you need to now for a future you want later. Isn’t that the whole concept of college anyway?