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College was my biggest mistake (2012) (stevecorona.com)
189 points by hollerith on Feb 4, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments



Hey guys, author here- this is an older post that someone reposted. I get alot of hate for this post, so let me sum it up here:

College was my biggest mistake. Not your biggest mistake. I'm not giving advice, just being honest about my experience. You have to "pay to play". Who knows if I would have been able to bootstrap myself without a year of college. All I know is I can't imagine the ridiculous amount of debt I'd be in if I finished.

It boils down to this: I wish that when I was 18 someone told me college wasn't the only option.


What worked in (y)our field, would not work elsewhere.

I'm the product of a Western-European system. Yearly tuition was like $2k. Your 44k would have covered 4 years in college including housing, food and ample beer.

IMHO, the real problem lies in the acceptance of the status quo in the American educational system and the unwillingness to let government play a role (through taxation, grants, etc). It's baffling to me that a first-world country like the USA doesn't want to invest in education. If you don't pay for the education, you'll pay for the unemployment benefits and/or lack of innovation.

I make a good living, but still I worry greatly about my daughter's future. Avg college tuition supposedly will reach 90k/yr by the time she's ready to attend, unless something is done about this madness.

Bill Gates has the right idea with his 10K BA challenge and I like what I see: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/opinion/my-valuable-cheap-... http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/335522/10000-degree-k...


>>the unwillingness to let government play a role (through taxation, grants, etc)<<

This is not meant as a personal attack, but your claim that government doesn't play a role in American education is false. The U.S. government plays a massive role and is, arguably, the single biggest factor in the cost of American higher education. The federal government doles out many grants, but more importantly, it subsidizes student loans to cover tuition. This means just about anyone with a pulse can obtain a loan to cover tuition to whatever school they want to attend, regardless of what the student wants to study. Colleges large and small know this, and have dedicated staffs to help students obtain these loans.


which is why many colleges do not feel a need to hold back the costs of an education. With near unlimited borrowing ability available colleges have simply kept raising tuition to keep pace with available funding.

That and an incredible marketing push akin to how diamonds were marketed, as in you have to have a degree/diamond


That makes no sense. In Australia the government will happily hand you the best loan you can get for a University education. The loan is indexed at inflation and you don't need to pay it back until you earn a certain amount of money. It doesn't cost anywhere near $45k/year to study here and the cost of living in Australia is significantly higher than almost all places in the US.


How does it not make sense? If more people can afford college, the price will increase because college is a finite resource. It's basic supply and demand.

The government subsidizing college educations causes the price of education to increase.

Whether you pay it back in 2 years or 20 years, the price is higher.

You also pay for it later, when you become a working taxpayer.


Should education really be handled as an economical resource? I don't think so...


Why? Food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, all are, and they're more important than education. Furthermore, many people don't have them.

BTW government run healthcare is still an economic issue. The only difference is that there's one choice and it's compulsory.


There is a simple solution for this (even if your argument makes sense) and that is that the government also sets the legal maximum tuition fees.

In the Netherlands the government subsidizes universities per student they take on, provides a monthly stipend to students (from about $400 to $800 depending on whether your parents income, with the possibility to borrow more) and sets yearly home-student tuition-fees (at $2200). And still Dutch universities perform quite well in the world-rankings (all 14 roughly between spot 40 and 200).

Admittedly this is made easier by the fact that the Netherlands does not have any private universities (of any fame and influence), and the fact that things have been organized like this for a long time now...

After having spent 5 years in university, having a debt of even $40.000 is considered a lot here.


This is not a simple solution. This is yet another government solution to a government-created problem. The "solution" breeds more problems of its own, which will in turn require more "simple" government solutions. If you need an example of this, take a look at our federal tax code.

The simple solution is to stop subsidizing loans to any student for any degree.


Can you clarify your statement? Would you agree with subsidizing loans to good students, with impoverished backgrounds, choosing a degree which is in high demand in the marketplace(just an example)? I, for one, am apalled at the gov't subsidizing the huge number of art, fashion, music degrees that they do. I would be curious to see the default rates on these sorts of loans.


No. If the degree is in high demand, there’s no need to subsidize it. Either banks will lend based on the student’s projected ability to repay the loan or employers (who need people with the skill the student will be learning) will subsidize the student’s education.

People like to believe basic economic principles like supply and demand don't apply to things like education or healthcare, even when the evidence stares them in the face. (See millions of unemployable liberal arts graduates and the voracious demand for computer science majors.)

re student loan default data, this is very difficult to determine. First, many subsidized loans are being deferred, and thus not counted as "in default", even though they are not being repaid. The only data I can find quickly on the web only goes through 2009, which is obviously going to be dramatically lower than the default rate today.


Precies! Weet je ook waar ik vandaan kom :-)


This is very very true, and an oft-ignored side effect of the housing bubble if you ask me. "Expensive?!? Just take a second mortgage to get all that new equity in your house."

Don't even get me started on the diamond thing. "Two monthly salaries". Good job De Beers (and Harvard/Yale/Vassar).


I meant a bigger role. Think:

* extending loans directly instead of letting privatized banks make the money

* building new universities and work towards accredited alternatives (eg 10K BA)

* pushing people to existing universities via financial incentives

* establishing a max. tuition increase for private universities or risk losing any governmental funding (e.g. indirectly, no extend loans to people who attend private institutions)

* tax private uni endowments (often running in the hundreds of millions, or even billions, and mostly unused) to fund public education etc etc


Offering to take insane amouts of (bancrupcy-immune) debt is a bad incentive for someone wishful to get a college education.


The world's top universities are predominantly American. [1]

Please please please, don't let the government with its stinky paws turn them into some mediocre Western-European institutions.

Let people (students AND employers) realize the value of education, or lack thereof, on their own. Remove obstacles from competition (aka less government), don't add more through regulation.

[1] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-ranki...


Those rankings give a 60% weighting towards research rather than teaching. It is unsurprising that the country with the only trillion-dollar GDP has the highest number of top universities, since research runs on money.

Half of that 60% is citations in research. Hardly surprising again that the Anglo universities get a guernsey there, given that English is the lingua franca these days, particularly in science. If a university only publishes in English, then it's going to get a wider citational audience as compared to splitting its output between French and English.

Ultimately, in the context of the discussion here, the concern is the quality of teaching, not the quality of research. While there is an interaction between the two, they are not synonymous.


The GDP and population of the EU is larger than that of the United States.


erm... right... but the EU doesn't collect taxes from all of that... they are individual countries.


Right, and individual universities that are supported by those countries.

What you should be argueing is that researchers are more densely distributed in top universities in the US, because in Europe researchers are less likely to jump to another country. Especially when they prefer to publish in their own language.

This may or may not be true.

Truth is, I at least and I think we in general are rather envious of the awesome top universities the US has.

