Thank God I wasn’t college material

I remember when I first learned that I was destined to be a failure.

I think it was ninth grade, or maybe tenth, and I was sitting in afterschool detention. I’d been sentenced to hard time for being late to class, even though I had a valid excuse. See, I was only late because I hated school with a burning passion. I dreaded every class, every assignment, every test, every worksheet, every mound of busywork, every shallow and forced interaction with peers I couldn’t relate to or connect with or understand; every moment, every second, every part, every inch of every aspect of my public educational experience. I hated it. I hated all of it. I was suffocating.

It had been ten years of public school up to that point and it wasn’t getting better. It never would, and I knew it. I was able to hang on for a long time, managing adequate grades, even an ‘A’ here and there. I was “passing,” at the very least. But in high school that changed. I started failing and failing miserably. We’d take tests, I’d try my hardest, but often I’d still get zero answers correct. ZERO. Fifty questions — all wrong. It was humiliating. Eventually I earned a reputation. I was the kid who “didn’t care” and “didn’t assert himself.” I decided to go with that image — false though it was — because I’d rather be seen as the smart slacker than exposed as the moron who actually tried and still failed.

So there I was in detention. Stupid me. Lazy me. Disappointing me. The teacher assigned to guard duty tried to rope me into a conversation about “my future.” She asked me about my goals and what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I had no talents or abilities — I’d learned at least that much through ten years of school — but I thought about the one subject that actually came naturally to me: writing. I couldn’t pass a test about the rules of grammar or the parts of speech, but I could write. I didn’t know HOW to write, but I could do it. Other kids, even the smart kids, struggled to express themselves in written form. I didn’t. It was the only thing I could do. The ONLY thing.

I told her that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do with my life, but maybe I could be a writer. She asked me what sort of writer. I told her I didn’t know.

That’s when she dropped the bombshell: “Well, that sounds like an amazing goal, Matt. Get those grades up and go to college for a degree in creative writing!”


I have to go to college to do the one thing I’m kind of halfway good at doing? I have to finish high school and then go through FOUR MORE YEARS OF THIS? Impossible. I’m not college material. I’m not even high school material.

And I have to get a DEGREE in CREATIVITY? Wait, WHAT? Your creativity comes from your own mind and your own heart — you can’t learn how to be creative. If I can write things, and people want to read the things that I write, shouldn’t I be able to market that ability, regardless of my college experience?

I guess not. People go to college. It’s what people do. Why do they go? Because they need to. Why do they need to? Because it’s what people do. Why? Because they need to. And so on.

I was distraught. I figured I’d better get used to wearing a name tag and working a cash register.

I don’t think I ever mentioned my writing goal to anyone again.

That was about 13 years ago. I never got a writing degree, or any other type of degree. I never went to college. Now I’m the single wage earner supporting a family of four — by writing.

This is my story. There are millions just like it. Sadly, some of these tales follow a slightly different path. Many times, that kid who’s being choked to death by “formal education” will eventually get suckered into going to college. He’ll go, not because he needs to be there, nor because it’s the best thing for him, but just because. Because because, and that’s all.

So he’ll amass a gigantic debt, miss out on four or five years that could be spent honing his specific skillset, and end up exactly where he could have been, and would have been, without college. Only now he’s 28 thousand dollars in the hole and half a decade behind the curve.

Something has to change. Listen to me on this one. Something HAS to change. This can’t continue. It is not a sustainable model. There are millions of kids with no assets, no plans, and no purpose, taking out enormous loans to purchase a piece of paper they’ll likely never use. It can’t go on this way.

While student loan debt, already over a trillion dollars, continues to set new records every year, so too do college presidential salaries. They essentially dupe gullible young adults into purchasing 90 thousand dollar cars that will sit in the garage and never be driven, and they make out like bandits.

I hear plenty about the corrupt hucksters on Wall Street, why aren’t we talking about the wealthy con artists in academia who turn absurd profits by convincing broke kids to bankrupt themselves?

Obviously it ought to go without saying that some people do need college: doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. Nobody disputes that. But the rest of us must radically rethink our attitudes towards “higher education.”

