Living Life is better than Dying in College

college misery matrix

I know I’ve been doing a lot on college lately. But I view it as a stepping stone for how the life we live now diverges from the life we could be living (and the life I hope my kids will live). I’m in the process of writing a book on this where I hope to give some more views not on just college but a better way to spend your entire life, every moment, being educated and learning from experience.  Here’s an interview I just gave to a newsaper which clarifies my views a bit more:

> When you say that parents should not send their kids to college, do you mean that they should not go to college indefinitely? Or come back to college later in life?

Kids at 18 have no idea what they want to do in life. The world is a very big place. Its bigger than five classes a day on philosophy or chemical engineering. Most kids at 18 don’t relish philosophy but they relish the experience of freedom and being out of their parents’ home for the first time in their lives. There is nothing wrong with this. Young adults have a lot of energy and should use it. But the problem is that college costs have risen 1000% in the past 30 years while healthcare has risen 700% and inflation has risen “only” 300%. Colleges have made use of the myth that you can’t get a job unless you have a college education. So young people feel a rush to get that college out of the way so they can get a job and “begin” their adult lives. I think kids should begin their adult lives at 18 by experiencing what else the world has to offer other (see my eight alternatives to college) than a classroom (which they’ve all just been locked in for the prior 18 years). A rose needs space to bloom.

Then, later, if they’ve thought about the debt burden they will place themselves and their parents in, they can choose to go to college. Right now student loan debt is greater than homeowner debt and credit card debt in this country. Thats a lot of debt. Whereas previously we’ve created generations of innovators and creators, now we are creating a generation of young people mired down in hopeless debt. When will they get to live life?

> When did you come up with your theory? How did you come to think of your theory?

A lot of people say, “Oh, James Altucher went to college so he shouldn’t be talking about this”. Well, why not? I saw what people were doing in college. I know now how much I learned in college and how much I learned in other experiences in life and which is more relevant to me now at the age of 43. And, btw, it was much cheaper when I went to school than it is now. So when did I develop this theory? Almost immediately when I realized college had nothing to do with any successes or failures that I had in life (and I had A LOT of failure despite college). And also, it took my 8 years to pay back my student loan debt. Now it takes kids 30 years to pay down that debt. Its not fair to the youth of our country.

To summarize:
A) you learn very little that you use in real life
B) you are so burdened by debt that you can’t use your new-found
knowledge to create real freedom and joy for yourself
C) a young person can use their energy in many other ways than just college.

> Do you think that nothing well worth learning is taught in college? Or is it the fact that students might not be willing to learn?

There are many things worth learning in college. And not every person in the world should avoid college. But the best colleges cost a lot of money and its a burden for young people. And most things that you can learn in college you can learn for free outside of college thanks to the Internet. For instance, computer programming is best learned on the job. English literature is best learned by reading the books you are passionate about. Writing is best learned by having real experiences, writing every day, and reading the great writers who inspire you. Philosophy is learned by having real experiences and reading the philosophers or religious practitioners who inspire you. Imagine learning all of these things because of real world experiences, and then not having any debt. Also, when learning is not force-fed to you you develop a real love and knowledge for how to learn on your own and thats something you keep for the rest of your life. Most young people don’t learn this.

> Do you think you learned anything when you went to college? Or do you think you could have learned more if you chose not to go to college?

I went to college from 1986-1989. I was paying for it with debt so i graduated in 3 years. I took six courses a semester so Icould graduate early. And I took courses every summer. I also worked about 30-40 hours a week at jobs so I could afford my expenses outside of tuititon. Even then i graduated with enormous debt. I majored in
Computer Science and learned how to program.  I thought I was a very good programmer when I graduated college. I prided myself into thinking I was the best since I was sure I was better than any of my classmates. While I was in college I programmed computers to play chess, I wrote papers that were published in international conferences on artificial intelligence, I got As in every practical programming-related class (other than Fortran, ugh!), and then, by the way, I got a full scholarship to go to graduate school for two years. Then, when I finally had a job in the “real world” at HBO, the television network, my programming was so bad (awful!) I had to go to courses offered at AT&T for two months in order to get my programming in shape. And even then I was still nowhere near ready to do real programming in the real world. It probably took about another six months of daily effort to learn how to really program. I had the passion for computers and I’m sure if all I had done were those AT&T courses right from the beginning I would’ve been fine.

(college hasn’t protected society from being miserable)

Sometimes you have to throw a kid in the water to teach them how to swim (or let them drown). Thats the way to learn. Not being force-fed from textbooks written twenty years ago and being taught by professors with little real world experience. Its a shame also that unless you have a PhD a college won’t let you teach (in most cases). PhDs are often the most intellectual but have the least real world experience. And for that great experience we have to go into massive debt now.

> Do you have any advice for students who are in college right now and feel like they aren’t getting anything out of their education?

Yes, take a year or two off and try some of my eight alternatives. I’m writing a book now with over 40 alternatives and explaining my views in greater depth.

> Are there many people who disagree with your thoughts? Agree? How do people react when they first hear what you have to say?

I think many people agree and don’t say anything. But the people who disagree get very very upset. Its like I’m questioning their religion. I can go right now in the center of Times Square in NYC and shout, “Jesus is Satan!” and people would just walk around me and think, “ok, its free speech”. But if I shouted, “don’t send your kids to college”, WHOAH!! Lock this guy up! Take away his kids!

I’ve even had death threats based on this opinion. People have a huge life attachment to the fact that college is a part of life, the same way that birth, marriage, parenting, and death are. Its not. Its a relatively modern invention (for the mainstream American, its about fifty years old the idea that most kids should go to college, after 6000 years of civilization). Unfortunately this modern invention has been so abused by college administrators that the next generation of kids we graduate will be mired down in debt, and STILL need to learn the skills required for basic jobs that they want to do. Lets not forget, nobody learns how to be a doctor in college. Thats pre med. They learn a little in one or two years of medical school, but then they really learn when they are a resident in an actual hospital. And then between debt, insurance, and the burdens government is now placing on doctors, how will they ever pay down their burdens? The entire system needs to change but the discussion has to happen somewhere. Hopefully it will be here.

> Anything else you’d like to add?

I began my career at the age of 23, after I left graduate school. And then I began a career from scratch again when i was 26, and then 28, and a totally new career when i was 33. And then a completely new career when i was 36. And now I’m 43 and I’m still open to changing careers and doing new things in life. There’s no rush to start a career at the age of 22. Life changes as you go out in the world and experience things. Failures happen, seeds grow and take years to turn into a tree. Give yourself time to plant those seeds, to learn from your failures, to experience new things in life. The earlier you start to do this, the wiser, healthier, and more balanced you will be. You will be more capable of making decisions on career, family, and life in general.