But I think the US should be envious that we in Europe have our quality spread over the universities, and no matter what your parents' income or background is, or how much effort you put into highschool, you will always be able to attend a quality university.

I think that's worth not having the world's top universities.


Of the top 10 universities in those rankings, 3 are in the UK. The population of the UK is only 1/5 of that of the US.

The implication that universities in Western-Europe are 'mediocre' seems misguided.


I'd rather say in the US the problem is too much market.

And especially too much of the naive belief - used to his advantage by many a shrewd businessman - that cost equates quality.

Also, as already mentioned in other posts, many UK/EU universities do very well. I am currently at Oxford, and I would choose it over practically any American university.

And virtually all Western-European universities do way better than the bottom 3/4th of the American ones, which after all is what most Americans will encounter when they go to a 4-year 'college'.


Interesting point on the "too much market", thank you.

Am I right that there is a hidden assumption in there, saying "you're too stupid, we know better, let us protect you from making voluntary deals with other parties"? That sounds like a horrible premise for any kind of governance, and possibly a self-fulfilling prophecy. (hah! are we there yet? people under so many well-meant regulations that we're becoming irresponsibly naive and stupid?)

Or maybe, coming from Eastern Europe, I am just too allergic to the we-know-better-than-you-what-you-need central planning.

Re. "Oxford! Cambridge!" etc. -- the fact there are excellent universities all over the world doesn't affect (much less invalidate) the claim that the top universities are predominantly American.

I agree that the distribution of quality when it comes to universities is uneven -- but so what? I find that natural. This idea that all universities should somehow be uniform and on the same level makes me, once again, shudder. What's next? All cities should be the same size, so everybody has the same opportunity to find a job? Think of the poor village children!


These rankings are heavily weighted towards larger establishments, many metrics are based on volume! This artificially inflates mega-universities at the expense of the small elite establishments in France and Switzerland.


>> I'm the product of a Western-European system. Yearly tuition was like $2k.... IMHO, the real problem lies in the acceptance of the status quo in the American educational system and the unwillingness to let government play a role (through taxation, grants, etc).

So, just to point out, your education didn't only cost $2k per year. Moreover, it didn't only cost you 2k per year – your system just does a better job of disconnecting the costs from the education.

You will be taxed more throughout your life for that education (or, well, paying for the same thing for others, but essentially, it's equivalent to you having financed your education, except you have no choice in the matter) – admittedly, you're likely not going to be taxed as much as I'll pay outright in loans (my guess, only), but it's not as big of a spread as you're trying to claim here.


My point was not that it was cheaper in any way. I am well aware that the costs are slightly less or the same, but that's kinda my point... The government subsidizes education and raises money through taxation, reducing the requirement of big loans or wealth AT THE START OF YOUR CAREER. Even if you fail, your life isn't destined for serfdom, beholden for 30 years to whomever gave you a loan.

Also, as you point out, everyone pays en there is no choice in the matter. This is a good thing. This is also what's terribly wrong about America... the MEconomy.

People only want to pay for things they benefit from directly and refuse to contribute to the collective, for the benefit of the greater good. Education, healthcare, etc etc


I think you make a decent point about the self-centered nature of the American economy and mindset – to some extent it does hinder the upper-bound of what we can achieve, as a society... however, the way it benefits us (or is supposed to benefit us) is through the action of a market economy – if we're all forced to pay for college, even if we don't attend, there's little incentive for colleges to produce a better value for the money paid... unfortunately, IMHO, with loans as they are, we effectively break the market economy by decoupling the payment from the experience so significantly.

Further, we have plenty of experience here with government run systems that are so highly inefficient that there's a (very warranted) mistrust in the ability of any government run system to deliver a superior product for a lower cost.

We temper some of those two extremes by allowing for nonprofit corporations – and that is where I believe healthcare should primarily be handled, rather than for-profit industries like we see now... but of course, educational institutions are nonprofits, in most cases and they are acting more and more like for-profit ones, so it's clearly not sufficient on its own.


> It's baffling to me that a first-world country like the USA doesn't want to invest in education.

The US invests quite a lot of money in education. Some of it is hidden in grants. People often only look at Dept of Ed funding, but miss such funding sources as Dept of Energy grants and USDA (Land Grant Colleges). Even if the grant is for some specific research, a portion of the grant (called indirect) becomes part of the general fund of the college.

There are studies[1] that suggest that The Federal Government role in tuition relief (e.g. Pell Grant) has lead to the increase in tuitions.

This ignores the spending of local and state governments on education.

1) http://chronicle.com/article/Study-Backs-View-That-Colleges/...


When I was in school I paid $3,500 a year, nearly the highest rate at the time. Today I hear people paying $14,000 for the same thing, growing at a rate that's vastly outstripping inflation. Wages have maybe doubled in that time-frame, but costs have quintupled? Even $3,500 could be scraped together over the source of a summer job, but $14,000? It's basically impossible to go it alone, leaving you dependent on student aid and all the headache that comes with that.

$40+K is just unbelievably expensive. Why do people subject themselves to such abuse? Basically you're saying you could either A) get a university education or B) buy a house.


One thing to not is that 40k is just the sticker price. Only 3-10% of students pay that price at any given school. Why the sticker price? To make the school seem more valuable to the students and make the students seem overjoyed when they get a 15k grant/scholarship a year like I did. 25k is still a lot, but it's not 40k.

Really good NPR Planet Money podcast on this - http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/05/11/152511771/the-real...


Also taps into cheap student labor - lots of students get an aid package that requires a certain number of hours of "work-study".


Not sure if $14K/year is for where you went, but that's on the low side. You can do 30K, 40K, 50K+/year at private schools without trying very hard.


Universities here are subsidized to a degree. Not as heavily as they used to be, which is where a large part of the cost increase comes from.


Your numbers sound exactly like mine. Are you in Canada?


Ontario specifically, yeah.


> I'm the product of a Western-European system.

> [...]

> I worry greatly about my daughter's future.

I guess she has the same European citizenship as you? The smartest thing to do (although ethically debatable) is to go back to your native country for her college years, and get it fully subsidized by European taxpayers.

Moreover, there's an important side-effect to USA's outrageous prices: except for some niches such as the Ivy League, if you're paying you'll be treated as a customer and they'll try very hard to deliver the goods (the diploma); this objective goes against being academically demanding, failing sub-par students etc. It's bound to have a dramatic impact on quality.

Something that baffles me in the USA, by the way: I can understand making a 6 figures investment in one's training, but it sounds like many if not most people choose personal development majors rather than employable ones: history, gender or African-American studies, arts, literature... I could see myself investing a year of my life and a couple K€ in a subject that fascinates me, but come on, a house's worth?!