Total student debt has gone up by 275 percent in the last decade. How far will it climb, how many more kids will be thrown to the wolves, before we change direction? Since I was born, college tuition rates have gone up by 500 percent. FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT. Why do we send guys like Bernie Madoff to prison while the academic elite get away with gouging an entire generation to death?

This is madness. And there’s only one way to stop it: don’t go to college.

Don’t send your kids to college.

If they aren’t actively pursuing a career that fundamentally requires a college degree, don’t encourage them to go.

We set up an artificial construct whereby degrees were suddenly “needed” for things like business, sales, and even writing. This house of cards is beginning to tumble, as employers are realizing that, shockingly, they need people who can actually DO the job. They need talent — not paperwork. New college graduates are left unemployed because they often expect too much and offer too little.

And, all along, whatever society says, and whatever direction the schools push our kids, one fact has always remained: if you want to be successful at something, you must do it and do it well. That’s what I’ll tell my kids when they’re old enough. That’s what I’d like to tell all of my fellow young people. It’s not enough anymore, and I’m not sure it ever was enough, to simply follow the well-traveled roads, accumulate your grades and your degrees and then emerge into the world, waiting for wealth and prosperity to rain down upon you from heaven.

You have to put some skin in the game. You have to find your niche and master it. You have to be the best. Conquer it, whatever it is that you want to do. Be better than everyone. Be a visionary while everybody else is checking the handbook. Take risks while everybody else stays cozy and comfortable. Be good at something. Then, once you’re good, become great.

It’s that simple. Was it ever more complicated?

Yes, I suppose, but only because we made it so.

Now is the time to unmake it. A lot of kids aren’t college material. And they need to know what a wonderful thing that can be.


An additional note:

Judging from some of the comments, I think this needs to be said: I love learning. I learn new things every day. I read ferociously. I absorb information on a wide range of subjects. One can criticize college without criticizing the concept or act of learning. If you’ve been to college and you think that you can only learn inside the walls of a college, then I pity you. What have you been doing since you graduated? Not learning anything, I guess. Someone below made a snarky comment about how I must think that you can be a writer without reading older writers.

Yes, sir, because you have to go to college in order to pick up a book and read it.

Come on. Obviously I’m not anti-learning. In fact, I think formal education can stifle learning in some cases, for some people. We don’t all learn the same way. I, for one, learned more in my first three years out of school than I ever learned in school. That’s not the school’s fault, that’s just how I operate. And I’m not alone. That’s the point. That was the point of this whole thing. Thanks for reading.


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827 Responses to Thank God I wasn’t college material

  1. stunnerable says:

    Ugh.. I’m willing to bet every single poster on here rejecting Matt’s article has no idea what he really meant by “HATING” school. This mantra that college equals success and class has got to die. Please let it die! I agree with everything he said 100%. I am this guy!

    I dropped out of high school because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Yet, I’m more well read, cultured, and earn more than almost everyone I grew up with who did go to college. My skill is sales, so that’s the skill set I worked on honeing and it has absolutely paid off so far. Do I recommend avoiding college altogether? Of course not! But for some, it’s a complete waste of time and money and for others (like myself and apparently Matt) an impossibility. But that doesn’t mean learning stops. I educate myself constantly. I am a research junkie on everything and I believe everyone should do the same but not everyone needs to go to college. I just hope more companies in the process of hiring (ie medical field sales) start to catch onto this truth. Wake up people.

    Success is a choice, to coin a book by Rick Pitino. I know it’s difficult for many to understand this, but some of those kids who never got the good grades in school were far from being, “dumb”. They just didn’t gel with the formal education format. It failed them. They aren’t lazy either, just defeated. Try to see past your noses and recognize that formal education doesn’t define ones ability to succeed. Just because it worked for YOU doesn’t mean it works for everyone else.

    At the end of the day, an intelligent, ambitious, motivated person reguardless of their degree (ir lack thereof) will learn what they need to know and make things happen. That’s success.