Its also important that people stop using the statistic: people who went to college make more money. This is a very true statistic but anyone who takes Statistics 101 in college should know that correlation is not cause-and-effect. It could quite possibly be that over the past 30 years, people who are more achievement oriented (and hence more likely to make more money) were more likely to go to college. A better test would be if we take 2000 people who got accepted to Harvard today and divide them randomly into 2 groups: one that goes to college, the other that doesn’t, and see what they are earning 5, 10, 20, 30 years from now. (Some people will then say, “but money isn’t everything” and I strongly agree, but this is just to counterbalance that one statistic that seems to suggest money is everything)

Don’t discount the value of spending time experiencing the world before you make the enormous financial committment of going to college. It will teach you the beginnings (and JUST the beginnings) of what might be important to you. It will teach you how to survive, it will teach you about people other than from your own age group and socio-economic demographic, it will teach you about the 99% of opportunities that happen in the world that have nothing to do with college, it will teach you how to stretch your mind to learn how to sell and communicate, and finally it will show you at an early age that failure, choices, and life is a spectrum and not a ladder. Take advantage of that when still young and I can guarantee you all of life will bend down and support your endeavors.

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  • why go to any school

    interesting idea, but why stop at college. why go to high school or primary school?

    the truth is that most successful people did got to college. Now there are always exceptions but for every Steve Jobs there are 10 Marc Benioff’s. And in my world in San Francisco there seems to be a direct correlation between the quality of the school and the success in business, art, and science. And higher incomes!

    • James Altucher

      Well, I actually think kids should not go to high school or primary school. But college is the one that is ruining the country with its escalating costs so I focus on that.

      • Brooke

        Hahahaha… OH BROTHER.  

    • lifeunprecedented

      Well actually some of our most successful people did not go to college, or dropped out of college. Mark dropped out when making millions off of facebook, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs with Apple… there are plenty.

  • James Altucher

    Thanks, I agree. Its a shame what is happening in this country. We are graduating the first generation of kids ever to owe more debt than their parents owe on their homes.

  • James Altucher

    Steve, you HAVE to write a book.

  • Yifei

    A friend recommended me your blog and I’m really enjoying it so far. A question for you, perhaps even a challenge:

    What do you think needs to happen, for the points you present here to become mainstream acceptable?

    • Fubar

      Easy: nuke the baby gay whales for jesus.

  • Peter Krieger

    I spent ten years in Catholic School (Junior HS, HS and university) and I am still in therapy.
    I cannot imagine a less pleasant way to spend my youth.
    If I had to do it over again, I would:
    [A] get a job and then
    [B] go to school @ night for some subject that is useful (my college pursuits were utterly useless in every sense of the word)
    To any budding student I would advise to get a job and attend classes at night and do NOT consider a Catholic institution unless you want to be institutionalized.
    Just my opinion…..

  • Maxplotzli

    N. Andrew, I appreciate your comments, as they seem genuine enough.

    However, I was wondering about the blatant spelling errors throughout your comment (ex. “collAge” as vs. “collEge”, accounting “principals” as vs. “principles”, etc.). I’m not writing this comment to be mean or snarky, but was wondering if you were poking fun at us readers and the author re. the premise of this article.

    If spelling is just not your thing, that’s cool.

    Best of luck to you in the future, in business and life.


    • Lee

      American English spelling is a joke; the language is constantly evolving so what’s wrong today is right tomorrow.

      The inability to spell is considered a learning disability similar to dyslexia. I’m a professional writer who struggles with it (as do my intelligent children).

      Sometimes I just learn the conventional spellings, sometimes I let the spell checker fix them and sometimes I use a more modern version (I’m big on using thru instead of through right now).

      • Brooke

        What about grammar, though?

  • Maxplotzli


    I just came across your site randomly, and I just wanted to say how much I enjoy it.

    You strike me as a bit of an anachronistic guy, in that you’re more based on reality, choosing thinking over reacting, philosopy over flashiness, and thoughtful communication over the bizarre mass media “moron with a megaphone” (*shout-out to my boy Glenn Beck!*) model that seems to be espoused by the mainstream media.

    I actually find it exciting to find a site that allows me to read something that has the substance to actually make me THINK.


  • Lee

    Agreed. I recently visited the campus – bought some books at the bookstore, felt smarter almost immediately!

    • Fubar

      Stanford (the guy, not the college) became vastly wealthy because he was a Railroad Tycoon (Monopolist) who exploited immigrant (Chinese, Irish) labor.

      Someone please explain how “things are different” than they were 100 years ago.

      • Azoba_00

        not just Stanford, whole of America vastly wealthy because it was a xxx Tycoon (Monopolist) who exploited immigrants (Chinese, Irish) labor and slaves…
        Someone please explain how “things are different” than they were 100 years ago.

        • Fubar

          re: Plutocracy  (Big Business in bed with Big Government)

          there have always been a large number of poor people in the USA. iirc, the “official” (federal govt. statistics) now are 20%, and increasing since the bogus tax breaks of Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush for wealthy people, investors, bankers, corporations were put into effect.

          rich people and corporation have enough money to “solve” the current economic problems, but they are waiting (to “invest”) for a political environment again that is “pro business” so they can go back to exploiting workers and consumers like they did under previous circumstances.

          (I’m an anarcho-libertarian integralist.)

          Here is an excellent analysis of the way in which state power is used to support plutocracy:

          “Free Enterprise: The Antodote to Corporate Plutocracy”
          Keith Preston

          • Fubar

            broken URLs for archival purposes:



      • Azoba_00

        not just Stanford, whole of America vastly wealthy because it was a xxx Tycoon (Monopolist) who exploited immigrants (Chinese, Irish) labor and slaves…
        Someone please explain how “things are different” than they were 100 years ago.

  • Lee Little

    I thought that too – biggest mistake I made as a parent, not mostly home-schooling.
    At least by HS we knew how to use the system and both my kids got graduated on our terms.
    Still, I plan to offer support so they can home-school my grandkids, especially considering how the govm’t run system continues to deteriorate.

  • Fubar

    How many colleges have used “six sigma lean” as an effective reform method? Something close to Zero.

    Anyone that actually understands “business efficiency” (or a buncha other things like “IT security”) that carefully, objectively, and rationally studied how “college really works” would shriek in horror.

    Of more importance: TQM and similar “methods” have actually been used by corrupt college administrators to destroy the traditional basis of academic freedom (the “democracy of the knowledge commons”).

    College administrators are exploiters (they imitate predatory corporate overlords). They invented a method to exploit faculty, then student and parents. IT IS A GIANT SWINDLE.

    Everything they do is rotten and doomed to make society worse.

