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One Thing You Don't Need To Be An Entrepreneur: A College Degree (avc.com)
79 points by ciscoriordan on Feb 27, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 86 comments

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard while undergrads. David Filo, Jerry Yang, Sergey Brin, Larry Page didn't bother to finish grad school at Stanford and dropped out too. On the other hand, we can think of Craig Venter, Andrew Grove, Gordon Moore, Carver Mead... all of whom obtained PhD's.

The usefulness of a degree depends on what field one is working on. In the Software arena, smart kids out of high school can do a lot if college is not holding them back. But try to start a laser / semiconductor / biotech company with high school kids if you dare ;-)

One might not need a degree to be a good software entrepreneur, but there are many other entrepreneurs who don't live in the software world. Sure, HN is focused on software, but it seems to me that it's irresponsible to promote the idea that all that entrepreneurs need is passion and hard-work. Necessary but not sufficient.

"In the Software arena, smart kids out of high school can do a lot if college is not holding them back. But try to start a laser / semiconductor / biotech company with high school kids if you dare."

Exactly. We've inadvertently created a culture that rewards extremely shallow achievements. Thirty years ago, brilliant 20-somethings wanted to send men to Mars and build super-colliders. Today, the smartest college kids are trying to build social networks for dogs.

Frankly, that's not a trend worth celebrating. A society where an advanced education isn't an economic advantage is a society going the wrong way.

That's just not true. I meet a lot of startup founders who are working on very hard technical problems and have hopes of changing the world by solving them. The Etherpads, for example, had to literally prove theorems to get their real-time collaboration sw to work, and they hope eventually to use it in a whole range of applications.

You could just as easily argue that thirty years ago (I was actually around then and old enough to be paying attention), technical people just wanted safe jobs solving circumscribed problems for large organizations.

The truth is that, all other things being equal, each generation of people is roughly equally ambitious. Past generations weren't golden ages compared to the present, or vice versa.

I don't see how you can argue that each generation is equally ambitious, while also arguing that the previous generation was seeking out "safe jobs".

I agree that people are probably as ambitious as they were decades ago on an individual basis, but that doesn't mean that their goals have stayed the same over time. Even in the last decade, there's been a massive shift of technical talent toward entertainment technology, whereas it's getting harder and harder to find R&D jobs in physics, chemistry, biology and computer science.

There are always a few companies doing interesting technical work, but if the number of under-employed PhDs I know is any indication, the fraction of companies doing R&D is pretty darned small, and getting smaller every year. It's much easier for a PhD in Physics to get a job as a sysadmin at a web startup than it is for her to get a job in her field. I think that's sad.

I find it frightening that in the U.S. at least, basic research seems to have seriously declined at the government and large company level. Bell Labs is gone, and most companies now are focusing on applied rather than fundamental advances.

And before people start piling on large companies and the government with the usual rant, try to figure out how you could invent the laser, fiber optics, tcp/ip, lunar landing, orthgonal frequency division multiplexing , etc, with 2 college dropouts well-versed in rails and javascript.

I think there are cycles where technology get's to a state where basic research has huge value until you have enough basic research to to build a wave of new technology's. Once you have fully exploited the last wave of technology you are ready to build the next level of new technology. But, you rarely change technology's while there is still room to grow the old tech. Example: Modems starting at 300bps to 56k used the same basic technology, then DSL, then Fiber.

IMO, there is value to understanding the limitations to existing technology before you start doing basic research.

Yes. New technology is invented in response to problems with the older technology, and if you haven't capitalized on the old technology's potential, you'll likely just be reinventing the old solutions instead of coming up with new, better ones.

Interesting. A counter anecdote would be the advances in physics in the early 20th century, when we were still far from finished innovating with Newtonian mechanics. I've always doubted the whole "necessity is the mother of invention" thing; I don't think relativity was discovered because it became necessary to discover it. On the other hand, when it comes to technological innovations (semiconductors, transistors, lasers, etc.,) I just don't know enough scientific history to assess your hypothesis.

I think the limitations of Newtonian physics where only discovered as people built devices that broke them. There is a great time line for that period, but when you consider the instruments required to make the discovery's you see they are based on specific assumptions about how the world operates. It's only when their design reaches their limits that meaningful discovery's can be made.


"The Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes finds that mercury loses its electrical resistance at temperatures near absolute zero. This low temperature effect is observed in other materials as well."

That takes advanced equipment to reduce things to that temperature, an expectation that resistance is effected by temperature, and an formula that works at higher temperatures to notice the discontinuity.