    • There are many things in this article I agree with. Not everyone was met to go to college.
      It is however very important to have a degree or degrees if you want to be a engineer, or surgeon or attorney. I doubt we’d be comfortable with a heart surgeon that dropped out of high school at 17.
      Society is set up to reward people with sheepskins more so than plumbers, ditch digger and garbage men. But we can all agree we need all of these professions.
      I know our Constitution says all men & women are created equal as to their rights. We are not however, created equally in our capacity to learn and the determination to make something of ourselves other than what our teacher and bosses think we’re capable of.
      They’re have been many successful people that are high school and college dropouts.
      I think luck and determination have more to do with our success than anything else . You’re at the right place at the right time.
      Let’s face it many of us just drift through life letting circumstances push us from one place to another.
      You never hear anyone say” I really didn’t want to become successful I tried to avoid it but it just wouldn’t leave me alone”. It takes a special person to know what they want to do for the rest of their life then do what ever it takes to get there.
      The rest of us drift……..

    • Ilene says:

      There is way too much influence based on a piece of paper. Yes get educated, but you don’t have to sell your soul to schools the rest of your life to get there either.

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  4. Roseanne Rech says:

    I so agree with Matt! School can be great for people who have a goal to be something like a doctor, lawyer, and so on. But many of us just want to have a job we love to go to, and are good at. That doesn’t always take a College, and some people go just to figure out what they do want to do. And they end up in debt. This has got to change.

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  6. Bridget says:

    I also think there is too much stock put into college degrees. My husband works for a company and he started at the bottom. He is now the boss over his division. He was able to get a cousin of his on and he is also the boss over his division. The cousin makes more than my husband, who has been there about 10 years longer, because the cousin has a college degree. My husband was number 1 in the nation for his division and the company just treated us to a nice 4 day getaway to a 5 star resort in Mexico. The cousin did not make the top 3 but he still makes more. I think things are a little backwards. The company he works for is a trade industry. I don’t argue that once you get into management some business classes would be beneficial and my husband has received his associates degree and is working on his bachelors degree but it is a long road since they are online classes and he has five kids at home to interact with and support through their extra curricular activities, after his work day. I wish more real life experience would be taken into consideration.

  7. If you go to the right school though, college isn’t just learning, it’s learning from the experts, and you gain mentors who really help you shape your life, people who are really on your team and in your corner. I never really had good experiences in high school either. I’m sorry that public school had you so disillusioned because college was so much better than high school. I think it’s great you are encouraging kids to think outside the box and I agree with you on so many points, but I found it hard to “apply myself” like you also in high school, so I put off going to college right away, but when I finally went I really thrived! 🙂 I would hate to have missed that experience!

  8. Hector Garcia says:

    I know so many people with multiple degrees who still can’t do their job properly. There are college graduates working at Starbucks, waiting tables, opening restaurants, and they are not better at it just because they went to College. Please explain to me in what way was a BA necessary for that? Priorities, people. Experience and skill are far more profitable that passed-along “knowledge.” The real world does not take too much stock o a piece of paper which claims you “know” something, you have to be able to back it up.

  9. Christie says:

    With all due respect, I think your complaint is misguided. Your complaint is that kids shouldn’t go to college because it’s too expensive and because you personally found it useless. However, what you should be saying is that society must force the education industry to radically reduce its costs. College, as boring and tedious as you believe it is, offers young people a universe of knowledge that could benefit them in many ways. What each student gets out of his education is a private matter, but I wouldn’t discourage kids from seeking a higher education. Instead, I would demand education reform; free education, free or low cost college for everyone. It was my college education that opened my eyes to corporate corruption. My business ethics classes shed light on the putrid corporate culture. Luckily, I studied at a university that doesn’t receive funding from big business or research foundations.

  10. nyerkes says:

    I know this is an older post, but I just needed to chime in with agreement. I did go to school under many scholarships and graduate early, because I was fortunate enough to learn how to play the academic game: find out what each prof likes and duplicate each paper/project from then on. But not all my classmates could do that, and despite their intelligence and creativity, were pushed down to take meaningless fundamental classes that taught them nothing and were worth no credit and made them late in graduating. From what I’ve learned, the most valuable aspect of college is the networking, because profs and admins are often also business owners or well-connected to other startups. For those connections and endorsements, I’m extremely grateful. But I know that this model did not work for all of my graduating class, and we’ve each still got AT LEAST $10,000 in loans to pay off.

  11. I loved school, I have a degree in chemistry. My son’s hate school, and the things they excel at are not found in college. I took them out of school this year and we are homeschooling. Life is too short to spend it miserable in so many pointless studies that will be forgotten. Neither one is academically gifted, but intelligent both practically and socially. In school they felt defeated and stupid. Now, we study what is necessary at our own peace, but I have encouraged them to find out what they love and together we will pursue excellence in those areas.