    The advantage that China, India and Brasil have is that most/many of the people at the “intelligent” end of the bell curve in those societies have traditionally been denied access to the learning opportunities necessary to participate in economic progress and growth.

    College is just a burden that the system in a growing economy can tolerate carrying as the cost of maintaining social myths about the relationship between industrial development and social progress.

    Once the economy and society “mature”, the myth no longer works.

    Beehives used to always be “a good thing”: flowers got pollinated, crops matured, people got honey.

    Colleges and universities are like beehives that have gone bad because “Killer Bees” moved in and took over.

  • Fubar

    Odd, the EEs that I know that got graduate degrees all said that the corporations that employed them had to train them for a couple of years internally before they were able to get any real work done. Software companies make gigantic money (at least $300/day) selling training courses to their customers’ IT staff to gain/retain competence. Little or none of that content is taught by colleges.

    90% of the practical college material could be condensed and included in internal industrial training.

    the main function that college provides is to separate classes of people.

    there are far better ways of objectively and fairly selecting people with industrial competency for internal practical job training. OH WAIT…. GERMANY ALREADY DOES THIS.

    They have effective apprentice programs.

    As has been stated by others in various related blogs, colleges are all about CRONYISM.

    The people that have benefited from CRONYISM want to keep the system going “as is”.

  • Fubar

    How “large” are those “sets” of jobs if only 30% of people have college degrees?

    The reality is that most jobs obviously did not require a degree, and most jobs that do require degrees are in specific categories.

    For the jobs in specific categories, there are not enough “slots” for everyone even if that is what “college degrees” are supposed to be for.

    In reality, as others have pointed out, college is about occupational EXCLUSION by professional CARTELS, status displays, class stratification, elitism, snobbery, and so forth.

    All that stuff is destructive of democracy, and supportive of PLUTOCRACY.

    • Fubar

      clarification, re: “For the jobs in specific categories, there are not enough ‘slots’ for everyone even if that is what ]college degrees’ are supposed to be for.”

      In other words, as Altucher points out in his comments, there is a serious danger in over-educating people for jobs that do not exist. it is wasteful, and could encourage revolution “gone wrong” or other negative forms of social unrest.

      It would be far better to get ahead of the unrest and reform america so that middle class jobs are plentiful again.

      This could probably be accomplished by a vigorous, populist reform movement that demands that all the corrupt economic preferences for the ultra-rich be removed from government policies.

      Unfortunately the history that is taught in most public schools omits the real examples of such reforms, including at least three Presidents that were part of such reforms: Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and “Teddy” Roosevelt.

      All three used their power, at the height of populist discontent with the system, to beat corrupt big banks and big business back into the dark corners that they come from.

      | Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who
      | want crops without plowing up the ground.
      –Frederick Douglass

  • Fubar

    Colleges and Universities have played a VERY unsavory role in the immigration scams that the corporate IT industry has been running on american tech workers for decades. Said colleges/unis have benefitted from corporate “partnerships” (including government support) for allowing foreign workers in on “student” visas. The “students” then have special access to corporate jobs at much lower wages than american workers.


  • Fubar

    re: “you must be fiercely independent, have the extreme commitment to improve yourself, and be able to withstand setbacks”

    Historically, that describes what made american culture great in the first place.

    And, that was before mass, compulsory education was put in place.

    Ironically, you describe the exploitation and disintegration that exists within the educational establishment perfectly, and you also display the sense of entrapment and conformism BY THE PEOPLE that is what “makes it tick”.

    The only reason that the exploitation has continued and gotten worse is that people are afraid to revolt against the establishment.

    And that is because they have been brainwashed BY SCHOOLS into that fear.

    The educational establishment has been taken over by people that imitate predatory corporate overlords. They are social parasites.

  • Fubar

    re: health reform

    Hey Steven,

    Excellent points.

    Corporate Tobacco is evil, but no where close to the Carbohydrate Industry.

    Most health problems are caused by artificial support for corporate grain farming and the “junk food” industry that is built on cheap grain (corn syrup, etc.).

    History: after WWII, the oil industry needed new customers. Thus, chemical fertilizers were made from oil and marketed to farmers as ways to vastly increase grain production.

    Some of the excess grain was used in the “food as a weapon” foreign policy programs during the Cold War. (food was used as a way to get poor countries to align with USA foreign interests and against the Soviets/Communists.)

    Yet, there was still excess grain being produced. New processed “junk food” was invented and marketed in the 50s/60s as millions of family farming operations were going bankrupt and corporate (high energy and capital intensive) farming boomed.

    The increased consumption of processed carbohydrates such as refined flour and corn syrup resulted in far more damage than the increased consumption of high fat foods.

    Fat consumption is something that the human digestive system evolved for. Our primate ancestors ate lots of fat, including scavenged bones left behind by predators that could not crack them open to get the marrow (fat). Early humans developed tools to break open bones for marrow/fat.

    Humans are unique in being able to track and run down prey over vast distances. There are almost no animals that could win a marathon against humans. They all die from heat exhaustion first.

    Refined carbohydrates mess up the human metabolism in extreme ways. Many organs (liver/kidney?) produce the wrong chemicals after refined carbs are consumed.

  • Fubar


    If his kids really want to go to college, they could do it on their own anyway. Which would put them in roughly the same position as all of the poor/minority/disadvantaged kids that are brainwashed into thinking that the only viable form of upward social mobility is to “get a college degree”.

  • Fubar

    Google is your friend:

    Many of Illich’s important works are in free electronic text format:

    Please note that there have actually been a few “social change” advocates within the educational establishment that attempted to popularize Illich’s work. But generally, it has been ignored because it delves too deeply into the pathologies of western culture (causes of exploitation and dehumanization in industrial culture).

    Here is one striking example of Illich’s work:

    Fundamentally, the concept [industrial development] implies the replacement of general competence and satisfying subsistence activities by the use and consumption of commodities; the monopoly of wage-labor over all other kinds of work; redefinition of needs in terms of goods and services mass-produced according to expert design; finally, the rearrangement of the environment in such fashion that space, time, materials and design favor production and consumption while they degrade or paralyze use-value oriented activities that satisfy needs directly. And all such worldwide homogeneous changes and processes are valued as inevitable and good.

    Each time the West put a new mask on the alien, the old one was discarded because it was now recognized as a caricature of an abandoned self-image. The pagan with his naturally Christian soul had to give way to the stubborn infidel to allow Christendom to launch the Crusades. The wild man became necessary to justify the need for secular humanist education, The native was the crucial concept to promote self-righteous colonial rule. But

    [] by the time of the Marshall Plan, when multinational conglomerates were
    [] expanding and

    [] the ambitions of transnational pedagogues, therapists and planners

    knew no bounds, the natives’ limited needs for goods and services thwarted growth and progress. They had to metamorphose into underdeveloped people, the sixth and present stage of the West’s view of the outsider.

