By Margherite Cermak
For the most part young people are told that in order to have a good career you must have a good college education, however not everyone can afford a college education and those who can are severely over paying. The value that is placed on getting a degree is overrated. Collectively people are under the impression that in order to have certain careers a specific degree and college education is required and that is in fact untrue. You don’t necessarily need a degree, you just need to be able to pass the tests. It’s true that you will be judged by your education, but anything you can learn from a university you can teach yourself.
Colleges require you to take many classes that may not apply to what you’re trying to do. The time it takes to complete a degree is inefficient. And the financial system behind universities only further perpetuates unjust inequalities between low income and high income families. The education system itself is an insult to intelligent Americans. Everything that is taught in school is taught from books and is based off of a curriculum. What’s more insulting is that this information is mostly taught by people who were taught to teach it rather than by people who have been successful in the careers they are preparing their students for.
There are cases where experts in a subject are put in place to educate students, but even then they are still teaching what they are told to teach. This makes for a waste of time and money as a universal education can’t possibly apply to everyone in the class. We each need a unique skill set and strengths to be powerful in our fields. That is why self educating is the fastest, most efficient way to learn what it is you need to learn in order to be successful in your craft.
Now this idea may seem overwhelming at first, but let’s put it into perspective. In a typical case a student must complete 120 credit hours of college classes to earn a Bachelors Degree and it takes 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars to complete. You pay for books, you pay for transportation, you pay for teachers and most often you pay to live on campus. The text books you’ll buy will cost you three times what an average book on the subject will cost, you’re paying teachers who will only interact with you for a few moments out of a few hours a week, and the cost of living will be at least double what you’ll pay at home. But worst of all, after all that, you’ll only retain some of what you’ve learned and in most cases you’ll only apply a fraction of that information to your actual career.
So first, let’s break down the time it would take to educate yourself instead of going to a university. A credit hour equals 3 hours a week per course so 120 credit hours equal 1,800 actual hours of in-house learning. Universities divide those hours into a variety of 40 classes, including ones you most likely don’t need, and spans it over a course of 8, 15 week semesters or 4 years on average. That’s 45 hours per course multiplied by 40 courses that’s how we come to a total of 1,800 in-house hours of learning. But how much time does 120 credit hours of education actually take to learn? Well, if you sit down and spend 3 hours a day, every day, teaching yourself what you need to know then it will take you 600 days which equals 20 months, or 18 months if you take two days out of the week off and study for 5 hours a day instead of 3. Now which scenario seems more overwhelming?
Next let’s take a look at these books students of universities are taught from. First of all, they are just books. They aren’t special books with information that is only publishable in the form of text books and owned by the rulers of education. They are just books, usually written by teachers and published by the schools they are taught in. If they aren’t published by a specific school then that means they are books available to the public by various means. Sometimes you can even purchase these books used for very discounted prices. But since all this is true, why use them at all? They are specific books used to teach a specific class. Text books feature a variety of bits and pieces of general information in a subject, so if you are your own teacher why not use books that better suit your needs? You can instead study from a variety of books that each individually contain thorough detailed information about the specific subject or topic you need to know about.
If you want to learn how to be a botanist instead of spending $100 on Biology 1 on 1, spend $14.95 on a book about how plants grow, $19.99 on a book that describes environmental conditions relating to plants, $25.99 on plant species that grow in your area and $29.95 on how to maintain a healthy garden or whatever. Doing it this way you can learn what you need to learn and discard anything that is irrelevant to you such as what plants King Henry VIII used a million years ago to try and cure the plague. With so much information thrown at you it’s important to take what you need and be able to apply it without useless distractions.
