Posted 1/29/13 by Bud Hennekes in Lifestyle

6 Alternatives To College or How To Crush It Without A Degree

alternatives to college
alternatives to college

With student loan debt well above a trillion dollars in The United States, it’s no wonder many students around the country are beginning to question the value of a 4 year (often more) degree.

While college certainly has its benefits, the reality is, going to college is not for everyone. And contrary to popular belief, there are an abundance of other options waiting to be explored.


travel the world

Travel The World

Have you wanted to travel to a different country but never got around to it? The time right after high school is the perfect opportunity to make your travel dreams a reality.

Many students in Europe take what is often known as a “gap year” which they use to discover themselves, something that obviously can have tremendous value.

While many universites provide study abroad programs, the programs are often several times more expensive than if you were to travel solo. Furthermore, when you choose to travel the world on your own terms, there’s no need to lock yourself up in your room to study for a meaningless test.

How do you travel? Buy a one way plane ticket to Asia. Learn a new language. Meet new friends.

Move to South America. Get outside your comfort-zone.

Networking? Try making new friends while backpacking Europe.

Negotiating? Try negotiating your purchases at local Chinese fake market.

Education? Try putting your spanish to the test in Buenos Aires.

Gratitude? Experience true poverty and understand how truly lucky you are.

While traveling in style can certainly be costly, there are plenty of resources to help keep your travel excursion reasonable.

Websites such as Couch Surfing and Air BNB help make travel affordable. Pick up a copy of Vagabonding.

With just a little bit of money and some courage, traveling the globe can be one of the best decisions you ever make. Not only will you get to experience another part of the world, you’ll share experiences few people can say the’ve had.

Also read: How to make valuable connections and graduate with a Job

Alternatives to college

Start A Business

One of the most valuable skill sets you can develop in your young career is the ability to make money.

As author Daniel Pink argues in his new book Selling Is Human that selling has never been more important.

Like sports? Start a sports podcast.

Know how to cook? Record a new cooking video each day.

Build websites for people who still use AOL.

Don’t have any ideas?

Learn arbitrage on Ebay. Search Twitter for a pressing need.

Collect testimonials. Build a client base. Deliver value, then raise your rates.

Live and breathe your ideas. Some will gain traction, others won’t.

You’ll fail. You’ll learn. And you’ll be prepared to find success in the real world.

As Gary Vaynerchuk   says “It has never been easier to get on the playing field.

Being young gives you the ability to make mistakes without incurring huge amounts of debt. The world has never been more ripe with opportunity for those who want it.

The internet has allowed anyone with an idea to give it a shot. Will you take it?


start a business as an alternative to college

Work For A Startup

With hundreds of of startups being founded every year, the need for ambitious go getters has never been so high.

While you may not have a degree, you still have the ability to communicate your value.

Do you know graphic design better than anyone else? Reach out to startups that you know you can help.

Do you love the written word? Start doing copy for new startups who haven’t launched their website.

Put in the hours, the work. Offer to improve conversations for free. Demonstrate your value.

Test your skills, try new industries. Take industry leaders out for coffee.

Not everyone can work for a startup. But the truth is, with a little bit of hustle you very well can make your mark.


volunteer and learn


It’s safe to say that most of us want to make a difference in the world. However, we soon get swallowed up by the daily responsibilities of our adult life.

Forgoing college to give back can have a tremendous impact on how you view the world.

One of my favorite memories as a young adult was doing service in a rural village in China. We helped bring clean running water to their village. I will never forget how grateful they were for something we so often take for granted.

As a college student, it’s far too easy to donate some money and feel like you did your part. But if you actually go out into the trenches you can truly begin to understand how blessed you really are.

Get involved. Volunteer at an old folks home. Help serve soup at a soup kitchen.

Do a google search of great charities that don’t require a degree.

Immerse yourself in the world of charity.

One year. Two years. Keep giving back.


self educate alternative to college

Self Educate

While self education certainly isn’t perfect by any means, it does have it’s fair share of benefits.

With hundreds of top of the line educational resources online, you can learn literally anything you want – and it doesn’t cost a dime.

Scott Young developed his own MIT curriculum and completed it in a year. Aside from the cost of his text books, he was essentially able to replicate the entire MIT curriculum.

Learn Math of Khan Academy. Listen to lectures for free on Udacity.

Read books like I Will Teach You To Be Rich or the Personal MBA. Consume podcasts on subjects that interest you.

Buy a library card and read a book a week. If you’d like more structure, design your own degree online.

The opportunities are endless.


writing a book

Write A Book

There’s a strange allure in being able to say that you’re an author. Whether that means getting your book published in a traditional sense, or having your self published book hit the Amazon store.

Writing a book is a fantastic way to stand out and the truth is, it has never been easier.

With the ability to self publish, you are your own gate keeper.

Write about your experience traveling the world. Test your hand at fiction.

Keep honing your craft. Your first book may not be great. But your second one will be better. Focus on mastery and you will go far.

Also Read: 5 Habits that Lead to Your Dream Job
Also Read: Why Higher Education is Failing Students

staying in college

Bonus: Stay In School

While there are plenty of alternatives to going to college, the truth is, college can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

It can be a great transition to the real world. You can take courses you enjoy, create life lasting relationships, and study with some of the brightest minds in the world.

Better yet, many of the alternatives can be done while in school. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice.

You don’t have to be a dropout to start a business. You don’t have to be a dropout to volunteer.

You can set aside some time to write a book while still in school.

Some people love college, others can’t stand it. Your milage certainly may vary, do what’s best for you.

Whether you choose to go to college or blaze your own path, just remember those that remain hungry are the ones who rise to the top.

As Mark Twain once famously said “I never let school interfere with my education.

The sky truly is the limit. 


Bud Hennekes

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