    Thus decolonization was also a process of conversion: the worldwide acceptance of the Western self-image of homo economicus in his most extreme form as homo industrialis, with all needs commodity-defined. Scarcely twenty years were enough to make two billion people define themselves as underdeveloped.

    Development based on high per capita energy quanta and intense professional care is the most pernicious of the West’s missionary efforts – a project guided by

    [] an ecologically unfeasible conception of human control over nature,

    [] and by an anthropologically vicious attempt to replace the nests and
    [] snakepits of culture by sterile wards for professional service.

    —end excerpt—

    Frankly, Illich’s work will probably never lead to policy reforms that are in any way consistent with the current educational system. Illich’s ideas basically imply the dismantling of the modern concept of “schooling” altogether. (as such, it might be popular amongst some elements of the “home school” movement?)

  • Fubar

    Absurd union bashing. Teacher’s unions are the symptom, not the cause of the disease. The cause of the disease is State Capitalism and its educational establishment. Teachers are put in a painful position of violating various laws of nature. They are well compensated because the apparatus of big government and big business requires that natural learning be horribly distorted in service of the systems of exploitation that modern society depends upon. Make no mistake, the dehumanization that children suffer from in public schools requires a certain level of hideous “expertise” to properly accomplish.

    The american people have been brainwashed into thinking that the current education system is both necessary (it isn’t, which a simple examination of 99.9% of human history demonstrates quite clearly), and incapable of “real” reform.

    The problem with criticising education is that it leads to criticism of all of modern society. People have a high level of anxiety because they know, one some level or another, that chaos and instability are increasing, and that the institutions (like schools) that were supposed to create stability are failing for reasons that most of the so called “experts” are clueless about.

    The foundation of myths and prejudices that modern schooling was built upon no longer confer their magic. People are still going along with the resulting mess because no viable alternative has been “allowed” to develop in any significant way.

    Education is a force that retards progress instead of encouraging it.

    There is a trend in which the cracks in the educational edifice have widened. “Waiting for Superman” is one stunning example. The wild success of alternative models such as the Bill and Melinda Gates “small schools” or Waldorf shows that people will work hard to make schools run in a more “human” manner that is “communitarian”.

    Other experimentation in holistic and integral education has been successful.

    The future success of america people (not corporations/government) probably lies not in union bashing, but in intellectually empowering children and workers via more creative, interactive forms of culture and education.

  • Fubar

    re: “Who reads newspaper anymore? ”

    The people that write the blogs and web content that you like. Seriously. There are very few people making a living writing decent content on the web. Most of the decent web content is scavenged from the few remaining good newspaper journalists.

    The hope is that some new internet publishing business model will develop, similar to how the iPod “saved” the music industry. This is why there was so much “manufactured” enthusiasm for the iPad (and “Tablet” computers in general). Tablets are supposed to be the vehicle for viable e-text commerce (viable careers in professional internet writing).

  • Fubar

    re: “Many companies”

    That is refreshing. Does anyone actually know the statistics for how many companies do this? Are 1% of college degrees funded by the businesses that benefit from having educated workers? 5%? More?

  • Marc Hansen

    After High School, I took a year off and worked full-time saving up enough money for college. Went for two years and got an Associates. Lived at home but paid for college and a car myself. After the first 30 days of my first job after graduating, I realized college had been a waste of time, and that most of my knowledge and skills came from what I had already self-taught myself. At least I wasn’t in debt.

  • Michael Parks

     How about Military?  I got free college, never incurred debt, got paid a living wage, saw the world, and worked in a corporate environment that allowed me to work with thousands of contractors who were mostly entrepreneurs.  All that and I got out, and I have the option to go to my Masters and Doctorate program while receiving a $1300 stipend per month.

    I hated being in the military (you have to wait for others to retire to move up at a certain point, and all the other things that being a COG in a corporate behemoth brings with it.)

    But I loved the benefits, and the travel.  I just needed more action and freedom.  All things considered it is a great way to spend 4 years after high school.

  • Proud Parent

    Reading your stuff was timely for me. I recently attended my 50th high school reunion and learned I had made more money than anybody in my class, half of whom had graduate degrees. It took me 7 years to graduate because of side trips to experience life and I did not even think about graduate school.

    I married  a Harvard MBA who although brilliant has never matched my earning power because I do what I fell in love with on those college side trips.

    Our son entered NYU last year and asked to take a gap year in January. He had laid out a plan to develop his musical talent and got the school to sign off on it before approaching us. Of course everyone in our family thought he was crazy not to mention the disapproval of our friends.

    Visiting him in New York months later I found him happier and more self confident than I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of my own side trips and I think he will grow up better for it. 

    BTW, in his freshman year he expressed concern of whether we would ever make him take out loans to get through college. This had never occurred to me but he said over half his classmates were already burdened with them.

  • European

    I agree that most people attending college nowadays are wasting their time and money. But not because they could have turned out just as successful without college, but because they could have tuned out just the same average Joes without the debt burden. 

  • Adam

    hey noel! 
    i would like to get in touch with you! i am 20 attending to law school and have the same views that you have/had.
    can you please send me your skype or any messenger name in private?
    my e-mail is:

    • Noel Roberts

      Hey what’s up?

      skype: thewizard2.0


      Mr. Noel Roberts
      Empire Real Estate LLC, Owner
      Phone: 612-424-3859
      Fax: 888-414-3718

      “Moderation? It’s mediocrity, fear, and confusion in disguise. It’s the devil’s dilemma. It’s neither doing nor not doing. It’s the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for …the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It’s for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation…is lukewarm tea, the devil’s own brew.” -Dan Millman


      This email and attachments may contain privileged and confidential information and is intended for named addressee(s) only. Confidentiality, privilege or copyright is not waived or lost if this email has been sent to you in error. If you have received this email in error please notify the sender and delete immediately.

  • skier123

    I hate to say this, but you sound like an idiot!

    • James Altucher

      I’m at least glad you hated saying it.

    • James Altucher

      I’m at least glad you hated saying it.

  • Chris S.

    I agree to that sheer determination can be a replacement for college, but it seems like it almost always only applies if you intend on starting your own business or if you have a contact in the corporate world to get your foot in the door. I too went to a major university but became very bored, very quickly. I had accumulated tens of thousands in student loan debt. I have a construction family background and left college at 21 to come back home. Roamed the world for a little while and then began to concentrate on making a living the only way I knew how, in construction. Five years after starting my business, it is flirting with a half million revenue annually. And I have not used one thing I learned in the years I was in college. So the point I’m trying to make is you do not have to go to college but you do have to learn a trade. And after you learn that trade you have to figure out how to make money off of it own your own. Because big business will not give an entry level position to someone who does not have a degree. That degree gets you in the corporate world. Once you get in the corporate world, you learn what you need to know to do the job. But you can’t get the opportunity to learn in that job if you don’t have the degree. So, in conclusion, either get a college degree or start your own business. Starting your own business is definitely more lucrative, if you are deteremined not to let it fail and you have a good idea.