Anyway, If I were to move out of Western Europe, I'd probably go back for my kids' studies, be it for the price or for the quality.


FYI the reason that they don't fail sub-par students is that graduation rate is part of how they are ranked by the magazines. Flunk more students and your raking gets worse.

As far as personal development majors ... an 18 year old who has never even paid rent really doesn't have the concept of how much money the debt is and "everyone else is doing it" furthermore high-school guidance counselors are the ones who most often are turned to for advice on schools and majors, and AFAICT they don't have a clue about what they are talking about.


> I'm the product of a Western-European system. Yearly tuition was like $2k. Your 44k would have covered 4 years in college including housing, food and ample beer.

You still have to factor in housing and food and opportunity cost, cheaper tuition alone doesn't invalidate the argument. Also the way learning is done in College is often counter productive and not necessarily relevant to your future occupation.


Note that I mentioned that $44k, covered all costs for 4 years (not 1).


On the bright side, now you know definitively that it wasn't the right option for you. You won't spend the rest of your life wondering, "what if I had gone to college instead...?"

I am of the opinion that some mistakes are worth making.


I think a lot of your distaste came from choosing SE as a major. RIT is one of those schools where you have to be especially proactive in extracting value from your education. The bureaucracy there has no compunction about useless majors, irrelevant classes, shallow professors -- things one may encounter if they just go with the flow. It's a sort of roulette wheel. I would've advised you to switch to CS, and start taking liberal arts classes with notable well-reviewed professors. A good professor can turn you on to the most inane subject; they exist but it's improbable you'll land in their class by just throwing the dice. The first floor of GCCIS is a vocational degree mill that feeds into the local donor corporations and those liberal arts requirements you took are literally filter classes. I sympathize with you not sticking it out, considering the costs involved.


I don't think college was your biggest mistake. College is just an experience, and unfortunately sometimes it doesn't work out for some, you in particular. Your biggest mistake was not to quit when it was very clear that it didn't work out for you. Instead of quitting, you let that bad experience chew you up and spit you out.

You hit bottom.

The better story to tell here, IMO, is that when you hit bottom somehow you found inspirations to bounce back and became successful. This is really the story you are telling, and it's a good story.


I don't think hitting bottom is all bad. Within my own life story to date, at least, the bottom(s) were part of the learning - the part where daily reality collides with plans and expectations.

It's okay, as long as you can find your way out of it, of course.


Glad you're here; I'd like to ask you a question.

It wasn't the right choice then, but (putting aside all issues of debt) do you think you'd get more out of it now? Or in a decade? I really enjoyed university, got a lot out of it, but I'm getting even more pleasure out of taking another degree part-time now around my job and the thought of taking three or four years off now purely to study and learn and mentally play is much more enticing than the first time round.

Maybe it's just because I'm older, maybe it's because I've been working for a decade, maybe some other set of reasons, but I think I'd get a great deal more out of it now than I did then (which is not to say I didn't get a lot out of it; I did, but I'd get more now).


I would take a class if it was interesting to me, but I doubt I would become a matriculated student or pursue a degree.


I left college at 20 and then went back at 26. Both are on my "top 5 best decisions in life" list.

Having some time to get older and know myself (or, perhaps, reflect on the nature of selfness) led me to make great use of the incredible resources and space a university offers.

Everyone's path is different, so yours might vary, but you never know! I don't know if you still carry any fear or shame about the college experience (I did), but you're clearly driven and capable of great success. Don't let any of that other stuff get in the way should you ever find yourself with a passion and the desire for university as a space to focus and invest in yourself. In any case, congrats on success!


"It boils down to this: I wish that when I was 18 someone told me college wasn't the only option."

Yes, but even still, that's a decision that no one but you ever could have made for yourself. There's no shame in dropping out of college (or even being forced out) and going on to have a kick-ass career. The stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, et al., can attest to that. But even those guys went to college at first, before realizing that it was slowing them down or sidetracking them. It's hard to say if they would have had that self-knowledge without trying out college first.

Even if someone had told your 18 year old self that college wasn't your only option, you probably wouldn't have believed him. The idea of college-as-necessity is so firmly ingrained in our national culture that only an unusually self-actualized 18 year old would know, right off the bat, no experience required, that it wasn't for him.


You might want to reconsider the Bill Gates example, given that he says:

“I didn’t leave college because it wasn’t suited to me. I left college because I thought I had to move quickly on the Microsoft opportunity. I had already finished three years and if I had used my AP credits properly I would have graduated. [...] I am as fake a dropout as you can get.”

From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/luisakroll/2013/01/31/bill-gates...


+1

There really is fine line between dropping out to go "towards" something and dropping out to "get away"


I really feel like times have changed drastically over the past ten years. There are so many lower-cost alternatives to a four year colleges now. Technology is moving so fast, I'm not sure university curriculums can keep up so a student graduates, their knowledge isn't already obsolete.

In that sense, I think you may have been seeing the future and simply opted out instead of weighing yourself down with debt and a bunch of stuff you even said yourself you could learn faster anyways.

Looks like it was a calculated move and its paid off quite well.


I went to RIT and have a similarly negative feeling about it, so maybe that speaks about RIT and Rochester more than about college in general. They wouldn’t give me my degree after I couldn’t complete one class due to illness, so I rage quit and got a job in California. :)

And actually I’m not in nearly as much debt as I could be. Plus I met a bunch of good people while there, and even though the classes were useless, I took the opportunity to learn a lot on my own. College, like any investment, is what you make of it.


You'd be amazed how much you'd learn going to college now, if you so desired. You know what you don't know and will be focused on learning it. BUT - college is a learning experience. As you've discovered you can get jobs without it.


Agreed. I ended up going to college as my only option for higher education, played in a field that I only moderately enjoy, and have a bunch of debt that will follow me for many years.


You obviously are a brilliant man. You could have done it if you wanted to. What made you choose to pursue your own interest than to suck it up and finish your degree?


I only finished college because against all reasonable expectations, I was allowed to attend two different schools without paying tuition. I guess that was lucky.


nice summary -- it's not necessarily what your degree makes of you, but what you make of your education and degree, especially remaining a self-directed learner.

Too many graduates stop learning, thinking they're done.


What happened to the debt you had already acquired when you dropped off?


Nicely put.


> I could teach myself more in an afternoon than I would learn in a 10-week class.

Yeah, no. This is the problem with so many of these anti-college diatribes: legitimate criticisms such as increasingly abysmal professor-to-administrative ratios are drowned out in complete hyperbole.

Or, taken another way: treat this article as an anecdote rather than a prescription.


> I could teach myself more in an afternoon than I would learn in a 10-week class.

That was true for me in high school, but not in college.

At Caltech, it took me about an average of 3 hours to learn the material covered in an hour of lecture. A joke at the time was "one week into the semester, and I'm already 3 weeks behind!"

