The last few years of high school are one of the most important times in a person's life. It's when one dictates where they'll spend thousands of dollars at an institution they'll spend the next 4 years of their life at – or even more.
And as I write this, I'm nearing the end of this path: deciding where (or even if) I want to go to college, figuring out how to present myself in the professional world, wrangling over whether I should keep my current internship or take my chances finding a new one...
Finding a plan that sates all of these questions has been tough, but I'm confident that I've crafted a solution that works for me. As a foray into the beginning of 2019, I'll detail every step of that plan, justify why I made it, and answer any questions you might have about it.
So here's my crazy plan.
- Take a gap year. Apply to many jobs and gain more experience along the way.
- If I get a good job that pays well, I'll keep it. Otherwise, refer to the next step.
- Discover and apply to relevant colleges (if the job search fails). I have already applied and been accepted to several institutions.
First, I'm taking a gap year.
During this gap year, I'll apply to different positions at many different companies to see what comes of it. While I wait for results, I'll gain as much experience as I can with my newfound free time.
The primary reason I chose not to go directly into college is because I can confidently say that in my position, college would be more or less a waste of time and money. As someone interested in software engineering and even just computers in general, there are so many resources out there that not only aid in learning – it can entirely replace a university class for a much cheaper price (the cost of a laptop and internet connection).
Education is broken
Now, it might seem ironic coming from a person who develops software to connect students with their education, but the current US education system sucks. It worked hundreds of years ago, but has not changed much since then. The reason it worked so well is because there were not widely available sources of information such as the internet or online courses – sure, there were libraries, but if you really wanted to get educated, you should go to college!
In the 21st century, we have access to virtually every bit of knowledge that humans have ever known. And there are services that have their business model entirely revolving around this – what they do is move the college courses from a physical classroom into the simplicity of your own device for a fraction of the cost. If you're into computer science like I am, there are even services that give you live instant help from real human beings whenever you want.
That being said, I do still think there is a place for colleges in many peoples' lives. Some stuff is better learnt hands-on; for example, a budding chemist might not have access to the proper equipment to perform labs with – a college can provide this. But with fields such as computer science, one can easily be on-par with a masters-holding graduate with enough determination.
A waste of time
Being forced to take intro or even intermediate-level college courses would be a big handicap to my free time and learning new things. College courses typically involve severely outdated technologies, at no fault to the professors that teach them – the world of technology simply moves too fast for the course syllabus to keep up!
Instead, my time would be much better used focusing on new and upcoming technologies, using my existing knowledge as a base. Then I could explore practical applications for these technologies to provide a living example of my work to potential employers, which speaks louder than a piece of paper from some group of people that says I know how to do a thing.
A waste of money
Any college that offer CS courses which would be worth my time (sorry – that sounds pretentious, but it's true) would cost a boatload of money. That money could be better spent elsewhere on programming books to expand my breadth of knowledge related to computer science, or to new hardware to execute my ideas.
"But what about jobs that require a degree?"
Many different tech companies are removing their degree requirements, and for those that still list degrees as required, it turns out that "requirements" aren't actually required. And for all the rest, they tack on "or equivalent".
I am confident that with my many years of building up knowledge and crafting production-ready business-level applications, I can satisfy the "equivalent" experience that these employers are looking for.
"Why not go to a tech-focused college?"
I have pondered opportunities like Neumont College or Make School that offer degrees in modern tech stacks and are also hip and cool with the kids, but they all seem to have the same bottleneck: they start with stuff I am already heavily experienced in. While I greatly appreciate their efforts to improve upon the antiquated tech curriculum commonly found in other universities, I feel that I will get little value out of these for the money I put in.
I'm not against learning. In fact, I love learning. I just don't like being taught something I already know, being forced to complete assignments based on it, and then being handed a piece of paper signed by someone I probably won't even personally interact with saying that I can do that thing. Instead, I'd rather demonstrate it.
Yes, I know the above is a gross oversimplification, but it illustrates my point well.
Next, I'll accept a decent tech job.
I'm confident that I can find at least a decently-paying tech job that is relevant to my interests. In fact, I have already received offers from both companies and people simply looking to hire a freelancer. The problem is that I also have school, and most of these offers are full-time.
"But what if you can't find a tech job?"
Technology-related jobs (especially software engineers) are one of the fastest-growing industries today. There are more jobs than we have people to fill them. If I can't find a tech job, then robots must have taken over.
And in the case I can't find one, I'll explore colleges.
I already have a list of colleges I applied to, and ones that have accepted me. If it all comes to this (and it probably won't), I will take a look into going to college after my gap year.
If everything else fails...
...then I'll simply need to look at my situation at the time then decide where to go from there.
As one final thought, I'd like to note that this isn't meant to be a universal solution or any sort of advice for people at the end of their high school career – so don't decide to not attend college and blame me when your parents ask why. Everyone has their own needs in their own situations, so I encourage you to take a look at what you have: knowledge, money, and time – weigh these out and discover something that works for you.
So there's my slightly absurd plan. I hope this answered all your questions and curiosities. If you have any more, you can comment down below.
Thanks for reading. Here's to a great 2019!