PS: Consider all the benefits high speed computing has provided when designing aircraft. You need a lot of wind tunnel / real world tests to build a model, but with that model and lot's of computing power you can design aircraft out to the limits of your simulation. At which point you need to collect more data.

My point was that if you can make as good a case for x > y as for y > x, then x = y.

Do you have any evidence for this massive shift toward entertainment?

Surely there are more research jobs in biology than there were 30 years ago, considering biotech was mostly invented in the intervening period.

Are there more biotech startups than 30 years ago? Sure. But probably not more than 20 years ago, and certainly not more than a decade ago.

There's plenty of evidence of a shift toward entertainment. Look at the big startup successes of the last decade: Google, Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, YouTube, Blogger, Flickr, Digg, Bebo, etc. Save Google, nearly every major success story has been an entertainment/media play. In fact, I don't see this argument as particularly surprising or controversial, given that the web has been the dominant technology of the last two decades, and that the web has always been about media.

I think we both agree that personal ambition is pretty much constant over time. My argument is that if that's the case, then it's not reasonable to argue that people preferentially sought out "safe" jobs three decades ago. Smart, ambitious people have always sought out the opportunities that make them most successful; today those opportunities are clustered in industries that reward ephemera.

A quick side note. The number of biotech startups is mostly a function of the legal environment. The industry is more regulated that almost any other sector of the economy.

Your evidence is that most of the startups you've heard a lot about are mass market consumer startups? Would you expect to have heard as much about the ones working on infrastructure?

If I didn't know anything else about the industry, then probably not. But that's kind of the point -- that's the list of successes that everyone knows about; the list that every CS undergrad wants to found.

Their privacy policy mentions: "patent-pending edit synchronization algorithm". I'd much appreciate hearing about their experience with a software patent (I'm in a similar position).

Unless they want to not publicize it, to avoid anti-patent sentiment? e.g. two TechCrunch comments: http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/11/19/etherpad-shows-google-d...

>The Etherpads, for example, had to literally prove theorems to get their real-time collaboration sw to work, and they hope eventually to use it in a whole range of applications.

Could you tell them to publish the papers or the notes please?

The Etherpads finished college, though.

This is true. Right now, people like Mark Zuckerberg are looked to for inspiration among young people. It's all fine and good that he's created something big, but has it really done anything for us? If I want inspiration, I'm more interested in looking to the engineers who put a man on the moon 40 years ago.

As useful as sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are (not to pick on any of them), their achievements are nothing compared to putting people in space, designing planes like the Dreamliner and the A380. or even the engineering that went into the Chunnel.

Aren't you people generalizing a little too much, obv there are loads of people working on big, important problems like energy, medicine etc. While many people use Facebook I don't really see many that hold Mark Zuckerberg as an idol.

Sorry, but sending men to the Moon to drive around in a little car is a better example of wasteful entertainment than any of the three web companies you named.

You have to take scale in consideration.

The Facebook team's accomplishment may be much smaller than putting people on the moon, but the size of their team (and partners) and their budget isn't comparable either.

I say an accomplishment of X value by spending Y resources is equivalent to one of 100X value by spending 100Y resources (numbers and proportions unrelated to facebook VS moon example).

Innovation and utility is defined by use. If people want to use social networks and not some microformats to enable the semantic web, that's innovation. All this complaining about working on worthwhile products has some truth to it, but look at the utility of lasers. In the end, lasers enabled cd/dvd's for millions of people to watch movies and music, and that's the ultimate utility.

I can think of quite a few people who dropped out and just became losers. Just saying, while dropping out of an education might work for some people, I'm willing to bet that on average, it's a bad decision.

Exactly. It's a manifestation of selection bias. We pay attention to the Gateses, Zuckerbergs and such, and disregard the thousands and thousands who dropped out of college and ended up achieving nothing in their lives. It seems to me that Microsoft's or Google's successes are anomalies that one should not try to emulate...

The key is having a marketable skill. With a good education, you have both a skill, and a certificate saying you do.

Without an education, you might still have a marketable skill, but people have to take your word for it.

Personally, I don't have a university degree. I do have a marketable skillset, but it's up to me to prove it, and through a bit of luck I'm in a pretty good position. But it's certainly not a path I would recommend others to travel, you leave too much to chance.

Larry Page holds a Masters degree in Computer Science from Stanford, according to Wikipedia.