  • Alaska Deb

    Excellent articles posted here and could not agree with you more.  I have also gotten looked at like I just killed Santa Claus when I suggest students should consider postseconday paths other than college.  I agree with all of your points and I also have a deep disgust for how colleges drive the k-12 curriculum and learning path.  I have taught mathematics for 20+ years, half in grades 7-12, the other half at a Career & Technical Center (postsecondary, industry certs, most of my instruction is facilitated online) and despise that the HS math pathway leads only one direction…to calculus.  Why?  We lose so many students along the way and how many people utilize calculus in their job?  Statistics, Mental computation, estimation and other applied critical thinking activities are so much more valuable as well as learning to represent and manipulate data with technology.  Hopefully more and more folks will see the value of alternatives to college degrees so they do not have to keep driving and limiting what happens in k-12.  Not to mention the HORRIBLE job they do of really preparing K-12 instructors. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of excellent teachers but they succeed “in spite” of the poor teacher education programs not because of them.  Teacher training should follow an apprenticeship model. Your last step in teacher education is “student teaching”.  This should be taking place during the first semester so you can decide if it is the right fit for you. After 4+ years of tuition debt most folks have no choice but to teach, regardless of how their student teaching experience was.  We have a Maritime Simulator that trains boat captains at our Voc Tech school in alaska. We need to get potential teachers in a simulated teaching environment as soon as possible.   But we can not wait for the universities to change.  Most now mandate masters degrees as a requirement to become a first year teacher. Rubbish. 

    Thanks for the wonderful forum. 

  • Anonymous

    You’re clearly attacking the educational system, not the act of learning. But tell me then, how does a child learn without an educational system?

  • James

    This is the most rediculous statement I’ve ever heard.

    A) you learn very little that you use in real life
    That’s the farthest from the truth I can imagine. Maybe the classes don’t teach you things you use in “real life” but being in college teaches you, and has taught me, the most important lessons in life. Most of them social lessons. How to deal with being in close quarters of people you dislike, how to socialize and meet new people, and how to organize your time effectively. I use my business classes everyday at my internship, but more importantly I use my experiences in college 24/7 as a way to be a contributing person to this society and to socially respect those around me.

    Go ahead, skip college, but have fun trying to find success in this world without the important lessons it teaches those who take it seriously.

  • Jeanpauldior

    Hey everybody.

    I am new here and from the UK. I firstly would like to say to James that I like the ideas you mention for young adults/teens to explore after compulsory education to experience the ‘real world’. I think this should be taken on board when deciding what to do in life as many do not know at that age. Especially when the people around you are not ambitious/entrepreneurial, or are in public jobs your not interested in
    As with many graduates in the UK, once we graduate we expect to walk into top paying jobs with only a degree to show for it, and then we get depressed when after 6months+ of seeking graduate schemes and work placements, we end up stacking shelves or asking ‘do you want chips/fries with that?’.

    There are several problems that lie within both the education system and the ‘real world’ or work.

    1) The fact that the government wants 50% of students to continue on to get a degree creates an oversupply of graduates on the market.  Meaning that a ‘degree’ will then become meaningless and just a method of keeping the youth of the streets. There’s only so many graduate jobs in the market that offer schemes full or training, progression, and other benefits. Its almost like a ‘sink or swim’ battle field between the recruitment months, and if after 100 applications you failed to land a job, then its another year’s wait until you apply again.

    2) As there is an oversupply of graduates in the market (I think this applies to all sectors), recruiters for companies are getting “choosey” about the standard of graduates they choose to take on. Not only do you have to achieve a 2:1 (at least), but it has to be from a TOP university before they even look at your application (believe me, this is very true – just look at who these companies took on last year). Does this now mean that if your university is not part of the top 10, then there is NO chance of getting a good job – even if you have the right skills/degree?

    This further proves James’ original post – that even with my degree in hand, unless its from the TOP universities, it means nothing to employers and I have just wasted 4 years of my time with a debt of thousands to repay. Why does society encourage so many students to go to university when a 1st in law from Shittington University means nothing against a 1st in law from Oxford University. These privileged graduates have a pick of all the best jobs.
    Again “Do you want fries with that? …”

    3) More should be done before university to educate the youth about ‘routes to success in life’. Some HR lady chewing gum tapping on the screen RANDOMLY selecting career options is not what I mean by a ‘Career Service’. More should be done to tell students of the different options of employment, and the routes to get there. 

    An ‘Entrepreneurial’ courses should be taught as part of compulsory education (ages 16-18) to instigate creativity, ideas, and the ‘buy low sell high’ ethos. I think this would look good on a CV later in life, and would allow at a young age an insight into the ‘business world’ and therefore something one can start working towards and thinking about. 

    If ALL the options, and information are put out to the young (again ages 16-18) early on, then it will;
    – stop people taking shitty degrees that mean nothing to the ‘real world’ of work 
    – manage their career expectations (if present) and explore the competitiveness of the employment market 
    – allow the young to start making meaningful decisions that will have a positive effect (and most importantly direction) in the future, 
    – perhaps install a passion of wanting to do something they never knew about, identifying what they like (and dislike), and what they are good at.

    I AM SORRY this went on for quite a few sentences!! It was only meant to be a paragraph, but I am appalled at the worth of the system, recruitment systems in place for graduate schemes, and the fact that graduates (like myself) are still working in SHHIT jobs due to lack of options at the right time and poor career advice at the wrong time.
    There’s no point telling me now after I’ve done my degree what I could do to enhance my application, other than change the typeface from Times New Roman to Veranda Mrs H.R LADY, if my business degree is deemed as ‘soft’, ‘vague’, and ‘irrelevant’ to the world of work. 



    Expose the young (ages 16 – 18) to ALL options and opportunities of the life of work and success (everyone’s definition of this is different). Let them begin to think for themselves, create ideas, and have passion for something they want to do. ABOVE ALL; advise them to pursue a degree ONLY if it is COMPULSORY to get specific employment, or they are passionate about the subject. 

    Thank you for reading my POST turned RANT.