A friend down the hall could learn a Caltech course in a few hours by flipping through the textbook. I was nowhere near as smart as him.


> A friend down the hall could learn a Caltech course in a few hours by flipping through the textbook. I was nowhere near as smart as him.

I very much doubt this, and I'm curious about the truth. I suspect that if you replaced 'smart' with 'well trained' it would be true. No one is born knowing support vector machines, but if you'd previously learned perceptrons and quadratic minimization you could understand them in an afternoon. My guess is that your friend was very very precocious - and well trained.


I wouldn't have believed it either, had I not known him.


Same experience. In fact, I think most of my college friends have the same experiences. It is hard to find someone who is always on top of his/her work. I kind of get the author's idea. I can probably skim through the course materials more quickly on my own.. But I wouldn't be able to understand and remember the materials to the same extent if I have not done the homework and the exams.


A friend down the hall could learn a Caltech course in a few hours by flipping through the textbook. I was nowhere near as smart as him.

Now I'm curious. Do you know what he ended up doing?


Yes. He's actually fairly well known, but I'd rather not betray his privacy.

He's also one of the nicest and unassuming fellows I've known. He's like what people say Woz is like (I've never met Woz).


Wolfram or Searfoss. I'm guessing Wolfram. Based on a 2 minute Google.


Wolfram is nothing like Woz, though.


Fair enough. It makes me happy that there are people like that.


Is it smarts or having a "good" perspective on what to focus on? Or is that the same thing?


An excellent question. For the first couple years at Caltech, I struggled a lot. The second two were easier, though I was learning more material faster.

I think what happened was I "learned how to learn". Part of that indeed was getting better at picking out what to focus on. I don't believe I got any smarter.

It was still a full time job to keep up, though. 33 years after I graduated, I still have "examination dreams" where I attend a class and have no idea what the prof is talking about. Fortunately, these dreams have become less and less frequent over the decades :-) But it was worth it. I'm glad I've never been in combat, I shudder to think about the nightmares vets must suffer.


I've had similar experiences. It's a curiosity of mine understanding what makes people successful in that kind of environment.


I wouldn't say this is complete hyperbole, but it might need the additional clarification of "I could teach myself more useful stuff in one afternoon..."

Surely you've had an experience where something you picked up on a single afternoon had more long term value than an entire course?


I'm finishing up my final semester -- double major in Marketing and CS -- and the one class that I can say was worth less than a free afternoon was Computer Skills for Business. A one-credit seminar that taught the virtues of Excel macros and what not.

The distinction in my mind is the definition of useful. Are we talking useful in careers or useful in life? I took six credits worth of British literature that probably won't be making my code any better, but the influence it had on the way I view the world and make decisions can't be replicated by an afternoon of hacking and Googling.


I actually tend to agree with that statement to some extent. Not because I can take in an entire class worth of material in an afternoon, but because experience with school showed my learning style did not lend itself to the classroom, so I would end up not learning much in those ten weeks. I'd have to put in those afternoons (and evenings) applying my own techniques in order to stay up with everyone else who learned naturally in-class.

I feel people who have graduated from college, and have obviously excelled in that environment, fail to realize what it is actually like for other people. Sadly, promoting college as the prescription is even more common than this side of the coin.


Out of interest, are all classes in US universities 10 weeks?


No, I went to a quarter based school which is not the norm.


No, this is a feature of RIT and a few other schools. Even RIT is switching to 15-week semesters this fall.


The history of this is controversial. Student Government was charged with polling the student body and making an official recommendation to President Destler on that basis. The students voted to keep 10-week quarters, but SG recommended against the popular vote. It wasn’t just their fault, of course, but this kind of thing is part of the reason I left RIT. Nothing seemed to get done, at least not right.


Believe me, as a current student, I know how it happened. This really isn't the place for this discussion.


Now I'm kind of glad for the hilarious and useless student government at my school. All they can do is burn my money on events I don't care for...


Student Government sold us out. We should have never gotten rid of Al Simone.


From my understanding (which is indeed limited), yes, give or take two-three weeks -- with the exception of summer or winter classes, which meet more frequently but for a lesser overall time period.

Still, the intensity of that course can vary, depending on the number of 'credit hours' it is worth: for example, a one credit class might meet for once a week, whereas a three credit class will meet thrice.


The Scottish University I attended in the 1980s had years made up of 3 terms of roughly 10 weeks - 9 of teaching and one of exams. A class would typically run for the whole year - so for our first year maths course there were about 6 lectures and 2 tutorials and one exam for that class at the end of the year - the class exams during the year not actually counting for anything. We probably had about ~30 hours of timetabled lectures and tutorials a week - which actually got less as you went through the 4 year course but the overall workload incread a lot - although you were always left to decide how much you wanted to work (in my final year I did a lot of 14 hour days).

Overall I thought it was great, I learned a huge amount, pushed myself really hard (mentally and physically) and had a hoot of a time socially. I don't regret it for a moment - and not just because it didn't cost me or my parents a penny!

[NB My tax payments have more than repaid the investment made in me.]


Some US universities operate on a quarter calendar (4 terms per year), while others use a semester calendar. Semester terms are roughly 5 months long. I am not familiar with any other calendar terms used in the US.


Iowa State University, where I attend, has 16 week semesters counting finals week but not spring/fall breaks. Summer semesters are shorter.


The school I'm at does 10 week quarters, but I think the typical university uses semesters these days, which would obviously be longer.


My classes are 15 weeks, but I've been told we have abnormally long semesters.


I don't know who told you that but they're wrong.

Semesters by definition are about 15 weeks long. Some schools (like RIT) operate on shorter quarter schedules of ~9 weeks, but this is definitely not the norm.


UW-Stevens Point, where I graduated last year, has 16-week semesters.


> We were middle class, but not rich, so I had to borrow to afford a $44,000/year RIT tuition. It’s what everyone else does, right?

Sorry, not amongst myself and all my friends. 44K/year is an absurd amount of money.

I just posted on how I got a BA degree in 2004 from UC Berkeley for 11K total.

See here: [http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5154095]

I think your title should be: "Going to an expensive college with no game-plan nor interest in working hard is the biggest mistake."


Sorry but your scenario is fallacious. Just because you got a scholarship does not mean it is possible for everyone to get a scholarship. There are only so many scholarships to go around and universities can only reduce their tuition by so much.

Additionally you did not list living costs, books, or any other additional charges you get hit with when going to school. Unfortunately the system depends on the majority of students paying the full price for tuition and housing. Don't try to pass off what happened to you as something that can happen to everyone if they pull up on their bootstraps hard enough.


> Sorry but your scenario is fallacious

How so? Taking the scholarship out of the question for a moment, how does that change my central argument? That still puts my degree around 15K (a reasonable sum).