But didn't he intend to obtain the PhD when he went to Stanford? I once read a long interview with him, and I believe that PhD was his goal. I am not sure, though.

His Stanford web page (http://infolab.stanford.edu/~page/) identifies him as a "Ph.D. student".

I assume he took a leave of absence, then.

That's what I've heard. My point was that at least at some point he was calling himself a "Ph. D. student" -- his goal was a Ph. D., not a Masters degree.

And while I'm on the subject, Sergey Brin also still has a Stanford web page (http://infolab.stanford.edu/~sergey/), which helpfully informs us that "Currently I am at Google."

Eric Schmidt has a PhD in EE/CS.

But most news and comparisons are about these successful people who have ran startups successfully who have dropped out from school.

Could it possible that these are really people who dropped out after studying for a few years having learnt what they can or realised what they cannot learn rather than people who never went to college.

This is a big difference.

I've noticed this too. But I worry about encouraging people to drop out of college. There are probably a lot who don't really blossom till they get there. Especially those who went to bad high schools.

I think people should at least try a couple years of college, if they can, if only so they know what they're missing if they don't finish.

that is in fact what the president suggested in his "non state of the union" speech this week.

i didn't mean the post to encourage dropping out but upon reading it this morning, i realize it sort of does that

There's a different way to put it also:

A start-up usually takes at least four, on the average seven years until a "liquidity event" occurs (Some stay private forever and while profitable, don't offer any opportunity to just hand the business off without losing everything).

Thus, if someone is willing to try building a start-up (potentially, a four year commitment) why not try a college education provided they have the means?

Lastly, college education has rewards in it of itself: not just the employment/entrepreneurship opportunities it may open. There aren't very many jobs/many feasible/executable start-up ideas out there where you'll get to write operating systems, compilers, design RISC chips and code in Haskell and Scheme (I did/could do all of the following, despite going to a school that wasn't, by any means, a top research center for EE/CS). Add to that being able to attend lectures and write papers/essays on topics in such as Ancient Greek History.

The last paragraph sounds like something I'd like to do if/when I have a "liquidity event". On a personal note, had I not been exposed to these topics, I may have found routine software engineering work to be the most exciting task I could put my mind to (as I did, when I briefly worked full time during and after high school) -- and would see no reason for entrepreneurship.

While the degree might not be meaningful, I find an accomplishment of finishing school especially if they find it meaningless. It shows a finish-what-you-started mentality which thrives (or at least persists) in opposition.

I didn't read the article but I'll be honest... I'm really thankful for my education. I taught myself programming when I was young and I thought I knew everything when I went to college. I was thankfully proved wrong.

College forced me to learn a lot of stuff I wouldn't have bothered to learn before. Stuff I had no idea would become useful and if I ever needed it may not have had an idea to look for it.

I have an interest in programming languages and interpreters--college helped me find and cultivate this interest. I'm working on a startup doing a lot of natural language stuff--college gave me the foundation necessary to teach myself the tools of this field quickly.

The theoretical underpinnings of stuff don't go away. Understanding different string matching algorithms can apply to writing an efficient style checker, not just making an asinine version of strcmp.

Granted this is all oriented towards technical stuff. I suppose if I wanted to be just an entrepreneur I could save money and buy a Subway franchise. I don't think a college education is necessary there either (but I'm sure it doesn't hurt).

I second the "don't think it's necessary, but sure it doesn't hurt" stance; I doubt someone would be docked points on an assessment or interview for having a degree right?

Some of us had parents who never stepped foot near a college or university and having their kids graduate with a degree is one of their dreams. Having picked up programming in high school, Computer Science was really the only appealing option. Overall I don't think it was a waste, though some parts were (most general education requirements.) At that age, I don't believe I would have been ready or mature enough to even work a full-time programming job, let alone start some sort of business.

>College forced me to learn a lot of stuff I wouldn't have bothered to learn before. Stuff I had no idea would become useful and if I ever needed it may not have had an idea to look for it.

So all you needed were a few people to guide you in the right direction. You can get that from the Internet or from other people you may know who are into the same thing or have a certain level of expertise. We don't absolutely need colleges for that anymore.

"I have an interest in programming languages and interpreters--college helped me find and cultivate this interest."

Wow. We never even came close to studying that kind of stuff at my college (Computer degree). We just learned some Java and linked lists and trees in the data structures course, a bit about computer hardware and not much else.

All the really cool stuff like interpreters, compilers, programming languages, unification, Rete, Common Lisp, etc. I had to learn on my own.

