Why College isn’t Necessary to be Successful

skill gap

Is a College Education Worth It?

The American debate over whether a college education is worth it began when the colonists arrived from Europe and founded “New College” (later renamed Harvard University) in 1636. Today, there are around 20 million college students in the United States, and over 44 million borrowers owe a collective 800.5 trillion in total student debt.

People who argue that college is worth it contend that college graduates have higher employment rates, bigger salaries, and more work benefits than high school graduates. They say college graduates also have better interpersonal skills, live longer, have healthier children, and have proven their ability to achieve a major milestone.

People who argue that college is not worth it contend that the debt from college loans is too high and delays graduates from saving for retirement, buying a house, or getting married. They say many successful people never graduated from college and that many jobs, especially trades jobs, do not require college degrees. Read more background…

Just Before You Try to Pursue Success

Different people define success differently. Depending on your perception of it, success can be anything from learning something new, overcoming a fear, helping others, having a high-paying job to being one’s own boss.

Yes, earning a college degree can help you reap success. However, it doesn’t mean that skipping college will make you a failure — you can have no college education and still be a smashing success!

It’s completely up to you to decide if chasing your dreams instead of earning a degree right after high school suits you more. But whether or not you have a college diploma, you need to exhibit the likes of determination, self-reliance, passion, flexibility, optimism and patience in order to attain success the way you define it.

How to Invest in Your Education

University of the People student with backpack holding study materials

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Your education is an investment, so invest wisely. Do your homework when it comes to the school you plan to attend, and the major or degree you plan to graduate with. Some degrees and majors have higher or lower ROI, so make sure yours has a high ROI to make it worth your money.

Knowing your financing options is an important part of paying for your college degree. Do as much research into relevant scholarships that you can, and apply for them, no matter if the reward amount is large or small. The small scholarship amounts can really add up!

Make sure to fill out a yearly FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. If you can, try to pay off some of the tuition while you are in school. Check out options for work-study, where you get paid and earn college credit while you work. See if you can also work for college credit, or TA for a class to offset tuition costs.

Finding financial success while you are in college is possible. Try starting a side business, either with yourself or with colleagues. If it goes well, you can pursue it further after graduation. There are plenty of student-friendly jobs available that are either part-time, flexible, online, or a combination of all three. Saving wherever you can will help you out big time in the long run. Try to eat in, stick to your budget, and use all the student discounts you can while you are in college.

Making tough decisions is a part of financial success in college. You might have to forgo a dream school if the price is too high, or you might opt to live at home during college to save money. These are tough decisions to make, but ultimately will help you financially in the long run.

You don’t have to be a part of the student debt crisis. If you attend a low-cost university, it is possible to work part-time throughout the school to pay off the tuition as you go. If you attend the University of the People, your classes will be tuition-free, almost guaranteeing that you graduate from college debt-free with a useful and in-demand degree.

Many Successful Leaders Don’t Have College Degrees

1. Steve Jobs: Steve Jobs went to Reed College for computing but dropped out after just one semester. After spending some time in India, he went on to build one of the most powerful and influential companies today: Apple.

2. Richard Branson: As a dyslexic student, Branson didn’t have much success in school and dropped out of high school. He is now a billionaire, and the founder and CEO of Virgin Group.

3. Dave Thomas: Founder and former CEO of Wendy’s, Thomas left high school to work for a restaurant in Indiana. He opened the first Wendy’s in 1969 and the rest is history!

4. Michael Dell: Dell went to college because his parents wanted him to become a doctor. But during school, he started a side gig refurbishing computers that became so successful, he dropped out after one year.

5. Rachael Ray: Believe it or not, Rachael Ray has no culinary training or any degree for that matter. She used her skills, personality, and tenacity to become the amazing food star that she is today.

6. Henry Ford: Ford left his family’s farm at the age of 16 to move to Detroit and work as an apprentice in a machine shop. He has no formal schooling in engineering or business but went on to revolutionize the automotive and business world.

7. John D. Rockefeller Sr.: Rockefeller, like many of his time, started working at the age of 16 with only some knowledge of bookkeeping. He is known as one of the richest Americans to ever live and founded one of the most successful companies in America, Standard Oil.

8. Steven Spielberg: Spielberg was actually denied acceptance to film school twice. While attending another school, he started as an intern at Universal Studios and began his career that way. He eventually received an honorary degree, 35 years after first attending college.

9. Mary Kay Ash: Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, started her company in 1963 at the age of 45 after decades of watching men get promoted instead of her. Before she started Mary Kay Cosmetics, she was a successful businesswoman much ahead of her time.