    Keep up the good work James

    MegGriffin x x x

  • waterloo

    i’ve felt this way for 3 years, but my parents had saved up money for me to go to college for a long time, but it does not eradicate the feeling that i’m selling out on my life a little. I’m studying Philosophy and Literature, 2 things easily done/better done on my own time. I’m about to be a senior and I feel like dropping out..I’ve felt this way for 3 years, like I said. “one more year” they say. A year is a long time when you’re young….and when you feel a calling like the one saying your life is elsewhere. I feel like college is the army for a society based on dependence and consumption. We need money, so we go to college- which switches up the reasoning for living. We live to experience and be happy, not to make money. College reverses the intention, which makes for some out of work unhappy individuals that serve the system until they die. There’s a reason our society is so pumped with medicine, food, addicting substances, we are all looking for what is causing the heartbeat through our veins. A way out, in other words. We look for a way out, so we don’t have to look in- at ourselves, our life, our jobs…we justify not living to our potential by giving ourselves the weekends. What if you die on a Wednesday? It’s not fair to the birth of your experience that you live as a drone. The only thing stopping me from leaving is money. Money is the chain that binds our existence- until you break free. ugh.

  • Chariie from Silicon Valley

    Eleven years ago I started college at a state school in Silicon Valley. I dropped out after the first semester because I was just turning 17 / foolish / overwhelmed / broke / a work addict / mom had breast cancer so I couldn’t afford college / etc. I think about the time going to community college after that and still not going back. Now I’m 28 and work for tech support for a multibillion-dollar company (and not just phone support, I really fix computers) so I think people believe I’m pretty smart. I’m still learning my craft and wish I could go back to school and learn programming and / or engineering. 

    I really believe that my life would be considerably better if i had a college degree. Most significantly higher paying jobs require some form of college degree, which I do not possess. I’m secretly envious of my older sister who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism and just recently a law degree. It goes to show that she’s a hard worker. To contrast this, I have and older brother with a degree in economics but he has been perpetually unemployed, mainly because of his own mental issues and unwillingness or inability to overcome those issues.

    So I’m considered the failure. Or the winner. I’m the only one among my siblings that has a solid relationship with someone and my bride-to-be is pretty smart despite the goofiness in her personality (she’s a great cinematographer / director) and she’s going to college for that. I work for a reputable company that produces top-of-the-line / innovative products that are world-wide. 

    But I still want to go back but can’t afford to even go to a state school. Universities will not lower fees because they are in “dire need” of funds and to lose those funds will result in loss of programs and classes. But they’ll gladly take your money to even apply to the school, even if you don’t go. 

    So I’ll sit and wait until someone can show me the way back to college.

    • Brooke

      I’m 34. I went back to college at 30.  I started at my local community college and worked while I finished my AA.  It was frustrating and rewarding as hell.  Then I transferred to UC San Diego.  Because of my age and grade point average, and also because of school policies and new guidelines implemented by the Obama administration, I’m getting a full ride.  I live with my boyfriend, so we split expenses, and pay my share of the bills from my savings.  It can be done – go find a college catalog and apply, and good luck.

    • Brooke

      Oh, and I dropped out of high school at 16.

  • Tim

    I’ve just started college recently, and you couldn’t’ve hit the nail any more squarely on the head than you did here. While I thoroughly enjoy being around so many other people to get to know, and taking classes far superior to that of public high schools’, I feel like I am way too new at life in general to make an investment comparable to that of a house. Right now I’m majoring in something i’m good at, but not necessarily interested in doing for a long period of time, let alone for a lifetime career. Personally, I’d rather take things slower by taking a couple years off paper education (if you will) and learn a little about how things work and what I’m actually capable of doing, before I learn the same thing later in life when I’m in however many thousands of dollars in debt. In fact, the main thing trapping me in is how difficult it is to get into college at all, and the idea that if I don’t stay in, then I won’t be able to get any kind of decent job at all. I feel like I could be successful at something, but frankly the thought of having such a large debt weighing on me is grim even to think about.

    • Brooke

      Why not do your first two  years at a community college?

  • Anonymous

    I am a 39 year old married mom, that has worked since I was 16.  I have done everything from food service, retail, customer service, now IT recruiting for many Fortune 500 companies. I make enough to pay the mortgage, have great internet, and a smartphone.   I have a 20 year old daughter who decided she didn’t want to be a student at first, and asked me to help her get a job entry level IT. I did.  After 2 months of full time working in a “Call Center IT Monkey center” she enrolled back in full time night school at the local college.  She still works.  She “thinks” she might want to be a “English/Lit High School Teacher”… but she views her life as “this is my job, not my career”

    She might take on 10 “Jobs” while she is in “school” but she will have hope that one day she has that teaching degree.  

    I didn’t have many options as a pregnant 18 year old who just married her high school sweetheart.. (and still married same guy!)  But she can at least have a few more options, and eventually a degree.  

    This might all change, and go south when she turns 21.. but for now.. that’s my story of hope for the young working college student of mine!

  • lifeunprecedented

    Wow this is probably the best published opinion I have read on this issue. It is so true. I’m glad to see that there are more people who are realizing that our government and economic situation inhibits people from being able to afford college. Even if people can afford it, is it truly worth the while? I’m 19 years old, I graduated high school at 16 in the top of my class with doing sports, probably could have gone to a great college. However, I chose to grow up and instead of taking on enormous debt, I picked working and gaining experience. I’ve been working since I was 14, I now make more than most people do out of college and a have a great job. Not to mention I bought myself a brand new car this past year. I don’t know if many people that go through college can say that they have accomplished all of that before turning 20. Not to mention even if they get out of college and start off making good pay, they have plenty of debt to pay off and still don’t have much experience.

    • Brooke

      Come back when you’re 35 and burned out on the career you chose and lack the mobility you desire because you never got a college degree.  Trust me on this one.

      On the bright side, if you make good money now, you’ll be able to fund your own education out of  pocket without going into debt.

  • 4iifj

    College is not about learning things, it’s about learning how to learn things.

    Please keep your lay opinions to yourself and do our impressionable youth, alone.  You are saying exactly what THEY (the children) want to hear.  You don’t know what you don’t know.


    • Jack

      Agreed, and I think it’s not only about “learning how to learn things” but learning how to separate truth from fiction, in other words, separating facts from misinformation etc. A lot of people I talk to that don’t have a college degree don’t know how to find answers to questions, even in the age of the internet, mostly because they don’t know how to separate legitimate sources from something that Joe Shmow posts on a forum. Seems like many of these people are also into conspiracy theories.

    • Jack

      Agreed, and I think it’s not only about “learning how to learn things” but learning how to separate truth from fiction, in other words, separating facts from misinformation etc. A lot of people I talk to that don’t have a college degree don’t know how to find answers to questions, even in the age of the internet, mostly because they don’t know how to separate legitimate sources from something that Joe Shmow posts on a forum. Seems like many of these people are also into conspiracy theories.

