I'm about as anti-school as anyone can get. I dropped out of college and can't begin to convey the joy and relief I felt when I knew that I'd never go to school again. The costs of school have risen to such absurd heights that it now represents a poor value for more people than ever.
I think that it's important, though, to not look at things as either black or white. School isn't bad, it's just not always worth the time and/or money invested in it. Just like everything, it has its pros and its cons, the weights of which could be valued differently for anyone.
So in the spirit of seeing the other side of the coin and evaluating things on their entirety, I thought I'd share some of the things about school that I think are very positive and how I would use them if I were going to school.
The best thing about school, to me at least, is the social group. It's the easiest possible time to make friends because most people don't have fully formed social groups, you're around a bunch of people with some commonalities, and you're in an environment that lends itself to being social. If I were in school I would dedicate a huge amount of time and effort to making the best possible social group. I'm not good friends with too many people I met in my three semesters of college, but I did meet one of my best friends, Todd, there.
I think this is actually even more important for people who are more introverted or less social. It only gets harder from here, so you may as well play the game while it's easy.
Counterintuitively, school is also an amazing environment for starting a business. If you keep a minimum courseload or just don't take your required courses too seriously, you can have a minimum of responsibility but a lot of time. Four years is a great amount of time for building a business, plus you can rope friends in to work on it with you and you aren't competing against actual jobs.
If I were in school again, I would completely disregard the idea of graduating and would only take classes in which I was interested. I did this to some extent, taking scuba diving for example, but I wish I had done it even more. I would have taken ballet class, art history, and anything else that seemed interesting. I wouldn't have bothered taking any class where I knew that I would just forget what I learned afterwards.
Last, I didn't realize when I was in school just how impressive some professors are. Many have written great books or have had serious impacts within their fields. Once you're out of school they're probably too busy for you, but when you're at the same school it's pretty easy to have a conversation with them.
I think school is a mediocre or poor choice for many people, but parental pressure will lead many to go to school even when it's not that great. However, if you're forced to go there, there are plenty of positive things that you may as well take advantage of.
Photo is the Hubbard Glacier. It was amazing to see it up close and watch it calve.
I dropped out of school during my sophomore year of college. I was a little bit scared to do it, but I followed through because I was certain that I didn't want to get a normal job or do anything else that would make use of a degree. Dropping out was one of the best decisions I've made, and it pushed me towards the life that I really wanted to live.
However, just because dropping out was right for me doesn't mean that it's right for everyone, or for you. I think that the school system is trending towards obsolescence and is a far worse value proposition that it was in previous eras, but that doesn't mean that it's worthless or that it's not the right choice for a lot of people. You might be surprised to find out that when people email me to ask if they should drop out, I tell many of them that I think they should stay in school.
When I talk about dropping out of school, by the way, I mean dropping out of college. Unless you are home schooled or have a very good plan for learning useful life and social skills, I think that at least completing high school is a good idea. I also think that taking some college is a good idea for many people. Going for a semester is a fairly small investment of time to figure out if it's a good fit for you, and you can also completely disregard course guidelines and take interesting things like Chinese and scuba diving.
If you're in high school or entering college, the most important thing you should realize is that you alone are responsible for your education and your life, and that you should use the next four years in the best way possible. Forget about labels like graduate and dropout, and focus on what is best going to prepare you for the life that you want to have.
At first I was going to title this talking VS doing, but the whole point is that you need both.
I'm sure you've all heard "Don't talk the talk, walk the walk" or some variation of it, point being you need to follow through with your actions. "Actions speak louder than words" too.
And this is true for the most part. But you need both. You can't just rely on the doing, even moreso today than 50 years ago (of course I wasn't around 50 years ago so I could be mistaken).
In the vast majority of cases, a person should follow the traditional advice so they err on the side more doing, less talking. But, if you're smart or productive and have legit value to the world, often the doing isn't enough. In fact, the highly competent people could probably reverse the old sayings and turn out better.