- The times are changing when it comes to college degrees. One third of billionaires in 2016 didn’t graduate, and these eight leaders agree that a degree may no longer be necessary.
- Gary Vaynerchuk says there are “endless free ways to learn about business” – and points out that many companies don’t actually require a degree.
- Time is money, says Grant Cardone. Consider whether college is actually a worthwhile investment.
- For Gail Corder Fischer, not having a degree helped her strengthen her work ethic and problem-solving skills.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Society places a lot of value on higher education, even though nearly a third of billionaires in 2016 didn’t actually graduate from college, including Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg.
We spoke with several entrepreneurial leaders and Advisors in The Oracles, who all agree that you don’t need a degree to be successful. Here’s why – and what it actually takes.
1. It’s rare to actually need a degree these days
I distinctly remember failing a test in fourth grade, which I embarrassingly had to get signed by my mom. I was really upset, and then it hit me: “Forget school. I’m a businessman.” I never prioritized school; I honed my skills, learned to sell, and concentrated on what made me happy. The college “brand” will eventually collapse. Parental pressure isn’t a good reason to acquire enormous college debt, which is also a bad idea if you want to become an entrepreneur. You get good at entrepreneurship by doing; plus, there are endless free ways to learn about business. Even if you do want a job, many companies don’t require a degree – including Google, Apple, and VaynerMedia. Ultimately, the decision is about whether a degree will put you in the best position to reach your personal goals, and that’s only true in rare cases these days.
2. Time is money
I went to college for five years to get an accounting degree. If I could go back in time, I would have skipped it. Time is money. In most cases, I don’t see the value in putting 18-year-olds into massive debt to postpone their career for half a decade. The only reason I would want my daughters to go to college is to meet people and network. Life isn’t always what you know – it’s who you know.
The Malia Obamas of the world are going to school at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, not a community college or state university. So if you can’t get into one of the top-notch schools, you would probably do better by skipping college and focusing on real-world skills like closing deals, negotiating, and prospecting.
3. Just learn by doing
I was an average student with a 2.4 GPA. After high school, I moved to Georgia for a sales job with a lot of traveling. I learned to be self-sufficient, connect with others, and sell to professionals. I gained all the skills to survive and thrive on my own – and the courage to never look back. This confidence served me well when I walked away from a lucrative job to start a business as a 27-year-old with two young children. At 29, I took the company public. I later built and sold another for $151 million. I didn’t need a degree to teach me something I’d rather learn by doing anyway. I learned by thinking bigger and challenging myself to make a more significant impact. Intentional action creates results. If you’re committed, you’ll eventually succeed.
– Brandon Dawson, serial entrepreneur and cofounder and CEO of Cardone Ventures; founder and CEO of Audigy; host of “The B Dawson Show” podcast; connect with Brandon on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
4. You don’t need a degree if you work for yourself
My parents urged me to go to university, even though I had a successful ecommerce store by the time I was 16. One afternoon, I faced a dilemma. I had an essay due in three days, but I also had products to sell. I didn’t have time to do both, so I had an idea: Why not outsource my essay? I researched “essay writing services” and prepared to email one. Right before I hit send, I suddenly realized: “Wait a minute. In college, it’s not outsourcing – it’s cheating!” I dropped out of school the next day and used my extra time to double down on my store and pivot into a more lucrative niche. Many people told me I would regret that decision; but as an entrepreneur, you don’t need a degree to get chosen for a job. You choose yourself.
– Sarah Chrisp, founder of Wholesale Ted, one of the largest (over 350,000 subscribers) online educational resources teaching entrepreneurs how to create, grow, and scale successful online stores; started her first online store at 16 years old; follow Sarah on YouTube
5. You can achieve success before your friends even graduate
Back when I was considering whether to go to college, I asked myself where I wanted to be one day and how I could get there the quickest. If I’d wanted a leadership position in a large company, I would have made a different decision. But my goal was to be my own boss and work hard on my own projects, not someone else’s. I don’t disagree with studying in principle, but if you know in your heart that you don’t want to work for any company but your own, you can make better use of your time. While others spent years studying and commuting back and forth between exams and parties, I built a seven-figure company in the same amount of time. I’m not saying it was easy, but it was the only path I could see for myself – and I would choose it again today.
– Markus Hetzenegger, founder and CEO of NYBA Media GmbH, a fast-growing digital marketing agency in Germany that generates nine-digit revenues for their customers; connect with Markus on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook
6. Not having a degree pushes you to work even harder and be more resourceful
I graduated from the school of hard knocks, so I always felt like I had to work twice as hard as anyone with a college degree. This perseverance helped me develop a strong work ethic and problem-solving skills. I learned real-world business skills first and figured out how to handle any issues that came my way. As a result, I’m comfortable working with anyone and highly attuned to asking the right questions and directing others to solve problems quickly and efficiently. That means I spend less time and money than others when getting outside professionals and in-house teams to collaborate. If I ever need a brain surgeon, I’ll go to the best I can find. But a degree in business leadership doesn’t make you a great leader; some things are just inherent, or they aren’t.
7. All the knowledge you need is already at your fingertips
I feel bad for more than half of the young people in college today. I’m not talking about those working toward a specific objective, like becoming a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. I feel sorry for the ones who are trying to “find their path” and racking up massive student loan debt in the process. There are so many ways to learn skills today. I’m not convinced that it makes sense to pay tens (or hundreds!) of thousands of dollars over four years anymore, only to fight for entry-level positions when you graduate. That time would be much better spent experiencing life and seeking mentors in search of your passion. Once you find it, drill down by attending seminars, taking online courses, reading anything and everything relevant, and even bingeing on YouTube videos to become an expert in that area. There’s unlimited information at your fingertips.
– Tom Ferry, founder and CEO of Tom Ferry International and New York Times bestselling author of “Life! By Design“; ranked the No. 1 real estate coach by Swanepoel Power 200; follow Tom on Instagram and Facebook
8. Apprenticing for mentors gives you experience that college can’t
When I was 19, I was one decision away from going to college, but I decided not to. I had already started my own business selling rare shirts and was working at an investment sales company. That’s how I learned what it takes to run a business: practical experience, marketing skills, the right mindset, a network, and a mentor. I couldn’t get most of those things in school; so I decided to study business in real life and work for free for mentors who could teach me.
By helping those who had the success I dreamt about, I gained experiences that many people never have in a lifetime. While the real world is different than most universities predict, I also wouldn’t say that universities are not creating impact. I don’t regret my decision, but there are two ways to go, and everyone needs to decide what’s best for them.
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