Focus on skill, not school

WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg, mentioned in an interview that he wasn't happy with his college because they were still teaching old technologies like Microsoft Visual Basic in 2002. Our colleges in India today, in 2016, still teach the same. The real tragedy is that you can't even find Visual Basic software. In spite of that, the syllabus hasn't changed.

What you learn at college is already outdated

Colleges don't teach technology; they teach the history of technology, things which are outdated.  

Here's why

They can't teach new technologies because they don't know how to. Institutions just can't change fast enough with the changing times. Since they can't find teachers with new skills, they teach old skills.

A century ago, the pace of change was such that once out of college (or school), you could just do the same thing throughout your life without learning anything new. Now, things change so fast that what you learn in college is already outdated.

Why would you want to go to such a college?
Just for a certificate which depreciates in value faster than a car? 
Is that kind of education going to take you anywhere?

What should you do with the money and time that you would otherwise waste in college?

Spend that money on doing a course which you can actually apply. There are various options available in professional institutes. They will teach you, provide real world experience and may even pay you and hire you if you do good work. 

Spend money on learning cutting edge technologies on platforms like Coursera. Most of the courses are free, and few are paid. They also provide certificates for people who feel that knowledge is not enough. 

Is it really possible to learn by yourself the same way you do in a formal school setting? 

The short answer is YES. The long answer is a little more complicated.

It's difficult to learn when a course is free and without deadlines. It is harder for many to force themselves to complete the assignment or to read the material if it is not compulsory. They just postpone the reading, always swearing to finish it ‘tomorrow.’

Even mature college students comply with the rules because they have paid fee and college would fail them if they don't turn in assignments in time. So, the structure keeps them in line.

Without that forced structure, just relying on motivation is not a good strategy. Having a system in place helps you stay true to your goals. 

So, to keep you motivated without the formal structure of the college, use a well-established scientific principle of loss aversion. Loss aversion, basically, says that we don't want to lose stuff. Losing $1000 is a lot more painful than not earning $1000. 

To use loss aversion, join a paid course with a deadline. If you don't complete the course, you will waste money. Most people won't let that happen. 

If you don't have money to invest, it's OK to join a free course. However, ask your friends to call you a loser on Facebook if you don't finish that free course in time. You may also couple that with a bet in which you have to pay someone you hate Rs 1,000 if you don't finish the course by a particular time.

Currently, I am doing a data science course on Coursera, and it's difficult for me. But I still deliver, every week, in spite of all the responsibilities of running multiple websites and managing the family. Perhaps because I have paid for it. 

Now someone may ask: 

What if employers ask for a degree from a "real" college?

It's true that large enterprises will ask for a degree. You will just need to skip them. 

Even if we disregard all the billionaire college dropouts like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, it's clear that in today's economy, you don't need to have a degree to find a job. As long as you are good at your craft, you can work as a freelancer and earn more money than any company would be willing to pay you. It has been true for me, as it has been true for many others.

If you feel someone is wasting their time in college or is about to, share this post with them. You just may save someone from years of drudgery.

What do you want to learn? What's your excuse for not learning so far? What did you learn, if at all, in college? Let me know in the comments.

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