Community College => State school BA. I bet most people could do this for under 20-25K depending on the school. Going to an expensive private school for all 4 years is absurd unless you have a decent amount of grant/scholarships etc.


I did 2 years of California Community College too (UCB wouldn't take me as a transfer student though), but be aware that California Community College was very inexpensive a few years ago (< $20/unit); and is still pretty inexpensive at $46/unit compared to similar systems in other states. For example, Wisconsin community college about $215/credit but if you pay for 12 credits, you can take up to 18 (at 19 they start charging you again). Yes, it's still less expensive than going to a state 4 year school, but it may still be too expensive to avoid financing.


I went to New Mexico Tech. It's a pretty good school for CS, EE and Physics. Yearly cost was about $8K in-state. They cut that down to $4K if you kept a 3.0 or above, $6K if you kept 2.75+, etc. These were essentially automatic scholarships. A good friend of mine showed up from Rochester and became in-state in a year. It's not hard to work off the other $4-6K assuming you're not too picky about your campus job. So we're talking about 10% of the cost of a brand name school. Depending on what you're up to, the brand name value may be worth paying 10x for, but if you're aiming for engineering or industry it's probably not worth it.

I don't think NMT is exceptional in this. There are lots of schools you haven't heard of that would love to have you, and some of them are probably decent at what you'd like to study.


Loads of people do the CC -> UC route in California. The last two years has seen something like 25,000 students transferring from a CC to a UC per semester.


Look, I did CC -> State University as well and it served me okay. But you are ignoring the fact that the university could not exist if all students went that route. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody HAS to pay the full price or the University system could not continue to exist in its current form.


Sure, but I was not arguing against that. The tone of your comment made it sound like the OP was an extraordinary case, when in reality tens of thousands of students save money in the same way. (including yourself!)


tens of thousands sounds like a made-up number


> Somebody HAS to pay the full price

If everyone does CCx2 years -> Statex2 years, then it simply means the market also has to double which I think isn't a problem.


If I'm not mistaken, UC gets only 13% of it's budget from tuition [1]. I believe this is up from previous years. The CC -> UC route is a very good one - and should be taken guilt free if one decides to go that route.

1. http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/regmeet/nov12/f1at...


Many top and higher mid range universities make the majority of their money from things that aren't tuition. My university was making more money from real estate than it was making from domestic tuition fees.


Arguing from a purely logical perspective, something that cannot possibly happen to everyone could still, possibly, happen to anyone.


I did the same. I spent 3 years at a local CC and then one year at a state university to get my BS. Total cost was about $9k. I worked while I went to school and have no student loans.

EDIT: I should also add that I didn't do so well during my first semester at CC, right after high school. I did finish the semester, but I took a break while I worked my way up in an IT department. Eventually maturity caught up with me and I went back to school and completed in about four years, going part time in the evenings. Going to university right out of high school isn't for everyone and I'd even say that I'm glad I waited. Taking classes while working in a professional environment made those classes MUCH more relevant to my daily life. I ended up graduating with a 3.90. That's not meant as a brag, just an example that waiting to get your degree can make the experience more meaningful and improve your chances of success.


Agreed. I worked all four years doing odd jobs and some research assistantships. Working 20 hours a week while taking 18-21 semester units. End result was zero debt and adept time management skills.


>18-21 semester units

Yikes!


Is that a lot? Not trying to be funny. I just don't know.


it's generally not recommended to take more than 15 or 16 semester units of classes

it feels like the difference between working a job for 35 hours a week and 50 hours a week.


That depends on your major. As an engineering major, 14 hours a week already feels like a 50 hour a week job.


In 2004. Tuition alone has doubled since then, housing prices have gone up by 30-40%. Scholarships are far more competitive now because more and more people can't afford college.

http://californiacollegetuition.blogspot.com/2011/06/tuition...


The statistics for young people across the US show that the OP's situation is more "normal" than yours. Most people don't end up with $40k of debt but they still have a lot more than you spent: $27k. Considering that's an average there are probably a lot of dropouts with not much debt and a lot of graduates with much more. Friends of mine went to a shitty tech university (because they were young & didn't know better & as with the OP's family, their families pushed them), and they have nearly $60k in debt each.

Without somebody advising you "This will be one giant expensive fuckup if you're not careful," and with everyone around you saying, "You HAVE to do this," this is what happens.

You were lucky.


Lots and lots of negative responses here. I'm probably in the minority then, on the same boat as the author that ran aground.

I never finished college. It was boring and just felt like an extension of high school, an experience that was mostly mediocre and not due for repetition.

It was just me, my sister, and my mom growing up. Not a lot of money from mom for college, though she helped where she could. After a while, I was pretty much doing what the author was. Side projects and self-education. Until I was 27, the most money I ever made in a year was $30k.

I went through a nasty breakup in 2007 and moved out to San Francisco. Within 2 weeks I had 2 offers for between $75-$85k. I thought getting $60k was going to be awesome. Needless to say, I was floored. To be honest, I'm 10x the engineer now than I was then.

I know that for a lot of people, your degrees were hard won and very valuable to you. Hell, I'm jealous from time to time of you guys and regret I never finished my computer engineering degree. I was scraping by and learning where I could, but almost totally missed out on the college experiences that so many other people have.

But I think what the author and I are saying is that there are multiple roads to success. There's nothing wrong with getting a degree if you're the kind of person that its good for. We just aren't those kinds of people. You don't have to be defensive because we aren't criticizing. At least, I'm not.

If anyone is looking for a node.js/js engineer hit me up. I run jsonip.com which is currently pushing almost 6 million requests per day. I can make things scale.


I have a feeling a lot of people on Hacker News went to top-ranked colleges with full scholarships--Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, etc. These universities provide completely different environments and experiences than the typical college. They're also so well funded that they provide significantly better financial aid and scholarships as well. Provided you can get accepted, it's actually much, much harder to get a full ride at the University of Missouri than it is at Harvard.

In short, if you're going to one of the best colleges in the nation for free and you love classroom learning, of course it's going to be a great experience. That's a no brainer.

What if you don't like classroom learning? What if you went to a bad high school, you disliked it from the beginning, and weren't motivated to get the grades to get into one of the top colleges because of your prior experiences with school?

Speaking as someone who started college at a state university, it was a very mixed bag. All these brilliant peers you guys are talking about? Yeah, they weren't there. I was taking classes as a freshman with seniors who were barely passing and bad-mouthed the professors whenever they could. When I mentioned functional programming to my advisor in the CS department, she didn't really even know what I was talking about. They had a theory of programming languages, which she "thought" would talk about them, but I wasn't allowed to take it for another three years because of all these requirements on how you progress through the courses. So instead I got to take a class on Java where you'd have a three hour lab with TAs there to assist you, and your only task would be to write FizzBuzz.