  • Jonah Comstock

    It sounds like you had a really negative college experience, at a school that made you think you were successful at programming but wasn’t properly preparing you for the field (a field which, especially in the 1980s, is highly atypical in the speed at which training goes out of date).  To take that experience and extrapolate that every college is useless for everyone in every field is disgustingly narcissistic. I went to a liberal arts college, studied philosophy and English, learned a lot about the world and grew enormously as a person.  The skills I learned are not directly valuable in my career.  But they were extremely valuable to my personal development, and despite my debt I don’t regret it for a second.

  • Juanperez029

    Would he be a columnist here if he never earned a degree?  How many columnists have no degrees at all?


    I have to say your articles about college make me feel better about the fact I was/am unable to attend.  I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia during the beginning of my sophomore year in HS and had to finish at home, and going off to college became impossible.  Though if I had been able to attend I would not have incurred college loan debts… I just hate how people talk to me like I’m stupid because I didn’t go, when it seems, based on interacting with people, I’m as smart or smarter than most college kids or recent graduates.

  • Juanperez029

    Would this author really get any chance to be published if he wouldn’t have a degree?

    • Brooke

      Short answer: Most likely not.

  • Nstickney

    oh it is such a scam. seemed obvious to me and a bunch of other people too. thanks for the vent your so right.

  • Mike1a2345

    Fuck you James. Where were you when I was 20??

    Great post(-: 

    Greetings from Iran

  • Alliswell

    Thank you! I already share your views, but I appreciate your clarity and enthusiasm.  My three sons attend a Sudbury school, so they’re getting a head start in terms of thinking and living “outside the box” and at having the kinds of experiences you recommend for young people – and they’re not out of high school yet!  My partner teaches at the college level, and he and his colleagues will be the first to say that a college degree is no guarantee of a good job, let alone a successful, happy life.  What do you think of the idea that student loan debt keeps young people complacent towards “corporatocracy”? (That student loan debt keeps young people from rising up against injustices because they can’t afford to lose their jobs, etc.)

    • Fubar

      re: corporate predators and the education ripoff

      Disgusting example of corporate-education “partnership”:

      Some deep analysis was done 15 years ago on why it was bad for corporate think tanks to work for DECADES, using their wealth, behind the scenes to influence education leaders:


      Faculty critics, who come from a variety of political and
      technological backgrounds, say the quality of education will suffer if
      corporations drive academic decisions. They fear course offerings would
      be tailored to the marketplace, rather than educational ideals.
      want to turn CSU into a vocational technical training center and
      de-emphasize academics. They’re already starting to merge with the
      corporate culture in the sense that they’re not willing to tell you
      anything,” said Glynn Custred, a Cal State- Hayward professor and
      political conservative who helped write the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209.

      say Custred and his colleagues can relax because corporations will
      leave educational decisions in professors’ hands.

      [This was a huge lie.]

      PROFITS: The corporate partners hope to make profits of up to $3 billion
      by selling goods and services to students, faculty and the general

      Note: the above deal fell apart, but a $500+ million IT project (statewide student database) rose from the ashes a few years later. The California legislature NEVER FUNDED ONE PENNY. Faculty raises were almost non-existent for years, but salaries for managers, especially executive administrators, rose to dizzying heights. As did student fees. One executive administrator made 15% referral fees on sales of the database to other colleges at the same time selecting it for his own system.


  • Mochachild04

    I totally agree with this article. I went to college, came out with over $125,000 in debt for the undergrad degree in education. When I got out of school, I couldn’t find a job until December and Sallie Mae wanted me to start paying back my loan with roughly $700+ a month. Now, as a teacher, I was only making about $2500 per month. I still had other bills to pay. Then I decided that I finally figured out what that I really wanted to be a therapist. So now, I’m back in grad school, accruing more debt. But now, I know what I really want to do. So I am hopeful that the grad degree will pay off. Truly, I wish that I had enjoyed life from 18 to 20, 21, then went to college. Then at least I would have know what I really wanted to be. By the time I’m finished, I’ll owe Sallie Mae probably close to $250,000. Btw: I am 25, engaged and living at home. I sometimes worry how will we afford to buy a house and have kids? (My financee’ has about $60,000 worth of school debt. He’s a engineer.) School debt feels like this cloud that hangs over you because it colors every job offer. I may want the job but if it doesn’t pay a certain amount, I can’t accept it because once I pay my student loan payment and car not, my monthly take home pay is severely decreased. Now that I am in grad school, I work part time and only bringing about $1100 a month. School is the only thing that is saving me from paying my loan. If I had to pay it now, I won’t be able to eat. 

  • D in Australia

    This is a cheaply attractive that does not withstand logic 101.  I say this as someone who was a drop out and then who went back to complete college as a mature-age student.  What you are railing against is the cost of  university and I agree it is just silly – but the reaction should be rage against government – in Australia we have a much more progressive funding model.  The stats don’t lie – on average college graduates earn much more than non-graduates even when you allow for normalisation of IQ.  It is also still a very good investment over your working life.  You did computer science in the the early days of being professionalised – so your and my experieince is abnormal.  Apply your comments but this time in the context of being a doctor and a lawyer and you will realise how silly your statements are.  While I agree that a first in CS is not the only criteria for success I do note that those who did very well in the CS program I attended now have job titles like CTO.  Of course if you can’t go to college then life still has many opportunities and there are plenty of people who do the wrong course – just like there are people who choose the wrong career.  It this the fault of the college or school guidance officers? 

    • Fubar

       Altucher is talking about american culture, which you do not appear to understand.

      College degrees are fetishized.

      College administration was taken over in the 90s by “corporatists” that destroyed Academic Freedom.

      Higher Education is corrupted, both culturally and financially.

      It is a spiritual, intellectual, organizational and financial scam.

  • Edwardseco

    ‘Course a college education helps one to put a graph up that has a measure on it or some explanation as to where it comes from as part of a sensible argument…

  • isomorphisms

    One problem with self-education (learning on the internet through Yale, MIT, Stanford’s free notes and  lecture videos) is that a lot of recruiters, HR departments, and so on want to see those letters at the end of your name. In some circumstances, you need the certificate — or else you can’t get past the initial barrier, to the decision-maker.

    • Fubar

      Correct. Large organizations are full of illogic, prejudice, elitism and bigotry. Many of them are run by careerists and psychopaths. without a conformist culture, which is the main product of the educational establishment, none of that would be possible.

      You describe perfectly why education makes people cr*ppier.

