Advice to College and High School Graduates

Life is not a prison... Free yourself!
Life is not a prison… Free yourself!

Forget college…

With all the college graduations going on and high school graduations coming up, I wanted to write what advice I would give to graduates.  Knowing what I know now, it’s the kind of advice I wish someone told me.  Instead of all the hoopla about finding inspiration in the world, embracing the future, paying your dues etc., etc., you know the fortune cookie stuff that no one remembers… let’s get real.

First off pick the cheapest school you can get into because in the end your college degree won’t mean squat.  (Unless you’re going to med school, then by all means rack up that debt and if you already have a crushing debt load we’ll get to that in a minute.)  Better yet, forget college!  You don’t need it.  Just look at Steve JobsEllen DeGeneres, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah and more.  Take that money you would spend on a college education and go out and experience the world.  Do what you’ve always wanted to do, but never could.  Travel.  Volunteer.  Start a business.  Wait, wait I can hear you now, what if the business fails?  I say, so what?  Who cares!  You have experience that no school is going to teach you.  And should someone ask just spin it in a positive way like saying now you know what you would do differently to make a business successful.  You are not truly succeeding unless you fail at something because that’s the only way you’ll understand what true success is.  Plus, if you want to enter the job market at some point the fact that you started a business is going to look really really good on your resume.  You could even say you sold it.  They don’t have to know it was to a relative for a dollar or in other words an “undisclosed amount”.

So business isn’t your thing… okay.  Write a book then.  Live off the money you would have used for college while you write.  Then revise your ass off and write another book and another and another until you find that magical moment when everything clicks.  People tell me all the time they want to write a book.  So get out there and do it!

Still not your thing?  That’s fine.  Teach yourself to code and build a website.  You’ll have one of the most valuable hottest skills that companies want today.  So how can you teach yourself to code?  There are tons of online resources like codeacademy and w3schools.   And if you can find a big enough college go sit in on the classes, they won’t notice.  Or use the money you would put towards college and hire someone to teach you.

So some of you are probably say, wait a minute, whoa whoa I already have a ton of debt.  I won’t get started on how our country needs to do something about the college debt issue.  But… you’re probably saying I need a damn job and I don’t have time for this stuff.  Right.  Agreed.  (I’d also say try to do everything you can like negotiating an income based repayment plan or deferring or consolidating or check out this student loan forgiveness guide.)

However, if you need to find a job know that people want to work with interesting individuals, so make yourself interesting.  Go out and collect stories to tell from your experiences, so you have something to talk about in an interview.  Or something to spin on your resume.  And if you can’t find a job, any job, just to build experience and get paid then create your own.  If you’re not getting paid as it is, figure out something you can do without spending a lot of money.  Into organizing, then become an organizer.  Love dogs?  Become a dog walker or sitter.  Sure they might not make a lot, but it’s more than you’re making without a job.  Use your creativity and get out there and do something!

So don’t waste money that you probably have to borrow on classes you won’t remember.  And don’t waste your time cramming useless facts into your brain only to walk out after the test and forget everything.  And don’t waste your energy trying to complete a degree that will get you no where.  Go out and experience life.  People will want to work with you because of that, not some expensive piece of paper you spent four years of your life toiling away for only to stuff it into the back of a closet.  Who knows, when you’re out there you might just find what you’re actually meant to do.


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