Did I simply attend a subpar college or you attended a great one?

Wow. We did the linked list and data structures course freshman year. After that it was all compilers, computability, writing schedulers for micro controllers, designing a processor in verilog, etc. Lots of really cool stuff I mostly haven't used since, but it's a great base of knowledge. And I went to Iowa State, not a top tier computer science school.

Oh my. It seems what you call college I'd call university (I live in Quebec).

In Ireland and Britain college = university. I believe the US has a ~distinction that a college is an undergraduate institution, which may or may not be part of a university, but the rest of the Anglosphere follows British usage in that a college is post secondary school though it may not be degree granting, like the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

In the states, college <=> university. Elsewhere, I believe college is below university.

I live in a country where software and technology is not really blossoming. The government is trying hard to promote the tech business in the country. But, nothing is really working at all.

I stopped school for three years before I came to the US to further my studies here. In those three years, my plan was to start something that could make me millions. Soon, I realize that this is a dream, I only managed to make decent amount of money through freelancing. But, I can tell you that you hardly can go anywhere if you are working alone. Luckily enough, I did learn some programming in this period.

Then, I decided to come to the US. English is not my first language. I worked my ass out to get decent score for my SAT. And, luckily enough, I got accepted into one of the best CS school in US. Here, I met with my current cofounders with my new startup. And, this is another new process that I have to dedicate myself to learn something new again(Communication skills, new culture, etc.).

I never regretted to further my studies to college. I met new people here. I learned new knowledge(Remember, CS is not all about programming). And, I believe that this year in college actually helped me more than the three years I wasted.

What country, if you don't mind my asking?


Another reason this happens in my opinion: If you graduate from a good college with a marketable degree, you get sucked right into a cushy job at a large company. If you never got that degree and don't have that job, you're not giving up as much as the guy who's used to the status and money associated with the big company job. The opportunity cost of starting a company is less.

I've found this can be a really big "problem" as well. And it's not just the temptation of getting sucked yourself into a cushy job. It's that much of your network, your closest friends, also have that same hot degree and face the same temptation. Holding a startup together is hard enough in the best of times; when everyone on the founding team is continually bombarded by really tempting offers, chances are someone will crack. (Unless you're in a place where Silicon Valley where working on a startup is definitely "cooler" than that cushy job.)

My startup died when my cofounder got into Harvard Business School and I got into Google (we're both Amherst grads). 99.99% of America would not call that a failure. But the bottom line is that my startup's still just as dead.

It’s akin to saying that If you don’t have a degree you are more likely to be an entrepreneur because your odds of getting a good job in a big company are very slim.

I would have agreed with you had Bill Gates, for instance, never been to Harvard in the first place. If he had applied for a job at IBM and had got spurned. If Microsoft was something he came up with as a last resort after failing to bag a job elsewhere.

I presume that’s not the case.

I've certainly never felt my lack of a degree to be a hindrance in any area except maybe fundraising. PG wrote once that he had come to the same conclusion but still had trouble believing it. Most investors never get there at all.

And I'd imagine even among those like Fred, they still find themselves impressed by a team of 4 CS grads from MIT. Thankfully for those of us who college wasn't for, customers are significantly less likely to read your resume.

4 CS grads from MIT would be impressive, but more impressive are the two kids from RISD who raised $32k for their seed capital selling cereal.

it takes chutzpah to make it as an entrepreneur and the cereal guys can hire the CS grads from MIT easier than the CS grads can get up the courage to sell 800 boxes of cereal at $40/box.

That's why airbnb is on their way to becoming the largest hotel in the world without having to own any rooms.

Not to mention that if you can start any business you want, why not start the one where it's going to be the easiest to make a huge profit? And the business that fits the category almost certainly isn't the business that matches whatever limited technical skills you happen to have.

I graduated high school in 1994. I'd have graduated college in 1998 with a CS degree. Two startups I held key roles in sold in 8-figure deals in that time period. I even got to do some academic research. I guess I'm unhappy I didn't take linear algebra (really!), but I think I'd have had to have been made of stupid to go to college in '94.

I'm 21, working at a startup as an engineer, working on my own small startup, and making a considerable amount of money over everyone I graduated High School with. All without a degree.

However, I feel that I've been quite lucky and am far more the exception than the rule. I'm actually quite jealous of some of my friends who are getting ready to receive their Bachelors in the next year. As different paths as we took, I somehow feel that I'm lagging behind them in terms of achievements. So I'm back in school this semester. Just one class to make some iota of progress towards my B.S. Comp. Sci.