Why college isn’t necessary to be successful

Jessica Alba

“Success takes communication, collaboration and, sometimes, failure.” Note, Alba didn’t mention a college degree to succeed. That’s because a college degree doesn’t guarantee success, and she’s true testament to that.

Jessica Alba did graduate from high school, but according to California News Times, never enrolled in college or University. She took acting classes at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York. Not only did she go on to pursue a successful acting career, but her company – The Honest Company – was valued at just under 800 billion.

She’s one of the richest self-made women in the US, but as she says, it wasn’t easy “People just saw me as a girl in a bikini in movies kicking butts. It took three-and-a-half years of lots of condescending nods.”


Dave Thomas

He may not be alive anymore, but his legacy lives on. Wendy’s, named after the first of his 5 children, was all thanks to Dave Thomas and the fact that he couldn’t find a decent hamburger to eat in Columbus, Ohio.

His life was incredibly interesting, but we start when he was 12 years old and got his first job at Regas Restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. His father moved often, and by 15 he was working at the Hobby House Restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When his father decided to move again, Thomas chose to stay behind and continue working. He dropped out of school and worked full-time at the restaurant. Decades later, he obtained his GED just like Tyler Perry did.

In time, Thomas worked closely with Colonel Sanders to bring KFC to town and make it profitable. In 1969 he opened the first Wendy’s and today, there are more than 6,500 Wendy’s where everything is “Deliciously Different.”

It’s Time for Job Seekers to Get Social

Many people start their job search on sites like Indeed or LinkedIn. They search a few keywords and then browse the first few pages of listings. But often, it’s only the biggest, wealthiest companies — the ones that pay money to keep their job openings at the top of those lists — that show up. As a result, hundreds, or even thousands, of candidates apply for a very small pool of job openings, increasing competition among job seekers. Hiring managers are more likely to favor those candidates with relevant network connections, which puts students with college degrees at an advantage and those without them at a disadvantage.

For hiring managers, degrees are often a quick proof point. They indicate that a candidate has dedicated the necessary time and received the proper education to build skills relevant to a role. In lieu of a degree, candidates need to be able to prove this on their own — and social media is a great way to do it. You can use your profiles like a portfolio and engage in activity that demonstrates your experience, dedication, and commitment to bettering your skills.

1) Audit your social media profiles.

It’s very likely that hiring managers know you even before they meet you. In fact, most recruiters factor a job candidate’s social media accounts into their hiring decisions, and 79% have even rejected a candidate because of their social media content. For instance, if employers see hate speech, intolerant comments, images showing irresponsible or illegal behavior, negative posts about previous employers, and more, they’re probably not going to hire you. So, don’t treat your social profiles as an afterthought; establish your online presence to impress a recruiter. Use it to show who you are in ways that a résumé or interview cannot.

Profile picture: Princeton researchers found that people form initial judgments after seeing someone’s face within one-tenth of a second, so you need a good profile picture to make a favorable first impression. One study by Photofeeler, a website that allows users to share feedback on photos anonymously, found that dressing formally in profile pictures can make you appear more competent, and smiling with your teeth showing can make you appear more likable and influential.

If you can afford it, hire a professional photographer to take a headshot of you in formal attire. If that’s not an option, ask a friend to take your photo or take a selfie on your own — just make sure the photo is clear and well lit, without clutter in the background. Be sure to keep your photo consistent across sites. When employers look at your various profiles, you want them to be certain that they’re looking at the same person.

Experience and job descriptions: Ensure that your experiences and job description on social media match your résumé. You want to show consistency, and including a position on your social profiles but not on your résumé could create confusion. Since space isn’t a constraint on many social media sites, don’t hesitate to include any additional details about your jobs (such as additional responsibilities, awards, etc.) that you couldn’t fit on your résumé. If you’ve worked in different industries, list all of them and elaborate on how the skills you learned there can help you excel in your desired career path.

For example, if you’ve waited tables and are now looking for different opportunities, list the skills you’ve picked up along the way: communication, emotional intelligence, crisis management, and teamwork. Then, explain how those skills translate to make you a good fit for the next roles you want.

Does a College Degree Matter?

As we’ve stated throughout, the evolution of technology and the internet age has been rapid. As a result, there are careers and job positions that didn’t exist as little as five years ago. So, how important is college?


Ultimately, it’s up to every individual to decide what is right for them and what path they want to follow to get there. College is not for everyone and that is perfectly acceptable. It is up to you to decide if college is not worth it. Choosing an alternative means of getting an education that suits you is smart and financially beneficial. College should not be thought of as an experience to be had or missed. Rather it should be considered as a possibility. Hopefully, in time, high schools can begin to teach students about other opportunities that could be considered for their futures as well.