Do You Really Need to go to the University?

by Daniel in 57 Comments — Updated Reading Time: 3 minutes

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If you want to work on the Internet or to be an entrepreneur, I really don’t think you need to.

I always tell my friends that if I had the mind that I have today (in terms of knowing what I want to do, and what knowledge and tools I need to do that) five years ago, I would not have enrolled myself in the university.

At the time I had no clue where I was going, however, so getting a degree seemed like the smartest choice. Everyone else was doing it, after all!

I studied International Economics because it was a pretty eclectic degree, and it would allow me to work on virtually any business segment. Then 18 months ago I started working on the Internet with my own websites and with other entrepreneurial projects, and I guess I have being using 5% of what I learned in the university, if that.

Now the main argument of the university proponents is that apart from the knowledge itself, which you might or might not use later on, passing all those years studying will teach you how to gather, analyze and present information. It will give you a framework, upon which you will build on.

That is true, the university will give you that, but I don’t think that a person that starts working straight out of high school would lose that. He would also learn how to gather, analyze and present information, and he would also gain a framework, but those would come from real working experience rather than from theoretical classes and lectures.

I honestly think that if I had spent the same years that I did in the university working with my own projects and trying to make a living online, I would have learned much more (and that knowledge would have been practical rather than theoretical).

Again, this is valid only for certain classes of professionals. If you want to be a doctor or a civil engineer there is no alternative to going to the university and learning what you need to there.

Another downside of universities is that they focus on giving you knowledge, rather than making you develop competencies and attitudes. The latter two are immensely more important for your professional success.

I wrote about this sometime ago, on an article titled Knowledge, Competencies and Attitudes). Summing it up: Knowledge is practical information gained through learning, experience or association (e.g., second degree equations). Competencies, on the other hand, refer to the ability to perform specific tasks (e.g., the ability to communicate effectively). Attitudes involve how people react to certain situations and how they behave in general (e.g., whether you are proactive, arrogant, if you get along with people and so on).

Here is an example that I used to illustrate why competencies and attitudes are more important than knowledge:

Consider two different men, John and Mark, working for a financial services company. Both of them are eager to succeed so that they spend lots of time trying to grow professionally.

John uses his time gaining as much knowledge as possible: he studies balance sheets, financial reports, accounting practices and the like. He even takes related courses on the local university.

Mark, on the other hand, gets only the knowledge that is necessary to carry out his job. Other than that, he uses his time to improve his writing skills, his ability to solve problems, his ability to understand and empathize with other people and so on.

Should the financial services sector enter a downturn some day forcing both men to find another job, who do you think will have a harder time? Yeah, I am sure you have guessed it.

As you can see I am not arguing that you don’t need to go to the university because you will learn everything working. You will still need to study and go through the pain of learning and improving yourself. The only difference is that if you do this on your own you will be able to focus on the competencies and attitudes that you know you need to develop.

The knowledge that a university will give you is available for everyone, anywhere in the world. Sure, there is a difference between knowledge and information. but with the right motivation and some help from other people even a kid in Sri Lanka can absorb the information available online and transform it into knowledge.

So what should your strategy be? Focus on developing the right attitudes and competencies, and grab the necessary knowledge as you go.

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57 thoughts on “Do You Really Need to go to the University?”

  1. My son wants to go to uni, he doesn’t really know what he wants to do, he has decided on machanical engineering. He does not know what he wants from life. He is confussed as to whether he wants ‘ loads of money’ or enjoy something he likes doing? Trouble is he does not know what he would enjoy. I think uni would help him sort through his indecission. We as parents are confussed, his father is thinking of telling him to get a job, which I know would devastate him as we have always encouraged him to want to go to uni. So to tell him now to go out and find a job instead of uni, I think is wrong. We are Weston people, living in indonesia, our son has not lived in a Weston country since the age of six, he is nineteen now and I think he needs time to a gust. Would love any coments, for or against unkversity

    Many thanks

  2. in times of unemployment, a degree will help you alot. IF we are going to be looking at purely making money, whether you have a degree or not is not important. Attitude is of most importance and dedication and passion. These things come from the inside.
    Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.

  3. Honestly, everyone has to go to university to attend a degree, a degree helps you with getting really good jobs and you get payed alot of money and a good education which is nice. So I am saying that you should go to university if u want to be rich…

  4. I think having a degree does have some benefits (I think). The benefit to me seems to be the knowledge gained through study, but I don’t think it has much effect on the earning ability as far as the Internet goes.My son has been a web designer for several different Internet companies since before he graduated from high school. Went to college for one semester and decided it wasn’t for him and he is making probably 20x’s the money on the Internet without a degree than I was with a degree outside the Internet.

  5. I hear what everyone is saying but I don’t know if you hear yourself. I am glad that we have a choice to create our own path in life, or do we? Some people can’t afford to go to college so they may be more ambitious to succeed at their job because society teaches them they don’t have a backup. If there are two people going for the same position and both have the same amount of time in, is it fair for the one with the degree to get the position just because of the degree, I don’t think so. Just because you have a degree does not mean you are a good worker and you are the best one for the job, hell it doesn’t even mean that your smart. Obviously we need schools and education, but as stated before there are other ways to get educated besides college and degrees. If you have the time and the money for college sure its a great experience but that doesn’t mean the person that didn’t get to go or even chose not to go is less of a person.

  6. There was a time in history when it was believed that you could learn anything you want just by reading the right books and doing research by yourself. For example, Nathaniel Greene, the American Revoultionary War General, who was an avid reader, bought books and read widel on the arts of war, and proved a competent commander (more than a number than some professional British military commanders) though he had never attended military college and actually had a physical limp. That doesn’t mean attending military college would have been bad (it certainly instills discipline), its just that it goes to show that there are other avenues of learning other than college.
    In todays world especially, it should not be difficult for someone to educate himself in almost anything if he wanted to.
    College certainly isn’t for everyone in my opinion, and only a limited number of people I know have really benefited from their college for their carrers in my opinion. Long story short, you should really study something because you would enjoy it. And certainly college is not the only avenue for a good education

  7. I think that people should focus on what they want to achieve and use that as their compass to guide them into real action in the real world where you get paid in direct proportion to your ability to evoke positive emotion in the world-In other words you get paid to create value for others. That is the bottom line. It’s not rocket science it’s really quite simple. If you know how you can create value for others and you are disciplined enough to take action and do what it takes to succeed in the real world of business then you don’t need a degree. But I must add that if you need a degree to operate in your preferred industry then of course you should go out there and get one. My issue is with people who have a choice, who don’t need a degree to do what they want to do, but think that it’s going to make life in the real world of business a breeze! That’s total BS! Many people use university as an excuse to extend their school years they want to party and be in a safe school like environment that doesn’t put them in a position of responsibility. These days you can get the piece of paper without the extra hassle of going into a university just by being self sufficient and going to an open university. That way quick learners dont get annoyed and frustrated. I went to uni for a year and quit when I realized I was learning more from the books I bought through my own research and efforts than I ever could of in university! Now I still learn more applicable knowledge reading one book every week no matter how busy I am. We’re always learning and when you stop learning you stop growing and that which doesn’t grow dies. Now I earn in excess of $200,00 a year in my own seminar business Anthony Robbins style! My objective is to help people to lose the shackles of conformity and peer pressure and find out what they truly want from life so they can be a success in their own eyes. That’s what success is all about, being who you want to be whether that means being a plumber having a farm or competing with microsoft is irrelevant because success is happiness and happiness comes from being yourself.


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