How to Defend Your Decision Not to Go to College

PayPal founder, Peter Thiel is actually paying $100,000 to a few dozen kids to drop out of college. Thiel told ABC News that while colleges provide learning opportunities, they have become a haven for debt. He recently founded a controversial project that pays college aged students to pursue their innovative ideas and dreams. While he may be paying approximately 24 young entrepreneurs to chase their dream, not every college aged young adult has this opportunity. If Peter Thiel is not backing your idea but you still want to take a different path, here’s what you can do to knock down the naysayers.


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    Have concrete reasons why you should not go to college. Telling your parents or teachers that you aren’t going “just because” is not going to hold much weight. You must have a real reason and specifics why you have decided not to go.
    • Save money. Part of Thiel’s rationale for not going to college is that the world is filled with millions of college grads without jobs and in severe debt. The cost of college is only going up--can you afford the debt if you are going to be the one ultimately having to pay?
    • Go to work sooner. The flip side of avoiding debt is that instead of skulking around the ivory tower at some university, racking up student loans for four plus years, you could be out earning your keep the minute your high school diploma is in hand.
    • Your chosen profession does not require a college degree. If you plan to work a trade or in the arts will a college degree really give you the leg up on the competition or just serve as a waste of time?
    • You want to explore “real” life now instead of waiting until you graduate from college. Instead of dangling in a transitional period, you want to attack life immediately by getting a job, earning money and starting your career.
    • You are unsure what you want to do with your life (so why spend the money for a college degree you may not use/want). Instead of haphazardly going off to college with everyone else you are taking a more mature stance and would prefer to actually know what you’d like to do with your life rather than waste time and money at school.
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    Detail a life action plan. Even if you have solid reasons not to head off to college, you cannot just deliver those reasons to your parents (or others) and then just stand there. You need a serious, action plan that you can demonstrate will be easy to implement.
    • Explain where you hope to be in five to 10 years. Your parents will ultimately want to know what you want to be when you “grow up.” This means you will need to tell them where your passion lies or how you plan to make money in the long run.
    • Describe what you will do first. Whether it means you will get a job as an apprentice or join the military, make sure your action plan describes how you will support yourself during the early days.
    • Demonstrate how you will gain the skills to be successful in your chosen field. Will on-the-job training help you achieve your goal or will you need technical or another type of education such as beauty school or specialized HVAC training? If college isn’t in the cards, be sure you describe how you will learn your trade, which may involved some sort of education.
    • Describe your ultimate job. Once you get through the lean years of training, where do you ultimately want to be and how will you get there? For example, if you want to be a hair stylist, what is considered to be your dream salon or do you want to open your own salon someday? If you want to open your own salon, what additional training or work is required to achieve this goal?
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    Put your plan in motion immediately following high school graduation. While your college bound pals may be partying away the summer of their senior year, you’ll need to dig in right away so people will take you seriously.
    • Begin with education. Whether you want to become an electrician or a soldier, take the initial step that lets everyone know you mean business. This could include signing up for certification courses or the military.
    • Get your finances in order. Since you want to demonstrate you are adult enough to skip college, you need to make sure your financial house is in order. This means no huge credit card bills and being able to pay all your bills without your parent’s assistance (rent, auto, utilities etc.).
    • Ask for help. If there’s one aspect of your plan that you need assistance with, don’t hesitate to ask your parents or an adult for help. Every young person needs some guidance and a lifeline when starting out, so if you need direction for the kinds of classes you should take or the right kind of job you should consider in your chosen field, ask a seasoned adult for advise.
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    Move forward with confidence. In a society where going to college is more of the rule than the exception, you will run into your share of doubters. Don’t let them question your direction and goals, but instead hold your head high and remember you could be the one laughing in the long run.
    • Avoid getting defensive when someone questions your motives. Just because you aren’t doing what everyone is doing doesn’t make you less of a human being. When someone raises the question of “why” remain calm and explain your plan.
    • Remember that choosing not to go to college means that you’ve decided to become an adult sooner than later. Although your college buddies are the same age as you, they most likely won’t be facing the same responsibilities. This means you should take life a little more seriously and avoid making some of the same mistakes as your college friends like skipping class or spending all your money on booze.
    • Seek the company of others in your field. Look for like-minded individuals with similar goals. If you hope to open your own HVAC company in five to 10 years, partner with other young adults with the same dream. Being with someone with similar goals will help you stay focused on your dream.


  • Do some research comparing a career that requires a college education versus one that does not. In the long run, which career seems to be more appealing? Doing research may help you make a more informed decision about your future.
  • Know that even the best laid plans can go awry. Be ready to face numerous challenges associated with not getting a college education.
  • Remember that nothing has to be set in stone. If two years down the road you think that this idea or career is not for you, college is always a possibility. Don't be embarrassed if you decide to scrap your original plan and opt for college. Remember--everyone is a work in progress.


  • Avoid passing judgment on friends who decide to go to college. Appreciate your differences and understand that everyone has different dreams and goals.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate