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Op-Ed: Why You Should Pursue Your Dreams Instead of College

Now is the time. It is time for you to go sit in a dark room, close your eyes, and get real. Are you pursuing your dreams or...


Do you have big dreams? Do you want to do something with your life that is unconventional? If so, I understand how you feel. That is how I felt 10 years ago when I graduated from high school.

My entire life, my parents and teachers programmed me to go to college. They would say, “Michael, you’re so smart. If you graduate from college you can achieve anything.” Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t necessarily bad advice (and I don’t fault them for this type of encouragement). After all, statistics and studies show “People with a bachelor’s degree make 84% more over a lifetime than high school graduates. In 1999, the premium was 75%.” (Source: LA Times)

So, as to be expected, after my high school graduation, I took the advice I heard my whole life and enrolled in college. The year was 2004. High speed Internet was becoming mainstream, social networking was in its infancy, and eCommerce was on the verge of explosion. The world was about to change in a way that no one could have ever predicted … and truly becoming global.

 

Classroom Dreaming

I remember sitting in my college classroom, periodically daydreaming about the evolution of the world, business, technology and the point at which they all converged. I saw the future opening up right before my eyes, yet I was sitting in a classroom learning business based on today’s environment that I knew would soon be irrelevant.

Then, after my freshmen year — I dropped out. My parents were devastated. I had decided to pursue my dreams. I didn’t know exactly what my dreams were yet, but I knew college wasn’t going to get me there. As life would have it, I would go on to spend the next ten years figuring it out; learning business, exploring my aptitude, talents, and passions.

In the end, it all worked out.

But I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy. There were times when I wanted to give up. I questioned whether or not I would ever amount to anything. There were also moments when I would go hungry because I couldn’t afford to eat and had to choose between paying an electric bill or buying groceries. Sometimes that choice was nonexistent and my electricity would still get cut off.

But here’s the good news for you. Even though everything worked out in the end, I did everything wrong. The opportunities available to you today weren’t available to me ten years ago.

 

The World on a String

Millennials and the generation coming in close behind, literally, have the world at their fingertips. So many have big dreams, but are encouraged to be more realistic and take the path most traveled. This familiar and safe path leads to college and a corporate job, thereafter. That is, of course, assuming you are able to find a job; which for many young people across the globe is proving to be nearly impossible.

Considering your unique life situation … this is the moment where you need to get real. It is time for you to get remarkably honest with yourself. College is a four to six year commitment, depending on your field of study. The cost of a college education can range anywhere from $40,000 – $100,000 or more.

Are you sold out to spending half a decade pursuing someone else’s dream? Are you willing to pay thousands of dollars learning things you may never apply? If your answer is “no” to both accounts, then here’s how pursuing your dreams, instead of going to college, can work:

 

  • First, establish your interests. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy hair and makeup, coding, singing, acting, boating, knitting, drawing, fashion, music, sports, etc. Learn what you are truly passionate about in life.
  • Second, start building your empire. Take your passion and find out if someone will pay you for it. Tell the world by creating and posting content to social media platforms. YouTube is a modern day version of your very own TV show. Instagram is a modern day curated magazine, allowing you to share your passion with the world through engaging photography. Facebook, Tumblr, and blog networks are all modern day newspapers, allowing you to provide daily updates in text, image, or video.
  • Third, get a job. The reality is this: you need cash flow. Work part-time and live at home if you have to. Live modestly and use the income from your job to support the development of your business.
  • Fourth, rinse and repeat. Everyday, repeat this cycle: go to work, create content, post and engage with your audience. Most importantly, monetize. Focus on marketing and sales-oriented activities to grow your awareness and customer base.
  • Fifth, watch and wait. This is the most important step. This is where winners are separated from losers. Becoming an expert, celebrity, or guru doesn’t happen overnight (I repeat, it does not happen overnight). It may take two to four years of consistency to reach the status you desire.

The fifth reason is why I am personally an advocate of pursuing your dreams instead of college. If given the choice between spending four years, and thousands of dollars, in college for the sole purpose of getting a job to earn a living, why would you not instead spend those same four years investing your time and resources into pursuing your dreams?

Whether you succeed or fail, you still win because in the end you will have zero student loan debt and years of experience building a business and a brand. In the real world, this holds more clout than a college degree ever will.

 

Disagree? This Article is Not for You

Before I go any further, allow me to address the college advocates … those who will frown upon my logic and persuade people that college is the right answer for everyone. If that is you, please understand: this article is not for you.

This is for the dream chasers and the square pegs in the round holes. This inspiration is for the girl who works at a beauty counter because she thinks it is the only way she can pursue her passion for makeup, and earn a living. Yet she tunes into makeup artists on YouTube with millions of followers that are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars doing what she’d only dream of…

Sure! I understand that some people’s dreams can only be found and fostered in college. For those people I say go for it, but again this article isn’t for those people.

The world we live in today is all about demonstrable value. When you create value for others you’ll never be without a job or income. By demonstrating your value and providing it for the world to see, you have a permanent stake in the ground that will forever solidify your persistence and guarantee you never lack opportunity.

So, now is the time. It is time for you to go sit in a dark room, close your eyes, and get real. Are you pursuing your dreams or someone elses?

 

This article has been edited and condensed.

Michael Price is an entrepreneur and author of What Next? The Millennial’s Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World. An advocate of ideas for radical change, he has received critical acclaim for his lessons in education, career, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. Connect with @michaelpriceles on Twitter.

 

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