    • Esses says:

      A friendly FYI: “Sons” is plural, not possessive.
      1. If something belongs to your son, it’s your “son’s thing” with an apostrophe before the “s.”

      2. If several things belong to two or more of your sons, then it has the apostrophe after the “s” – your “sons’ things.”

      3. If your “sons hate school” then no apostrophe is needed because there’s no ownership, just more than one son. (And in my previous sentence, the apostrophe is used when the word “there” is combined with the word “is” and the apostrophe replaces the “i” and the space before; called a contraction).

      For good communication, I think some grammar is helpful. Usually Microsoft Word suggests a fix…. there are tricky rules, but some of the basic ones like this aren’t too hard. There were more errors in your post, but I won’t elaborate. Good luck to you and your sons – I homeschool sons also!

  12. Karina says:

    My god, all the disagreements on this post clearly did not understand the POINT of it. It’s not necessary about NOT going to college but about not just going so that you can “find what you want to maybe do with your life”. GO OUT AND LIVE A LITTLE IF YOU DON’T KNOW YET.
    It’s not like you have to spend thousands of dollars to see if you’d like it or need it either. Say you like psychology – sign up and take ONE course at a community college. Get a taste before you eat the whole dish and have no money to cover the bill.
    Parents need to teach their children how to budget wisely. You really think that sending your child to a 40,000 a year school that you’re paying for teaches them monetary value?
    Life lessons and experience are taught by just that, Professor life. Make sure you get a free lesson or two in before class is over folks.

  13. Nic Gibson says:

    Milton Friedman used to make the distinction between “Education” and “Schooling” in his talks. He did this to undermine the confusion of the means that is formal schooling with ends that is education- that can happen through a wide variety of means. When people can’t make this distinction, then schooling reform can’t be conceived of, and then can’t happen. I didn’t learn that at college- though I went for 7 years.

    • jamesrovira says:

      From the point of view of an educator:

      Most of this discussion is pointless. Yes, learning and education are two different things. If you want to learn, pick up a book and read it. Education is -structured and assessed- learning. It is focused on a specific field of some sort. So when someone is awarded a degree in a field, that’s not just a sign of “learning” — it’s a sign that this learning was in a certain field and was meaningfully assessed as it occurred. The student’s assessment is his or her transcripts. That’s why you can’t just substitute MOOCs or a reading list for college — that learning isn’t structured and assessed meaningfully.

      And, this structured and assessed learning varies greatly by institution.

      If you go to school with a bunch of low performing students and are relatively or highly intelligent, most of what you’ll need to do will seem like drudge work to you. That’s because the work is designed for your peers, who are not yet capable of doing anything but drudge work. And if those peers had to take remedial classes, that just confirms my point: they weren’t made to take remedial classes for no reason. They had to take them because they screwed off all through high school, because their parents and school let them do that and still graduate, and so they come into college with the writing and math skills they should have had by the 8th or 10th grades.

      If you want a better college experience, don’t go to college with your friends. Get into a more selective college if you can — smarter students = better education and more interesting work, because the faculty there are able to assign it. I’ve taught low performing students and well-above-average students. I know what I’m talking about.

      Matt here is exceptional — he graduated from HS with real skills. If I teach 50 freshman a semester, maybe three or four of them are like that. 40% of the rest are remedial, some highly remedial, and the rest are just average. Anecdotes aren’t real substitutes for mass data. It’s out there.

  14. StacieAnn says:

    I relate to this on every imaginable level…except the monetary one. Maybe you could teach me a thing or two about how to start earning money doing what I love. I went to college for a semester, which I willfully plundered with choice hang-ups. I have been writing all my life, from songs to opinionated, entertaining blogs. The early twenties was an excruciatingly soul-baring poem-fest.

    I absolutely LOATHED everything about school that didn’t include writing or music. And yet, like you, I consume mass amounts of information, through daily reading.

    Thanks for allowing others to see that intelligence isn’t based on a test score. All tests ever did for me is offer one anxiety after another.

    God bless!

  15. Greg Parker says:

    Matt…first let me say that I don’t think I’ll get tired of reading your material. You are wise beyond your years … and by my calculations, I’ve got at least a decade and a half on you.

    While our particular situations may be a little different, I ascribe your philosophy wholeheartedly. My deviance from the “because that’s what people do…” is borne much out of a particularly intense sense of rebellion. I am not talking about bad-boy rebellion (although I am sure my mother would disagree.) I am talking about some weird, inexplicable aversion that I have to being like everyone else. I love and embrace my individualism and I encourage others to do the same.

    My individualism has served me well. While I have taken a few college courses here and there, I am nearly completely self-taught in my profession (IT)…and while I won’t be broadcasting my compensation … I’ve been advised that I am the highest-paid individual on my team. Of course, monetary compensation is just one element to the benefits I have reaped by NOT going to college (in all honesty, I have taken the equivalent of about 3 semesters of college…for fun.) There is the power I’ve granted/given myself to learn and grow without the tinge of indoctrination and bias (which bleeds profusely from the ‘intellectual elitists’.)

    I am at least a 4th-generation “loser” that didn’t go to college … and I’ll be the 4th generation loser to be debt-free and able to retire at age 55.

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  17. Ed says:

    Matt, I definitely appreciate what you’ve been saying in the last few weeks, and I am only posting this reply as a kind of experiment:

  18. Col says:

    Goodness! Matt, I’d just like to thank you. I came across this article because I was hoping, praying for an answer to a question that I, or anyone else I knew, was having extreme difficulty answering. Currently studying a masters degree in English Literature, second semester, and I’m feeling the way I felt all through secondary school (high school, UK) and the way you describe in your post. I 100% believe not everyone (bar the necessary candidates like doctors etc) needs or even should go to college and for some, even high school.

    I struggled through my BA (leaving with a degree in French and Communications) completely depressed the majority of the time because all I knew how to do with such passion and vigor was how to write. Writing runs through my veins. It’s my fuel. So I am extremely mad at myself for putting myself right back within the four walls of academia designed to stifle (yes, even the ‘creative’ courses) any and all creativity. I sat in a creative writing class a few weeks back as part of my MA and I had to excuse myself. Debilitating, suffocating and utter nonsense when you consider we were discussing the best structure to use for fiction. In an academic sense, sure. In a creative, raw, non-mechanical skillful sense, a resounding NO! Formal education is not the enemy to creativity in any form, it can indeed enhance it, but formal (key word!) education will kill passion in a creative soul, everytime. I’m qualified to know this yet stupidly I fall back in to the ‘safe and secure’ trap each time and set my naturally nurtured skill back ten paces. Disheartening.

    I’ve decided to drop out of my MA. The four walls, unable to hold me. 🙂 I’m a great writer not because I studied it but because I love it. My son who is 10 and an amazing artist, was put forward to attend a good art school here in the UK. His response to the seemingly exciting proposal (judging by the sheer enthusiam on his teacher’s face): “Why do I have to go to a school to do art? I’ll build on it myself. I don’t even like normal school! I can’t build there”. Not in front of his teacher, mind 🙂 but his response got me here. He struggles at school. He’s brilliant at Maths and Science but feels suffocated on a daily basis to the point he developed physical symptoms of anxiety. Too young an age! Astonishingly, when he was off school sick he could be doubled over in pain, feverish etc but I’d always find him pencil and paper in hand, drawing. He’s now on his 3rd A3 portfolio. Plus, like me, he retains more information via uncoventional study modes. I’m still working with him today (it’s a daily round of encouragement as we leave the house for school) as we decide what’s best and what he’ll do regarding secondary school but he’s told me that a ‘normal’ school isn’t going to happen!

    Thanks Matt for this post. It will help me as I try to make right in our lives what society has more often than not deemed wrong.

    Also any advice you or anyone here might have regarding my son I’d greatly appreciate.


  19. Ned says:

    I have a bachelors and masters degree and TOTALLY agree with this article!!! There are so many useless things that formal education tries to impose and some people would be far better off just pursuing their true talents and skills.