You just have to know what it is you’re going to need. While this kind of knowledge will definitely come most often from trial and error as well as experience but it isn’t hard to investigate such things yourself. When I was 9 years old I decided I wanted to create a magazine about cats written from a cats point of view. I compiled stories about all my neighbors cats as well as my own, wrote them down as if written by a cat and drew pictures of cats to correlate with the stories and then I made a few copies and called it “Cat’s View”. When my Uncle Joey saw this he asked “Why don’t you get it published?”. This question to 9 year old me was the beginning of my career.
I had no idea what publishing means so very simply, I asked. Once Uncle Joey explained it to me I picked up some of my mother’s magazines about cats, a subject similar to mine, and I found the name of the company that published the books along with the addresses of such companies and I wrote them all letters explaining my goals and asking for their advice and guidance along with a dozen questions. While most of my letters were ignored, some of them were not and many of my questions were answered. All I had to do was ask how is what I’m trying to do done, and just like that I taught myself how to copy right and publish a body of work. Cat’s View never got published, but when I was 12 and wanted to be a Hip-Hop Lyrical Writer many of my songs, poems and short stories were and 20 years later here I am, a professional writer.
Now if I was able to do that as a child 20 years ago before technology hand delivered any and all information to anyone with an internet connection, that means that today any teenager or adult can find the information they need within the resources available to them today. You start by asking yourself what it is you need to know, then ask someone who might know. Back then that someone to ask had to be someone you knew personally but today that someone can be anyone who pops up on Google. Take the first step and ask Google “how do I do xyz” and go from there. Just keep asking questions.
Another really great resource is Barnes and Nobles. Anyone can go to a Barnes and Nobles, find a book they want to read and sit there quietly reading through the book. You don’t have to buy it, you don’t have to be a member of anything, and you don’t have to limit yourself to the information in that one book. Amazon also has a really great program where you can sell back books you purchased in the past. I would say the library is a good source but it’s government funded and so you need a library card and everything you read is documented but if you do want to utilize them, make sure you know that if they don’t have the book you want they are required by law to try and find the book for you and have it sent to that location if requested by a library member. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it and don’t ever loose a book you borrowed.
The resources you can find in bookstores, libraries and on the internet is so much more valuable than those you’ll find in schools. Yes, teachers are great, but teachers, even professors, are underpaid and 90% of the time they are people who are teaching things they were taught to teach rather than things they lived and experienced. While books that get published by actual publishing companies are written by professionals who have lived and experienced the subject at hand. That’s why they get published, because they are good, informative books that people will invest in in order to obtain the information they hold. And no matter how good a teacher is, or how dedicated they are to you and your education and career, their attention is divided amongst hundreds or at very least dozens of students but when you read a book, it’s a one on one experience between you and the author.
Save your time, save your money and educate yourself. Applying that education is equally as important if not more. Because there is so much hype around getting a degree, a self educated person will have to prove their knowledge to employers. Again, this may sound overwhelming but business people are usually people who think outside of the box, use that in your favor. If you’re studying to be something like a lawyer, then you’ll have to pass the bar exam. If you’re studying to be a carpenter for the Fire Department than you’ll have to pass their test as well. But if you’re applying to a job or chasing a career that has no test then you’ll need something to show instead. Proof that you are qualified.
Don’t be discouraged. Again, find out exactly what you need to qualify for the position and instead of listing awards won by school contests make a list of all the books you read in completion from A to Z, write an essay on what specific things you’ve learned and how that retained information applies to the job at hand. Write a blog and publish 30 different posts on what makes you an expert on whatever topic you’re discussing. These things will get you the attention from employers and mentors that you’ll need to achieve your goals. And remember, there isn’t just one dream job, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of amazing high paying jobs that you will qualify for if you study hard. In fact, by educating yourself you will be vastly more qualified if you truly are dedicated.
Spend 3 hours a day, every single day, asking the world of information questions and give yourself the homework of applying that information to your life and career and I promise you’ll achieve so much more than you can imagine possible. Don’t let a system designed to separate classes and put people in debt stop you from becoming whatever it is you want to become. Be smart, be unique and be diligent. Your dreams will come true.