I can think of 1,000 things a young person could do to set themselves up for success. And many of these choices are FREE. Getting a degree, though, is not one of them.
Which is why I’m always flabbergasted when I hear activists begging for free education from the government. (As they have been this week in the ongoing protests against Trump.)
How out of touch with the current job market (and reality, for that matter) do you have to be to think that a degree from the government is going to set you up for a successful, fulfilling and dynamic career?
Further, how, in the information age, can one possibly claim that their lack of “free education” is what’s holding them back? Education is already free.
It doesn’t happen often, but whenever I get the chance, sometimes to the disapproval of their parents, I always tell any high school kids I meet that if they don’t know what they want to do, don’t jump straight into college.
Even if you do know what you want to do, shop for alternatives as well.
If you really know what you want to do, why not find someone already doing it and offer to work for them for free? Why beat around the bush? Sure, you’re going to be a glorified intern for a little while, but the experience you’ll get will be invaluable and set you LIGHTYEARS ahead of the competition.
If you feel like you NEED a degree, though, do it the smart way.
“Treat education like an investment,” Simon Black of Sovereign Man suggests. “Think about both the capital and opportunity costs, and calculate the expected returns.”
And don’t limit yourself just to the United States. Going abroad, especially when you’re young, is the most valuable thing you could do for your personal growth and confidence.
Here are, courtesy of Simon, some options:
Peking University is the most prestigious in China; yet tuition runs less than $5,000 per year.
Here you would be rubbing elbows with China’s elite business circles, providing invaluable connections for doing business in the country later in life.
Meanwhile, you’d be saving on living costs and building up fluency in one of the world’s most important emerging business languages.
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, where you’d be studying at one of the finest universities in the world — in ENGLISH — for less than $1,500 a year.
Even if you just want to drop in, EPFL lets you attend classes without being awarded a degree for about 50 bucks per course.
This is a steal given that EPFL ranks higher than Cornell, Brown, Northwestern, Rice, Carnegie Mellon, Dartmouth, UC Berkley, BU, Duke, McGill, NYU, and many other top-ranked US schools.
Technical University of Munich, one of the most highly regarded universities in Europe, where you can get an advanced degree for a whopping $120 a semester.
AND that includes a free bus pass. I mean, it’s like being paid to go to school.
The world is flush with opportunities.
Begging on the street for a low-quality education from the U.S. government is one of the worst, most degrading options out there.
To drive this point home, today, we invite Simon to show us the TRUTH about “free education,” and how it’s not about education at all.
It’s really about this myth of the “golden ticket.” And, let’s be honest, it’s just another excuse to protect oneself from the real challenges of the real world.
No, protestors, you are not entitled to free education
Bleary-eyed from the 16+ hour flight from Asia, I checked my phone last night once the plane landed to find that riots have broken out across the Land of the Free.
It was enough to wake me from my jet lag.
All the televisions in the airport terminal were showing footage of the chaos along with occasional interviews with some of the protestors.
Naturally there was outcry against racism, sexism, violence, and all the usual anti-Trump arguments.
(Which I found ironic given this video of a Trump voter being viciously beaten in Chicago.)
But one of the recurring themes from these protestors being interviewed, primarily young people, was that Trump wasn’t going to do anything about student debt.
This was a major issue during the election, one that Bernie Sanders grabbed onto with promises of free education and debt reduction.
His message resonated with young people.
I’ve see this same theme all over the world, from Chile to the United Kingdom– students want free education, underpinned by a fundamental belief that quality education is a basic human right to be provided by the government.
Even if you agree with this assertion, there’s a MAJOR problem with the logic: these students are conflating “education” with “university degree.”
Anytime young people tell me they’re entitled to free education, I always ask the same questions–
How many books did you read in the past six months?
How many times did you go to the local library?
How many free online courses from top universities like Harvard, MIT, and Georgetown did you take at edx.org?
How often have you actually used the multitude of free resources at your disposal to educate yourself?
Most times I just get the deer in the headlights look.
The truth is that they’re not interested in free education.
They just want a free university degree… a piece of paper that confers neither education nor any guarantee of success in life.
Candidly, many of the important things we need to learn in life are not taught in school.
I’ve started more businesses than I can count, some of them spectacular failures, others highly successful. I didn’t learn any of those skills at school.
And everything I learned about farming, for example, was on the land, not in the classroom.
This is true with many other elements that help us achieve success in life– business, investing, networking, romance, personal health, etc.
Understandably, certain professions do require formal schooling.
But that’s not really the point.
This is ultimately about people expecting the government to steal from others and give them something of questionable value for free when they haven’t yet taken steps to provide for themselves.
One could make the same argument that access to healthy food is a fundamental human right, and that the government should provide organic vegetables for free.
But how many seeds are people planting for themselves? A tomato plant can be grown from a single seed and about one square foot of space with almost no effort.
You’ll eat better (and sooner) taking matters into your own hands rather than waiting for the government to pass some terrible law in order to give you something for free.
It’s the same with education.
Yes, the cost of university in the Land of the Free is out of control. And it really doesn’t make sense for young people to start their lives buried in debt.
But rather than demand a bunch of laws be passed (which, even if this ever happens, will take years), you’ll be much better off taking matters into your own hands.
This starts with expanding your thinking.
Rather than limit yourself to traditional options (i.e. I’m from the US therefore I must attend a US university in order to be successful), consider whether university is the right option at all.
If you truly want to learn a highly valued skill that can pay the bills and provide income security (sales and marketing, business management, investing, design, web development, e-commerce, etc.) you may be better off eschewing university and instead learning directly from someone who has mastered what you want to know.
It’s an extreme example, but you would learn more about investing by working for Warren Buffett than in any university program.
This simple concept of apprenticeship has worked for thousands of years: if you want to be successful, learn from successful people.
Even if you still think that university is the right choice (which it very well may be), expand your thinking to the whole world.
There are plenty of high quality universities overseas that you can attend for almost nothing.
Top universities in Germany and Switzerland, for example, offer degree programs entirely in English, and you can attend for less than the cost of a bus pass.
To boot, going abroad gives you a lot of great international experience and the chance to achieve fluency in a foreign language.
So the end result is that you still get that piece of paper (your university degree), along with tons of other benefits and experiences, with almost none of the costs.
Just like I always try to point out with other solutions we discuss at Sovereign Man, this is an option that makes sense… no matter what.
Do you have a Plan B?
If you live, work, bank, invest, own a business, and hold your assets all in just one country, you are putting all of your eggs in one basket.
You’re making a high-stakes bet that everything is going to be ok in that one country — forever.
All it would take is for the economy to tank, a natural disaster to hit, or the political system to go into turmoil and you could lose everything—your money, your assets, and possibly even your freedom.
[Ed. note: This article originally appeared on the Sovereign Man blog, right here at this link.]
Founder, Sovereign Man
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