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  26. Doug says:

    Associates and bachelors here, and agree wholeheartedly. Heck, the only reason I eventually finished a degree is–I think–my need for some sort of self-validation. As a career public safety employee it really hasn’t mattered. I also particularly identified with your assertion as to how you’ve learned more outside of the school setting than you did inside the walls. One college prof was a bit miffed when I stated that I believe I learned more by joining the military right out of HS and traveling the world than any of my college-bound classmates did. I still believe that.

  27. While it is true that not every person may think they are “college material”, and not every career path needs a higher education degree, I think it is extremely valid to say that college is a unique social opportunity that a person will never again attain in their lifetime. I learned more from college by interacting with the professors, my classmates, and peers; learned how to analyze viewpoints that were vastly different than the ones I held myself. It was a time in my life of exponential growth due to the broad variety that made up the community I was surrounded by. Although I understand your point, I would urge you to reconsider the whole significance and meaning behind a person’s college experience in a more holistic manner.

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  29. alison says:

    No college here, hated school, absorb by doing, I’m in a white collar job which requires a college degree, making great money, and doing what I like. AMEN, God blessed me with great skills.

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    • Kent Clizbe says:


      Excellent response.

      Matt’s diatribe here is pretty much, “Look at me. I’m special. Follow me and chuck society’s norms.”

      Sort of like the Pied Piper. And look at the rats swarming behind him. They’ll be lost just like Hamlin’s kids were.

      • Andrew Mohn says:

        To an employer, a degree isn’t just a piece of paper, it’s an indication that you can and will learn. Any idiot can get a high school diploma, where they are trying to keep you from failing.

        I think that part of the issue is that the primary school system doesn’t educate kids at all. You learn to read, write, do math, and Follow Directions. There’s a big emphasis on doing what you are told, memorize this information, and spit it back up on command. Most people don’t bother to think, and High School is just the training ground for productive workers. College should be a place where people who actually want to learn to think go to learn more, and learn to think critically of things.

  31. Jennifer King says:

    My friend emailed me this article as she came across it and said, “I read this and thought of you. You are talent… not paperwork!” I am entirely alongside Matt in every aspect of the message—obviously, since my friend instantly thought of me in reading this.

    Matt, you are a fantastic writer! I think your creativity would have been hindered had you let a book influence you and I commend your audacity in all of this. Props – high five!

    If anyone gives a rip for another’s story—here’s mine…

    I did well in school but didn’t care much for it at all. I prefered learning on my own – learning things I knew would matter down the road. I got my first job 3 days after my 17th birthday because I got a cell phone plan and I wanted to pay for it myself. Due to the know-how I sought out myself and my hunger to learn and do more, I was promoted to office manager before I even turned 18. I had people twice my age working under me… it was kind of crazy! But I did my job and I did it well, even when shit hit the fan. I took a few college courses while in high school, but by the time I graduated high school and finished my first year of college, I was already doing more than what I’d “learn” to do in the next few years of college. Needless to say, I never even completed my Associates Degree. After 4 years of managing 13-20 employees, I decided to move on and learn new things. Now at age 22, I have a “big girl job” doing more and making more than most of my friends—with degrees—because I followed my own ambitions and worked my ass off.

    Advice from my stance: Those folks expressing negativity towards Matt’s message here, I encourage you to reflect back on your own life… did you take the path you were told to take or did you conduct your own train, laying tracks along the way, in whatever direction you felt YOU should go? If you doubt your path and have any remorse for the choices you’ve made, perhaps you should refrain from bestowing your negative, narrow minded opinions unto others.

    Every person you encounter has something to teach you—whether they’re five, twenty-two, or eighty-four years old—you just have to open your mind and let them in. As well, you have something to teach others. Even your negative output is a lesson to others…

    That’s all folks. That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

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  33. D. Hide says:

    That’ll be 1.25% of your ad revenue for this article as royalties for plagiarizing my life.

    On a serious note, obviously I think that you hit the nail square in the center of the head. The tool and process of formal education has become more available now than ever before to many – This is a good thing because we have more options instead of less. However, it is nonetheless an enormous investment and very frequently misused and abused by and against those seeking whatever it is that they think will get them to a place they might not yet know exists.

    The pitfalls are plentiful and large, and they require both sinister and dextrous navigation to attain a non-guaranteed return. If you are cautious, frugal and critical, you can make college work for you and not have to settle for the other way around which means that it does open that option to more people.