Now I eventually transferred to a much better school, and I had a much more enriching experience. Suddenly I had peers who were interning at Google, Facebook, etc. Suddenly I had an academic advisor who wanted me to push myself rather than hold myself back. Suddenly I had really interesting homework projects rather than a week to do FizzBuzz. And at that point I started to get a lot more out of college.


> We were middle class, but not rich, so I had to borrow to afford a $44,000/year RIT tuition. It’s what everyone else does, right?

Yeah, there's your problem. I didn't spend 44K on my entire bachelor's degree. Neither did anyone else I know... It's dang stupid to burn that kind of money if you can choose not to.

edit & reading this after lunch: OK, I was a tad nasty there. Apologies for being nasty. But I stand by my point that there are other options that are considerably cheaper.


Tuition at RIT in 2012-2013 is $32,784. It's only $44k if you include room and board.

It was much lower when OP when to school as well.


I have yet to see someone who actually did the work and was _successful_ in college later regret having had his higher education. (Or, i.e., think that he would've been off better without it.)

By contrast, I've definitely seen people who dropped out of college and became successful in something, but who later regretted having not taken advantage of their college education.


I completed college with a good GPA, honors and achievements to consider it successful and I still think it was the biggest mistake I made in my life. At the end of the day the debt (under 80K) added too much unnecessary stress. I would say that it could have been from working a lot during college too trying to keep things as cheap as possible.

My take on it is that it was just a decision made by an 18 year old. Now that I'm hustling out there I feel like I should have just been hustling all along instead of taking a detour that I don't think made a difference in the long run. This could be partly due to the industry we are in and I'd even agree that it's probably the wrong attitude to have about an education, but it's the way I feel. I see no reason to support that racket. I would never advise anyone against attending either since it's one of those YMMV life experiences.

At the end of the day you look at it as a bad decision, you learn from it, and promise yourself to be smarter in the future by not making the same (or a similar) decision ever again.


I have on a few occasions, but it seems like a loaded perspective. To make it through four years of blood, sweat, and tears and to do it successfully requires significant investment in believing you are doing the right thing. With that, you'll always find some way to justify that you did the right thing, even if you somehow could prove it was a mistake.

It would be like a successful businessman who later regrets it all and wishes he had lived on welfare. It doesn't happen because if he truly wanted to live on welfare, he would not have built his business in the first place. On the other hand, you are apt to find people on welfare who regret not starting a business.


And yet people who drop out of college do so because they think they're doing the right thing, and yet they regret it much more frequently than the other way around.

The fact that you think you're making a huge investment doesn't explain the fact that some investments are more regrettable than others.


I, unfortunately, am not sure I fully understand you are trying to add. Regret doesn't magically appear later, it builds from doubts in the present.

College students noticing doubts about what they are doing, they are going to drop out to figure out what is wrong. People who successfully graduate are almost never going to have that problem just by making it to graduation. The whole idea that college graduates have that kind of regret infrequently is probably true, but it doesn't really tell us anything meaningful.

It is like noticing that college graduates are mostly hard working people. Well, sure. The people who aren't hard working dropped out already. That, however, doesn't also mean that all dropouts are not hard working. There are many reasons why people need to drop out and those reasons sometimes come with their own sets of doubt.


> People who successfully graduate are almost never going to have that problem.

And yet many people who successfully drop out of college to (say) pursue a business (through their blood, sweat, and tears, arguably sometimes even more so than their college-student counterparts), however, do end up regretting it.

("Fake" dropouts like Bill Gates notwithstanding; see my comment above if you're not sure what I mean.)

The idea that the first group "almost never" going to have that problem, whereas the second group is likely to, should make you wonder why that might be the case. (It's not a tautology.)


> whereas the second group is likely to, should make you wonder why that might be the case.

Not really. I've already explained it. To be in college in the first place means that you have some reason to want to graduate. Often life gets in the way, such as that great businesses opportunity you cannot pass up, but that doesn't make your reasons for wanting to go to college magically disappear.

I also find the attempt to make it a binary issue for graduates interesting. A successful business owner who regrets dropping out doesn't have to regret starting that successful business, but a college graduate has to regret dropping out if he wants to regret not starting a business, or whatever. Why can't a college graduate be happy with his accomplishments and regret not starting a successful business during those years?


> Why can't a college graduate be happy with his accomplishments and regret not starting a successful business during those years?

If you regret a choice, it means you wish you had made some other choice.

It doesn't make any sense to regret not making a business when you're happy with your current accomplishments... unless you're asking why someone couldn't have done both simultaneously, in which case the answer is: most people can't run a successful business and a successful college career simultaneously. One is already hard enough.


> It doesn't make any sense to regret not making a business when you're happy with your current accomplishments...

So, you are saying someone who has a successful business and regrets not finishing college must regret starting said business? I don't think it works like that. It is quite possible to be happy with your business and wish you could have done other things at the same time.

Likewise, I expect many graduates do wish they could have done more during that time of their life (just look at how many lament that they didn't get to party because they were studying all the time), but that doesn't mean they need to regret the accomplishment full stop.


I just looked up "regret" and it says:

"to feel sorry and sad about something previously done or said that now appears wrong, mistaken, or hurtful to others"

So, yes, if you regret something then, by definition, that means you wish you hadn't done it. That's what calling an action "wrong" or "a mistake" /means/.


I'm glad you were able to clear up any misconceptions you had. Hopefully this has made what I was telling you more clear.


This is not something you should be proud of. Anyone can ace a class they are passionate about; the fact that you failed out of courses you were intellectually capable of destroying says a lot about your character. Getting a college degree is a sign of commitment and work ethic. If I can't trust you to stay with my firm when the work isn't a roller coaster of stimulation, then I can't count on you at all.

Full disclosure - I am an RIT grad.


well, that's because your in us of a. I'am an european so i had my 5 years of software eng. degree for free, plus i was able to do freelance work in the same time. So, no debt, 5 extra years of partying, drinking with my mates (many of them recruited in the same university), and a nice diploma which really matters here over the pond :).


I think you're getting downvoted because of the comment's tone, but it is noteworthy to point out how different the college experience can be in Europe vs the US in my opinion.


Well, the article was in itself a bit anecdotical, as someone else put it, so i tried to keep up. Yes the experience is quite different, and while i am very passionate for what i'm doing (i'm programming a way or another since i was 12), i really think college is worth something, beside having fun: you learn how to think, how to evaluate, how to apply what you know ... and how to finish things you started - projects, jobs, assignements.


I have several issues with posts/articles in this vain:

1. The author assumes they wouldn't have done any better than they currently are even if they did ace/complete college. They might in fact have been far better off than they currently are, even if they consider themselves successful.