You certainly don't need a college degree to be a successful entrepreneur, but I've often found it quite hard to apply theory to practicality when you don't know the theory in the first place. When all is said and done, I'd like to have the holes in my knowledge filled and kick that much more ass at what I do..

At the first startup I worked for we polled our office of 12 people to see who had graduated from college. I'm pretty sure the answer was just two people, myself and the other middle manager. Everybody doing interesting work, developers, designers, and founders had either skipped or dropped out of college.

Three of those college dropouts went on to found a company that Fred is funding. So his story could easily be about those three people.

There are two things I realized after that poll. First, the conventional path is boring and I needed to jump off.

Second, the amount of work required to be great at something completely trumps the tiny amount of work that you're going to put in during college. Sure, the background knowledge is helpful, but only a little bit compared to everything you're going to have to learn after college.

You had a startup of 12 people, with 2 middle managers?!

Crazy, right?! We both did a little bit of real work (and I wrote the first version of the software for my current company), but we were definitely hired to fill some checkbox on a company growth map.

Your second point is certainly not universal, some people do a lot of work during college.

If you know what you really want to do before college, sure go for it, but in most cases people have no idea, college is a good place to keep busy and learn about your interests.

I was really talking about the specific work (or practice) that goes into being great at something, not about misspent youth.

Let's take a computer science degree and a ten year path to great (whatever that means). If you just measure by time spent, you're maybe coming out of college 5-20% of the way down the path.

But I'd argue that the computer science degree isn't specific enough to count nearly that much. Really, you're graduating as an broadly experienced non-expert who then has to put a boat load of time into developing a specific expertise.

The value of that time spent outside of college completely trumps the value of the time spent in college, even if the amount of time spent is equivalent.

These days, I encourage kids to learn how to hack early and then go to a good school and network. If nothing else, the contacts are well worth it. It's not easy to get into the game anymore without the contacts and unless you've got deep pocketed parents or kooky friends with ambition (and money) you're just gonna get stuck somewhere less than desirable.

What's the game you're talking about, and what are the contacts you suppose you'd be making in school?

You're not supposed to do anything. But like all things, opportunities exist to do something beyond the ordinary. Look for openings, ways to stand out and to gain experience. College can provide someone who doesn't have their parents contacts to stand on with the opportunity to build social capital that could extend to other things.

Game? We're talking business or the "startup game" if you will.

At my first Valley startup job I was the first hire (out of 30) who didn't have a degree. I gather there was a long discussion about it before I was hired.

I missed out on some things, especially getting to know good hackers, and I've probably been paid less over the years. But it hasn't hurt me much. I am under 30 and I have almost 20 years of work experience.

I wound up in the same situation in an interview in 2000. They asked me to do Towers of Hanoi nonrecursively. I think I refused. Didn't get the gig. Things worked out anyways (ironically, I wound up at a spinoff of UMich, working for a professor and his postdoc).

If you don't have a degree and you go interview at (what turns out to have been) a Stanford spinoff, brush up on your useless CS 101, is I guess my life lesson there.

My LinkedIn profile is permanently set to 85% complete because I can't add a college education.

And I'm 100% happy with my decision to drop out of college after 3 months.

College is a check box, not a select all button.

+1 on that, I'm about to check it, but I see college as a way to make connections and get to know more people (teachers and students) interested in the same things I'm.

But yes!, you should do whatever you want to do, college is not an obligation, like you said a check box not a select button.

FWIW, you can hang out with the clubs and associations and not attend college.

This is a very important point.

Most people phrase the issue as either attending college or getting some boring job and missing out on the "college experience"...

The better model is to not attend college, but to hang around the college town and attend the clubs and associations...and network with the folks that are doing more than just attending classes...these will be your co-founders :)

The real stuff goes on at night when folks are working on their side projects.

The other benefit of this model is that you don't have mountains of debt from tuition...so you're able to take more risks later on.

I'm 22, soon finished up with first year in Business School and constantly fighting with myself if I have the patience to graduate. I have worked in the web industry since I was 16, done freelancing for couple of years, involved with few startups and currently a co-founder.

I know that I don't necessarily need the degree. For the most part it seems useless. I'm quite sure I could find a job, my financials are not that bad, I could even start a startup, but still feel that I'm not somewhat "ready" or have lucrative options enough to dropout.