    But not to everybody and certainly not as a guarantee to anybody. I tried it. Didn’t like it. I do plan to go back later in life and take specific courses to advance specific skills and skill-sets after I have spent some time in the real world acquiring and building a foundational understanding with practical application. That’s one way I foresee using college for my benefit.

    The path of not at all and never is also an option, and there’s happy people making a good living without ever setting foot inside a formal classroom after High School. For example, most colleges won’t formally teach you how to gunsmith (a select few do), or how to shoot competitively, how to pick locks, how to dress a game animal, crochet a scarf, drive defensively, etc. and that’s not counting the stuff that can’t really be formally taught at all (creativity, toughness, optimism, sincerity, clarity and action in emergencies, etc.)

    A lot of the skills can be taught at formal schools outside of the college sphere of influence, they can be gained with experience and applied knowledge, and other things are shaped by our environment or heck, we were born that way. And I tend to place a lot of value on this kind of learning. It’s more fun for me, I can use it right now, and I got something to show for it.

    As one final point, if there’s anybody reading now that is good and comfortable as a reclusive, unassertive egghead with great grades and high praise, I got a few words for you: So was I. I was also unhappy, bitter and dead inside. If that’s you, you can turn yourself around just like I did. Get away from detractors, get out in nature, put on some muscle ya twig, and surround yourself with those who can infect you with these incurable conditions: Curiosity, joy, excitement, and wanderlust.

  34. Emily says:

    YES, THIS! THIS! SO MUCH THIS!!! I’ve not yet read anything summed up my exact experiences in the public child incarceration system better than this. I was, and am, a bright, curious, card-carrying high IQed, talented person but not by their definition of it. Except for the IQ part and this, once I forced into the test to see why I wasn’t “playing ball” in class, was only used against me until I dropped out. “You’re so smart,” they’d say as though it meant that jumping through meaningless academic hoops for worthless accolades from people I didn’t care about should be a piece of cake, and one I wanted very badly! But, it wasn’t, and I didn’t. I hated every single second I spent in school. I hated the mindless busywork. I hated the forced “team building” exercises. I hated being forced to interact with all sorts of miscreants because of the geographic proximity in which our parents bought houses. I hated getting in trouble for reading the wrong books, or for finishing a test too quickly, or not quickly enough. I hated every single thing I was forced to endure during my “education” “career.” I ditched constantly as soon as I discovered a foolproof way to do so and dropped out as soon as I was able to… I LOVE to learn, I want learn everything I can cram inside my head. I never stop reading. I have a “To-Be Read” list that’s in the hundreds. I have so many things I want to learn that I wonder if I’ll be able to get to them all in one lifetime. But to be forced to do it in one singular manner for years at a time? And to pay for the privilege?! For a piece of paper? That guarantees me NOTHING?!? No (expletive) thank you. I can’t even begin to list the number of time I’ve been told “you want to write? Stories? On paper? For people to read? Well, you’ll need to go to a pretty important college to do so…” And it’s SUCH a lie. So, I tip my non-collegiate hat to you sir, because you’re telling a truth that needs to be shouted from high school and college clock towers everywhere.

  35. analyticalperspective says:

    Hey, Matt, I just met a girl he was doing a paper on the pros and cons of going to college and I showed her your topic

  36. Stephanie says:

    Our culture is in love with degrees. I worked in an office where, in order to be considered for a secretarial job, you had to have a college degree. So, even though I totally agree with this article, it’s very difficult to get a job without a college degree. I hate it, but it’s true. And not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.

  37. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for putting it out there. I started responsible adulthood straight out of high school. Graduated a semester early, moved out and went straight to working full time. Had kids young and never went to college. I work in a small business doing administrative work with now over twenty years of experience behind me. So many jobs I can’t get because I don’t have that piece of paper and so many I work with have the paper with no hands on experience, not a clue in the world how to actually do the work. Learning is a pursuit of the heart. I appreciate your passion for expressing the truth.

  38. Ln says:

    I love your blog.

    I seriously do. I’m an abuse survivor and cannot function in the conformity of modern education. I spent the first 16 years of my life sitting at home, isolated in this remote corner of the house staring at school books. It almost made me hate reading too, which thankfully didn’t happen. So of course during school, I couldn’t perform exceptionally. Abuse slows down the cognitive process of the brain, makes it difficult for the victim to learn. It’s been about five years since I’ve been out of that house, but it has been extremely hard for me adapt to both society and college.