2. The author possibly discounts indirect skills which they picked up during college. These are not necessarily taught but rather a by-product of the college environment (i.e. public speaking, word choice in conversation, social adaptation, ability to argue a point etc)

3. Someone currently making a decision about going to college may think that they too won't derive any value from college since famous/successful person X didn't find it useful. There is an unfortunately amount of young people who believe being successful is their undeniable destiny and don't have a plan B. Most will at some point or another have to take a job and most likely that job will ask for a college degree.


2) ... indirect skills ...

I was thinking about this too. I studied an irrelevant[1] subject at a top tier university. In a sense the only benefits were indirect skills (a world famous university does look good on a resume, but not if they ask for transcripts (which only the INS/CIS has ever done)

I think that in the moment, once you have flipped the bit on college, you are no longer getting any benefits, certainly not any net benefits at which point pulling the rip-cord seems smart.

[1] History and Philosophy of Science - more relevant to software development than I normally admit.


> I could teach myself more in an afternoon than I would learn in a 10-week class.

>The culmination of my second year was a 0.33 GPA.


I'm in the same boat as you brother, college was my biggest mistake. And, much like you, every job I've had since college no one cared that I even went to college, they just cared if I could do the job/saw my portfolio and hired me. I've never been turned down for a job I wanted.


I still regret college.

I completed it.

But I wish I had dropped out.

Also I wish I did not had this stupid 20k loan to pay too.

Here in Brazil the best wage you can get as programmer, is still around 36k (yes, I am not kidding).

I get right now 15k.

So I get 15k yearly, and I have a 20k loan =D How awesome is that?


Emigrate. You speak English, Portuguese and ... ? You've got tech skills, there are tech visas for a lot of developed countries. Spend < 10 years working abroad and pay off your loan and move back to Brazil with some wonderful life experience. Also, in a native English-speaking (British Isles, US, Canada, Oz and Kiwiland) country the second language is a total bonus a lot of time ... If you've got commitments that tie you to Brazil see if they can be loosened for a few years :)


I think a lot about that, but I am yet to figure where I should go, and how to do it.

Emigrating sounds a lot easier when you find a job elsewhere and is invited.


You hang out on HN long enough someone is bound to offer you one, but you should probably fill out your profile some more (email address and name, minimally). But even if they don't reach out to you, there are job opportunities posted almost every day. If you have the skill (you're here... it stands to reason) and put in the effort, you could be on a plane in a few months.


I'm curious about this. What sort of tech visas are available if I wanted to go to Britain, or the US?


Dude, I'm sorry about your debt, but I'm sure you can find a better paying job eventually.

> Here in Brazil the best wage you can get as programmer, is still around 36k (yes, I am not kidding).

Assuming you mean 36k USD, that's about R$5500 per month (assuming you're on CLT=permanent employee, not a contractor). That's on the lower end for a senior programmer [1] in São Paulo. You can certainly earn more than that if you're good and you do some professional networking.

In any case, debt apart, 36k isn't such a bad salary to live on in São Paulo if you're single.

[1] http://www.guj.com.br/java/263096-salario-para-profissionais...


I regret it, but wouldn't change anything I think. I met my wife at college and would never had met her otherwise. That's the only thing I got from my college years.

It was fun and I learned a lot, but I'm 80k in debt and not making much more than I was working in the factories and warehouses.

Give me 3-4 years more and I'll be better off, but right now it just sucks.


I don't want to speak for you, but it sounds more like the debt sucks, not so much college and the experience? I can understand that. I haven't finished my degree (yet!), but I promised myself I would never go into debt for it. I sorely miss my college days!


How did you manage to get this amount of loan in Brazil? Even without the public schools, you can get a fair amount of discount using FIES and other gorvenement programs.

Which school did you study?


Anhembi Morumbi (don't EVER go there, if they could they would charge you even for looking at their buildings).

Also I got loan from CEBRADE.

It works by you paying 30% of your current tuition, and then paying the other 70% later, but at the current tuition rates.

When I started, my tuition was 960, I paid 30% of that.

Now I pay 1100 monthly (yes, it means that current students have a tuition that is around 1500)


omfg. I know Anhembi Morumbi, it`s not that good from what I heard. This is fairly an overrated price. So you still have years to pay back? That's awful =/

Even now, where we can get a worldclass education with coursera, Udacity and a nice programming skill with code Academy.


Hey Speeder, send me your email. You seem like a interesting person!


I wish I had your courage. I toughed it out and did the whole four years. I would have been better off not going. I listened to people who told me I would end up a loser working minimum wage. Well done sir.


I have to REALLY disagree here -- maybe it's because I just read Cal Newport's "So Good They Can't Ignore You," but I have to believe that you have significant career capital that others generally don't have.

Sure, it's easy to cash that in for a sweet job if you're a very hard worker (note: not necessarily "passionate") and/or if you have some valuable skills that would just deprecate if left to incubate in college for 4 years. Sure, if you're going to college for a liberal arts degree or english lit then the 4 year investment of >$100k is not worth your time.

I do respect the fact that you somewhat avoid the maxim that "it was a waste of time for ME therefore YOU shouldn't go to college." But I think the center is displaced disingenuously -- university is for developing a skill set that may not be there just yet. If I taught myself to cook and have been cooking for a few years, but my friends can't and they're all going to cooking school to learn to cook, I can't complain and say "Cooking school was a waste of time to me -- in fact all you need is passion to just go do it!" as if that's a meaningful statement or maxim to be sent out into the world. Because we know that borders on BS.

I believe significantly in taking advantage of your strengths; however hard work, regardless of the setting, is the true differentiator.


An english lit degree may not be worth the money, but for the passionate, it absolutely is worth the time.


My frame of mind is that going to college should be for the knowledge, not for a job. If you want to go to school for a job, there are plenty of trade schools you can go to. If college was just for jobs, the majority of majors would be cut. If you are going to college just so you can get a job, then I believe that it will most likely end up as a mistake, especially in the software development field where it is possible to get a job without a CS degree.


I like your comment, I think it's the most concise explanation of why you should go to college, not for "job training" but to be educated and not simply about computer science. I think good programmers should have a good basis in general knowledge, and therefore college should make you a better person.

I say this as someone who hasn't finished his BS Computer Science degree. I probably have a couple of credits of CS courses to finish and some liberal arts (literally, some art classes) to finish my BS. I have been working in the profession for over 20 years and I feel like not finishing my BS is a bit of an albatross around my neck. Not because I feel it's holding me back, but because if I hadn't taken the courses I have taken, I wouldn't be interested in the broader subject of Computer Science. I never would have taken that Scheme class (SICP) that some of the other students complained about because it was in a language that "wasn't useful" (I was curious and thoroughly enjoyed the class). I never would have been curious about writing a B tree from scratch and learning about algorithms. I never would have been curious about Derivatives, Integrals, and Differential Equations. All things that don't generally directly apply to my day-to-day job, but because I have knowledge of them, I am a better engineer and problem solver. Even my philosophy credits help me with critical thinking. I could go on and on ...


