Let’s start with the meat of this topic. If you’re a good learner and a self-starter, you don’t need to go to college. In fact, it can be more beneficial for you to avoid college altogether. However, it’s important to recognize the resources that colleges can provide for you and learn how to take advantage of it for your own benefit.
My advice: Pay for one semester at a large college or university, and then reap the benefits of being a student forever.
There are a lot of perks to living next to a university. Learn how to utilize them and jumpstart your own education without having to rely on a strict programme of material or a punitive system of reward/punishment.
How I Failed at College
First of all, I’ll be honest: I never finished college. I originally entered college as a music major (piano primary). I wasn’t bad. I auditioned at a few different schools, was accepted at all of them, but ended up going to the University of Georgia.
Suffice it say that school has never been a strong suit of mine. I strongly dislike being told what to learn, and I get easily frustrated when I’m required to learn material I have no interest for. I went through a plethora of music-related majors trying to find what worked best for me—composition, music therapy, and performance—but in the end, I found myself more and more estranged from the path I was seeking: to imagine and write beautiful music that could change lives.
After that, I took a two year break to recoup some of my financial losses and get a fresh head. When I finally went back to school, I decided on English, which felt like a step in the right direction. That’s when I learned how much I hated writing. Ironic, right?
The long story short: I decided I didn’t like college. It’s just not for me. It’s been nothing but a money sink that’s caused me nothing but perturbation and stress over the years. I’ve had long bouts of depression linked to my schoolwork, and I’ve discovered that I just can’t do it anymore.
The Perks of Having a Student ID
This is where it gets good. Despite my eventual departure from university courses, the campus is still a big part of my life. I still drive through campus every day; it’s an important place in Athens.
That said, there’s a lot of resources at your disposal once you get a student ID and/or familiarize yourself with campus. Perhaps the biggest perk is that I have access to every single educational resource within UGA’s four campus libraries (plus lent books to other colleges/universities from all over the state) as well as its online system of books, journals, and newspapers. There is literally more information on one floor of the Main Library than any one person could ever read or learn.
Student IDs are rarely discontinued, especially at large universities, so you can often use yours long after you’ve graduated/left the university. If I want to read a book on journalism, I can go check it out with my student ID; even if my student ID is outdated, I can still make daily trips to the library to read and study.
There are also unexpected surprises—access to tools and software you wouldn’t be able to use at home. The public computers on campus have Matlab loaded on all of them. The music school has MIDI controllers and all sorts of composition software. Even if you’re not a student anymore, you can still go in and make music. All it requires is a student ID number + password, which can potentially be maintained indefinitely by resetting your password every six months.
The second biggest perk is private study areas, free wi-fi, and access to other people’s opinions and thoughts. There are tons of extracurricular groups to keep your mind sharp and pique your interests, even if you’re not a student.
Sometimes dorms are off-limits without special access, but in any case, it’s easy to find quiet nooks where no one will bother you.
Oh, did I mention the Health Center and world class Athletic Center that are open to the public? (BTW, former UGA students scored 8 Olympic medals in Rio).
An Ideal Education
For me, nothing in the world beats this sort of education. It’s a chance for me to work on my own topics at my own pace with nearly limitless resources. I’m sure I still haven’t even found everything available to me, but it’s already more than I think I could ever use.
This is something I wish I had done years ago before I had accrued thousands of dollars in debt and put myself through a grueling gauntlet of success and failure in the scholastic world.
I think the main thing to draw from my story is that a traditional education is not for everyone. Having a Bachelor’s Degree that officially states that you know things is nice for credentials, but often it means very little compared to relevant experience and depth of knowledge, especially in the realm of esports and content creation.