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Is college your best choice?

Updated on November 11, 2015
Student Studying on Her Laptop
Student Studying on Her Laptop

Learn by doing

After finishing 20 years of formal education and teaching hundreds of business management college courses for 15 years, I have seen many students succeed, and some fail. Those who graduated and became successful used their innate talents, passion and clearly stated goals as a recipe for their success.

Of those who failed, many struggled for years at the bottom 10% of their class and graduated with tens of thousands of dollars in financial aid debt that they now have little hope of ever paying off. And, the federal government does not allow its education loans to be included in bankruptcies. Perhaps they could have chosen a better, faster, cheaper alternative to accommodate their talents, which drove me to write this article.

If you're contemplating going to college because your parents want you to, or because it generally seems like a good idea, why not investigate other options before spending years of your time and money on a college education? There are many paths to success. Learning by doing is the quickest: Has anyone ever become a good swimmer in a classroom? Learn the basics, then jump into the pool!

Here are some alternatives:

1. Registered Apprenticeships: There are hundreds of occupations besides the well-known plumber, electrician, and carpentry ones, such as able seaman, chef, painter/decorator, and teledata communications.

2. Entrepreneur: Start a business by finding a need and filling it. Make mistakes! Learn from them and start again. Give yourself permission to learn the hard way. Ask questions at your local Small Business Development Center or Chamber of Commerce. You will learn a big secret: business ownership is problem-solving. Either somebody else is solving problems and you're their employee, or you're solving problems and making more money working for yourself. Everyone works hard to earn their daily bread, so why not keep the whole loaf?

By the way, if you really want to open a restaurant, watch every episode of "Restaurant Impossible." Take notes, because it's an accelerated education. They learned the hard way, so you don't have to.

3. Learn to sell: Good sales people earn a very good living. Besides, selling is inevitable: Everybody sells themselves daily before customers buy their skills, their labor, their ideas, products and services. Look around you: everything you see indoors been sold at least twice, at wholesale and retail levels. Nothing happens in business until something is sold.

4. Learn for Free: Besides libraries, there are numerous sources on the internet that teach how to do things from basic accounting to opening a business. There has never been so much free information in history! There are free college courses, lectures and demonstrations on Youtube,, free books and other media at libraries and linked to their websites, free digital course books online, free advice from the Senior Core of Retired Executives (SCORE), and, with certain employers, internships and on-the-job training for advancement opportunities.

5. Just do it! There are two types of people: those who work towards a goal and those who make excuses. Make a schedule to work toward your goal at least 15 minutes every day. It's simply applying the law of inertia: once in motion, you almost always will work much longer than just 15 minutes. (It works the opposite way, too - try turning on the television for only 15 minutes.) Once you start, never give up. Find someone to emulate, like Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates. They had to start at the beginning, too.

Law of Attraction

Finally, create a learning environment that attracts success to you.

Formal college education surrounds students with other learners. This is certainly an advantage, but not one that can't be done on your own.

Take inventory of who you know and who you associate with, where your time is spent, and what you do during the day. If there are friends and family who discourage your learning and success, then they are holding you back. They can be recognized because they are always making excuses instead of taking action. They can't tolerate anyone doing better than they are. Instead, seek out the company of others with positive energy and similar passions. Seek out successful people. Ask them how they did it. Listen to their stories! Their success will rub off on you. Otherwise, tomorrow will be the same as today. Changing your environment might cost you the price of a meal or a few beers, but it's better than a large bill for tuition.


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