My current solution is just to read for the exams and skip most, if not all the classes and work on other things. Good thing is that college education here is basically free, so I'm only loosing some time. But still, most of the time, I dislike everything with institutional education.

I just feel like sharing:

I am currently a High School senior. I'm three for three as far as colllege acceptances go which makes me feel incredible but I am still unsure where I will be going or how I will pay.

One side of me wants to start a business as soon as possible. Devote my time to fostering the network of websites I own and expanding my web design services to clients. There is plenty of other stuff I do as well, but I don't know if that's a realistic way to go on. I recognize that college will provide structure when I need it and I hope that it will get me to focus.

I wonder what college did for successful entrepreneurs. Rather how to take the most of college as an entrepreneur.

Try college! (If you can afford it.) You don't even know what all the options are yet.

By afford do you mean, can pay for without racking up student loan debt? I don't quite understand the qualification here.

I added that qualification because I know not everyone may be able to afford to go to college, especially in poorer countries. I wouldn't presume to say precisely how much debt one could afford, and on what terms. I just didn't want to seem like I was assuming everyone had the option of going to college.

It's not necessarily an either/or proposition at this point. Without a strong alternative, I would say go to college and continue to work on what you've built so far and keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities. If something you have takes off or you find a very compelling opportunity and college is conflicting then make a choice at that point.

I've noticed a trend tho. The dropouts that became successful were dropouts from Ivy League schools. Does that mean people from second tire schools should stay in school and finish their degree?

Perhaps it means people with a wealthy background have a higher chance of trying to start their own business?

It undoubtedly helps. There're plenty of counterexamples though: Steve & Steve from Apple, for one. And I don't think it's more that they have a higher chance of starting a business, it's more that they have a higher chance of finding the money and time to succeed with their new business.

Also - the elephant in the room is plain old intelligence. Ivy League colleges tend to admit smart people, at least as closely as they can determine (there're always a few doofuses who sneak in, but they are a smaller proportion than at community colleges). Smart people have a higher chance of trying to start their own business, and a higher chance of being successful once they've tried.

Of course, every system of education does not encourage characteristics of good enterpreneurs - independence and thinking differently. They are crerated to produce good workers - those people who will work for enterpreneurs. And I don't think this atricle encourages people to drop out of college - those who have bravity to do this will do it anyway, and others will finish grad school.

I just saw Johnny Cupcakes speak at UCSB last night. He's also a college drop out. While there are plenty of college drop out entrepreneurs that are very successful (e.g. Bill Gates), there are also a lot of successful entrepreneurs that are college graduates. An MBA is more debatable.

Why does this topic keep coming up?

The same comments, the same threads, the same post-hoc justification (from all sides), the same faulty logical extrapolation, the refutation of aforementioned, etc., etc., etc.

"Anti"-college people: Hi! You do not need an article on a blog - even a great blog from an expert - to justify your life decisions.

"Pro"-college people: Hi! You do not need to act uncomfortable because you did go to college. What an idea. Where's the defensiveness coming from?

"Try inventing anti-cancer shark-mounted LASERS without college degrees!" / "You sure wouldn't hire a BRAIN SURGEON without a degree!" people: One of these things is not like the other. The kids who bypass university thinking they will strike it rich with a social network for iguanas would not go on to invent anti-gravity boots -- or torts -- if only they'd tough it out thru 4 years in a state school.

Who'd I miss?

Remember, folks, historically speaking, many of the world's greatest minds had no university education in their fields. And a lot of them did, too.

Who the fuck cares?

EDIT: PS: I dropped out of high school at 14. Take that!

As a reasoning for the defensiveness: Each side is basically marginalizing the other. The anticollege people suggest that college is worthless and (occasionally) the people who go there are similar.

The procollege people suggest that people without a degree are lesser or cannot achieve as much because of it.

This leads to both sides feeling attacked, and for them to attack back. What you said is basically true, though. College is a choice which is good for some people, bad for others. Some people excel with the pedagogy, and go far further than they could have on their own. Some subjects require this (or, to turn it around, in some subjects pedagogy is so effective that people without it are at a significant disadvantage). Some, however, do not.

Colleges are important and useful. Some people don't need/want that level of analysis. Some people don't need the help. It's a personal decision.

Exactly. We'll all die anyway :)

Yeah, well, you don't need a college degree to drink a bunch of booze, have sex with lots of chicks, and do lots of interesting drugs and hang around with interesting people, but it's how most people go about doing those things when they're 18-22 years old.

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