College.  Is it worth the rising costs?

Let me share an email I recently sent to my college-aged niece & nephew:

One of my favorite bloggers, James Altucher (made millions, lost it, made it again, worked at HBO, authored several books, & a lot of other cool stuff) wrote a few posts on why you shouldn’t go to college.  I agree with him.

I want to share this with you not only because you are college-aged, but also because I want to teach you to ALWAYS look at things from different angles. ALWAYS question.  Always say, well what if we tried it this way?   Maybe you end up right back where you started, and that’s ok.  What’s important is that you made an attempt to see things differently.

It’s the ability to look through the mirror — instead of at the mirror — which will create the most fulfilling life.


Many people judge my life as successful.  By society’s standards of PMS (power, money, & status), I had them all.   Thus, most would deem me successful.  (Later, I’ll write about success, and my definition of it.)

When I look back at my life, and analyze what helped me create that “success,” I realized it’s not what I learned in college.  College did not enable me or prepare me for life, or work, or anything, quite honestly.  It’s my own ambition and desire to become better that enabled my success.

What college did for me is:  It bought me time.  Time to mature.  Which might be the real value in college for some folks.  For me, at 18, I wasn’t yet mature enough to do much of anything except attend class and party.  Ok, maybe I’m selling myself short.  We’ll never know how my life would have turned out had I elected to go out in the real world versus attend college.

College is expensive. Is the experience worth the price?Keep in mind, I attended college twice – once at age 18 to 22, and once as a 31-year-old employee, wife, and mom.  And let me tell you, the 2nd time was vastly different because I had 10 years of real-life experience from which to draw.

So… My experiences have taught me that college is just one experience.  And you need many AND varied experiences (which lead to many and varied failures, which, BTW, is the real teacher) in order to figure out this thing called life.  Because what is life, after all, except a string of experiences?

Altucher makes a good point:  He says statistics show that college grads earn more money than high school grads.  But if you’ve taken a statistics class (and everyone should), you’ve learned how easily stats can be manipulated, and that numbers can and do lie.  You also learn to ask questions about variables and data.  Like:  Perhaps the people who elected to go to college were ambitious, hence the reason they attended college. Chicken or egg?  Did the ambition (& assumed success) come 1st, or did college create the success?

The same question has been asked of Harvard grads:  Were these folks going to be successful BECAUSE they attended Harvard, or despite it? If you have the ambition to attend Harvard, don’t you have it within you to do just about anything?


I say all of this because I want you to know while college is helpful, crucial, and beneficial in many ways for many people, it is not the golden ticket.  It will not by itself make you rich, happy, self-assured, or confident.  In a recent NY Times article, Google’s senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, said, “Too many colleges don’t deliver on what they promise.  You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life.  It’s an extended adolescence.”

So if not college, then what?  Experience.  And lots of it.  Getting into the world and experiencing as many different things as you can.  Work at a big company.  Work at a tiny company.  Work for yourself.  Volunteer.  Don’t work at all.  Spend a week alone in a cave.  Meditate.  Ride roller coasters.  Ask for a date.  Call the boss. Confront the teacher.  All the while questioning, asking, poking, prodding, and dissecting this thing we call life.

Most importantly:  FAIL.  Do not be afraid of failure.  It is your greatest teacher.* (*If you’re paying attention!  If you fail, and then ask lots of questions about what you can learn from that failure, then – and only then – will you grow, learn, and blossom into the amazing, talented individuals that you are.)

Most importantly #2:  TAKE RISKS.  Especially when you’re young because you have less to lose.  Taking risks leads to experiences that could lead to failure (or success), and BAM! you learn something.*

Any maybe after all that, you’ll find success.  If not, you’ll find yourself, and that’s the greatest accomplishment of all.



About Christine Boudreau:  From trailer park to country club, Christine’s history proves you can beat the odds and achieve great success.  Today, she leads high-potential people through growth, change, and transition to accomplish goals and reach their maximum effectiveness.  For more information about her, read Christine’s Bio.