I also went to RIT. Was the education worth the price? I don't really know. I did learn things, but I almost definitely could have learned them with some other less expensive form of education.

Do I regret it? Not at all. If given the chance again, I would go to RIT again every time. It was, and still is, the nerdiest school around. I froze my ass off, but it was still worth it. The people I met there are basically my second family. The times I had there are fondly remembered. What dollar amount can I put on people who turned out to be lifelong friends?

If all I cared about was getting an education, a job, and making money, it would have been a dumb idea. But the memories and awesome times that were had are priceless. It is sad that the author went there and graduated, but did not have that experience. Perhaps it is their attitude that prevented them from having it. If you are in the library, you are doing college wrong. You should have been at the hockey game instead.

Also, thanks to my CS degree and the RIT co-op program I was able to get a well paying job immediately upon graduation. I have been basically constantly employed since then, and all of my student loans were 100% paid off months ago.


For my undergraduate degree in India, I paid $100 per year in a government owned college. Hostel room and food took $30 per month and all that money and more came back in scholarships. So I paid less than 0 in the 90's to get an engineering degree. Later I did my MS in US on a sabbatical, and my company paid 90% tuition fees. So all in all I spent may be $5000. When it was time for my MBA, again company paid 90% tuition fees, so I spent another $5000 out of pocket. That is it - 3 degrees in $10,000- all from good schools - which moulded me to what I am. Public education should be universal and free for the deserving. The expense comes back as tax dollars to the government besides ensuring good quality human resources for the country.


College isn't for everyone so repeat after me.

B students end up working for C students and A students end up going back to college to teach.

I did 13 years in the Marine Corps, Got out during the technology boom. walked into a low paying Tech support job and now making a strong 6 figures. No College, Little bit of tech schools and no certifications.

If I had stayed in until retirement I would have missed the tech boom, Missed out learning a marketable skill that I taught myself while I was in the military, and My job prepared me for working on aircraft in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. No thanks I love being an office IT tech dude.


To be honest, I'm starting to get too much of those anti-college posts.

Many point out that they didn't learn anything from uni/college. Well, how about studying in better one then? One person I know often mentions how pointless the university is and that he dropped out on day 5 although it was at most average university (UK).

Especially "didn't learn anything in year one". And you were not supposed, really. The point of first year is 1) introduce you to many areas so you can get a feeling of what do you want to do 2) not press too hard because some (mainly international) students have difficulties in adapting.


>> Hustling = passion + ability to sell yourself. No degree required

Wow, inspiring writing, I agree too with the footnote that was attached, paraphrasing; this works in the computer industry. I think the reason why is that it's easy for the human mind to comprehend being a doctor, lawyer, scientist, etc. It's hard to contemplate wanting to actually do programming. The general populace just doesn't get it; those who do, can't imagine doing anything else. Even if it's not programming, just working with and through computers to see ideas come to light.


A lot of great discussion on this article popped up when it was first written: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4364370


He's absolutely right. You don't need a degree of any kind to be a software developer. When i was in High School, I've been told that by devs at career fairs just about every time i attended. I always thought it was odd that a company rep at a career fair would tell me not to go to college. In all honesty, if you don't think education is necessary, then don't go to school. It's an absolutely legitimate claim. However, do the engineering world a favor and never call yourself an engineer or pretend to be one.


> However, do the engineering world a favor and never call yourself an engineer or pretend to be one.

Can you elaborate a bit? Should CS grads consider themselves engineers, or only *E majors?


That's a new definition of "engineer" for me. Didn't realize that having a degree was a prerequisite of the title, like getting a PhD gives you "Dr."


Honestly, in this day and age the fact that you have an engineering degree is a sign that you can get your ass off the couch and strive to become something... not really any sign that you have something cooking in your head. Although, if you get through any engineering major curriculum you're likely not an complete idiot.

Engineering is a discipline. It's systematic, rigid, concise and if you fuck up you're liable for your actions. Would you hire someone who claims to be a self-taught electrical engineer, mechanical engineer? No. You know why? Because these people work their asses off to become licensed. Your hiring manager will probably lose people on his team if he hires someone who doesn't even have a single college credit. It's a matter of discipline and respect for your colleagues. In some areas it's regulated and you cannot hire an engineer without a degree.

Would you hire a self-taught software engineer? You can. What's the end result? All too often, your company on front-page news because this person made a rookie security mistake. Is he or she going to be responsible for leaking thousands of sensitive records to public? No. They might get fired, but that's it. Take this same example to medical field where a software bug can kill (and has before i.e. radiation treatments) and all of a sudden you can't even prosecute this "engineer" for murder.


In many countries "Engineer" is a protected title, and can only be used by someone who holds a Bachelor of Engineering or better. The difference between a BEng and BSc at my University basically amounted to more stringent record keeping and auditing standards for the University, and slightly more expensive tuition because of that.


I'm not saying I agree or disagree with GP, but some engineering disciplines require that you be licensed and are then called a "P.E.", Professional Engineer. Computer programmers don't, of course, and there are some that think we should be.

EDIT: Typo on "think"


At 23, soon to be 24 I wish that I never went to college. Phone sales for a summer at State Farm + #1 at e-commerce startup taught me more than I ever learned in a classroom.


I like such posts for bringing up the fact that you have to follow your path to be happy, not other's footsteps or society rules. On the other hand, some imbeciles think of such posts as an argument against education, and that's just a straight way to a society that breeds morons. So, if you are not bright, you might wanna have a pass on this one. Yeah, but who am I kidding, none of the slow ones will get my point anyway...


Not to minimize anyone's strife, but... If spending one year in college is actually your "biggest mistake" thus far, you've had a comparatively sweet life.


I hope everyone remembers this when they have kids! Give them the option of not going, rather than setting the expectation that it is expected. I plan to encourage mine to take at least a gap year when applying, rather than jumping in. (unless they are 100% certain of the field/direction, which is unlikely)


I went to RIT in the 90s. My total student debt was something like $17k. In my case I felt it was worth it, but if faced with $140k in debt for the same education, I would seriously have my doubts and probably would have considered alternatives.


$400 a week is hardly enough to live comfortably

Is the cost of living in Rochester that high, or was the author living somewhere else at this time?


400/week after taxes is something like 1200/mo.

    1200
    -500 (rent, 2 roommates)
    -200 (food/beer)
    -100 (car)
    -350 (min student loan payment)
50 left over.


-350 (min student loan payment)

Ah, there's the part I forgot about.


Not getting into a good college is the biggest mistake I ever made.


0.33 nice...




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