    I’m still attending college at the moment. But not without the boat-load of stress, not without crying a few times every two weeks. I love words, writing. It’s my passion. But all of it has been put on a halt because I’m attending college. And worse yet, I was rejected from the university I tried applying to because my Freshman year–two years after leaving my abusive home–clung on my GPA. They didn’t care about my situation or my steady improvements, and probably not of any other students who went through traumatic events. College and university is nothing but a brand name now. There’s no passion in it. The tuition fees have become ridiculous–on purpose.

    But the sad part of this all is that even though I know I’m becoming more depressed each day, barring myself from what I really want to do, I doubt I can take the risk of angering the parent that busted me out of that home. Of letting everyone down. Society’s so warped now that college has become a necessity for many, and to defy that idea is setting a negative label on your forehead. I really hope I’m able to have the same guts as you someday, Matt. I really do.

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  41. vanessacollister says:

    Excellent outline and flow of information.

  42. JJMK says:

    Dear Matt,

    I must say that I completely disagree with your argument here. As such, I think it would be most polite for me to agree with you on certain points that you make well before I present my actual disagreement.

    First, a college degree can certainly be overrated. If you put $90,000 into something you have no intention of doing, then it’s certainly not a great investment. Second, I have no doubt that you have succeeded without a college degree and others are capable of doing so. Third, I agree with you that individuality and ingenuity are valuable, even invaluable, traits. They provide opportunities and open doors in nearly every field.

    And now for my counter-argument.

    “Don’t send your kids to college.” I find this a huge simplification and generalization. Perhaps you thought this sentence would grab the reader’s attention, and it certainly has caught my eye. Some type of specialized education is required for almost every field of work. Take mechanics, for example. A student who likes cars does not simply set up shop right out of high school. Due to his lack of prior experience, no one is likely to trust him or take their cars to him in time of need. Rather, he must first complete some type of training with a certifiable program or take up an apprenticeship in another mechanic’s shop before he has completed enough hands-on and trustworthy training to open a shop and take in customers of his own. Although this fellow may take an apprenticeship and skip local community college’s automotive program, he still needs specialized training in the form of some working program. Most colleges are not made to rob us blind, and many return a handy investment in successful careers. They are designed to teach us in an intense, focused environment, where we focus on materials that experts in the fields which we intend to study have chosen as applicable or important. I am a science major at a UC, and I am on a pre-medical track. Perhaps nowhere is a college degree more necessary than in the sciences. Medical students are instructed in methods carefully honed over hundreds of years, as they hold the lives of their patients within their hands. There is no room for medical students to innovate or to try to be creative while they’re still learning. Would you want a doctor who did not attend college, and who would take “risks while everybody else stays cozy and comfortable”? I think not. Yes, there is research consistently taking place to learn new medical procedures. However, this research is conducted by experienced individuals in a formalized setting. I digress. My point is that I am sure that there are people like you out there, Matt, who “operate” in different ways, and I have no doubt that they are still more than capable of succeeding in today’s society. You are an example of this. However, your advice does not apply across the board. Most fields require some type of specialized training or education, and college is the most generally accepted way to obtain it. And in many cases (my reference is the sciences), attempting to bypass such training can be detrimental or even dangerous to you and those around you.


    • Ernie says:

      John (and others who have disagreed),

      You defeat your own argument with the start of your second paragraph: “First, a college degree can certainly be overrated.”

      That’s Matt’s point in a nutshell.

      It would help a great deal if our federal college assistance programs were geared toward helping those for whom a college education is indicated rather than those the gov’t deems more discriminated against. Doesn’t matter if you’re poor or a minority, if you did well in school and need assistance, assistance programs should be available. If you’re poor or a minority and flunked every course, you’re on your own. It makes little sense to subsidize failure and is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. If your parents are well enough off to subsidize your college education that’s their choice. And it will likely be of some benefit if their unsuitable progeny can get out with a sheepskin – even with a 2.0 GPA. Some businesses are near-sighted enough to not see past the diploma, usually to their loss.

      But the student who flunks English 4 his senior year can often make an excellent plumber.

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