  • Russell Taylor

    Great article James. I am 24 years old and know exactly the direction I am going in life. I work a 40k a year job which is pathetic but I have slowly been investing since I was 19 for cashflow and rolling it into more cashflow. My friends all went to college and are up to their necks in debt just like you said James and they can only find low paying jobs because the market is so flooded with degrees. What is worse is none of them knew what they wanted to do so they all have psyche degrees or other niche education. I started with little candy vending machines that took quarters, bought more and then bought arcades and put them in bars. I learned about ROI and cash on cash returns of real estate and Cap Rates and bought my first rental with my arcade money and it cashflowed really well. I then bought a small piece of bank owned land and am in the process of building a home on it with the money I have saved from my cashflow rental to rent it out as well. I read books like Rich Dad Poor Dad and The Intelligent Investor and many real estate books. I continue to read from every source I can to increase my financial education. I dollar cost average high dividend yield equities with low P/E ratios that are close to book value and JUST got out of my silver I bought 5 years ago. I lost my faith in the metals I think we could see 1981-82 all over again in the precious metals market perhaps. College is a complete waste of time if you want to be extremely wealthy. The wealthiest people I know never went to college and just diversified across the board of business, real estate, commodities, stocks, bonds, mutual funds. Goals are great for young people or of any age but in my opinion the difference between a sucessful goal setter and an unsucessful one is one is a visionary and the other is not. You HAVE to be able to visualize your end goal. What does it feel like? What does it look like? Then backing up from that to identify the necessary steps you need to take to get there visualizing them perfectly in your minds eye.

    I will never go to college.

  • Sam

    At my younger brother’s university graduation, I had already been working for three years, owned a car and was on my way to owning a house. I stood around with his classmates and one of them quipped, “You’re the smartest one here.” Whilst technically not true, it did make me realise that a degree is not the be-all and end-all of life. 

    Approaching my mid-forties, it is rare that I can think of a situation where not having a degree has disadvantaged me in any way. Or if it had, I don’t really care anyway because my life has been, and is, full of rich experiences and I have no regrets about it. Like living in foreign countries, learning other cultures and religions, and finding a wife who is happy with whatever comes our way – in a true “for richer or poorer” sense. A degree can’t buy any of that.Now I have a son of my own, who is fourteen and in a few years will have to make the decision about what to do for his future. Secretly (or perhaps not-so-secretly) I’m hoping it won’t be “going to College”, but if it is then we’ll just have to deal with it. It’s important that he learns to support himself, and his family, but I don’t see a degree as any guarantee of that. The biggest problem I foresee is dealing with the stigma of not going to college, from friends and relatives, but I hope we have taught him enough to know that what other people think doesn’t really matter, and is not reason in itself to make life-changing decisions.

  • Jason Williams

    So James, do you think you could have gotten your job at HBO in order to take advantage of the AT&T classes without college?

    • Brooke

      THIS. Thank you.

      • Fubar

         Do you actually know how many people ever got a job at HBO with, or without, college? No. You are arguing from a theory, and looking for “facts” to support your theory. Or you are “imagining” and “inventing” facts to support your theory.

        Social critics call this the “coercion” of the individual by a “hostile collective”.

        Which makes me wonder exactly what kind of “education” you got, or believe in, when your understanding of basic logic and the principle of impartiality (“science”) is so deficient.

        If “education” is defined as a conformist belief in prejudiced thinking that supports the ultra-wealthy overlords and their servants in the educational establishment, it would certainly be far better for society to have less of it.

  • Jason Williams

    So James, do you think you could have gotten your job at HBO in order to take advantage of the AT&T classes without college?

  • omurphy

    You make some decent points, but with community and state colleges, never mind scholarships for good students, you don’t have to go ridiculously into debt to go to college.

    Also, even though a Bachelor’s Degree is far less impressive or powerful than it used to be, it’s still an essential requirement for getting basically any real job.

    College can be a waste of time, but if you spend it learning something useful, and also spend some time gaining real world work experience with internships or the like, then it’s definitely not a waste.

    It’s also a great thing to do from a personal perspective. Life isn’t just about making money, there’s plenty of time to do that later. And college lets young people really enjoy themselves and discover what they want to do with their lives.

    • Fubar

      It was reported recently in USA Today that a researcher found $5.2 Billion in “wasted” student financial aid for wealthy families.

      Due to bad federal tax laws (that “conveniently” were never corrected) expensive colleges compete for children of rich families in order to main high ratings in “US News and Word Report” and other publications.

      This is how rich people act to further consolidate their power and ensure that few people from the lower classes have opportunities to compete, or challenge the system.

      The educational establishment is deeply corrupt.

      The people that mindlessly promote the myth of college are promoting corruption.

      Ultimately this makes people more stupid and more cr*ppy.

      • Bobby Doo

        And you are correct, sir.

  • Brooke

    Yeah… I love when people who had the privilege of going to college go on and on about how it’s not really necessary.

    I’m 34 and putting myself through college – I was a high-school dropout due to circumstances beyond my control – and I can tell you that it makes an enormous difference in how people treat you, from interpersonal relationships to wages.  Next time you apply for a job, don’t put your education down there at all – or put that you dropped out of high school – and see how you get treated.

    • Fubar

      Yes, there is a system of inequality. And bigotry against nonconformists that are critical of the education system. The system is dehumanizing, and the people that benefit from dehumanizing others are going to uphold the system no matter how bad it is. Nothing will get better until discontent and protest become more prevalent.

      The corruption, dysfunction and rot in the education establishment is deeply intertwined with most of the major problems facing america.

      The education establishment is an appendage of the system of state capitalism that has evolved in the USA “for the 1%”. The education system exists not to liberate people from their ignorance, but to brainwash them into staying on the “road to serfdom”.

      The education establishment teaches people to fear being different from the herd.

      This was explained a long time ago, read Socrates and Plato.

      “Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and
      leading men genuinely and adequately philosophise, that is, until
      political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures
      who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented
      from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils,… nor, I think,
      will the human race.” (Republic 473c-d)

      The educational establishment has basically descended into a low state in which it panders to the lowest instincts of people and engages in special interest politics (just like all the other corrupt players in the system).

      Altucher is not saying anything different from people that have no college degree that have been very successful. Any society has a balance of innovators and conformists. Most of the innovators disdain (or transcend) the hypocrisy of the conformists. This is wired into human consciousness by evolution, and upsetting the balance is asking for trouble. We currently live in a highly conformist society that is dependent on a small number of innovators, entrepreneurs and “creatives” to “think outside the box”. Altucher’s point is that the educational establishment is destroying the natural tendencies of (many, but not all) people to innovate. The number of people that find opportunities to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial is declining, and some serious problems will result. Altucher’s analysis of the problem is the tip of the iceberg.

  • Brooke

    I’m going to a very prestigious school and have incurred zero debt because I’ve worked and taken advantage of grants, scholarships, financial aid, AND – most importantly – transferred in from a community college.

    This isn’t a zero-sum game. It can be done in a smart way. You can be educated without being tied to debt.

  • Anonymous

    My son was not at all successful in high school but he was (is) very, very smart in math and science classes.  I finally pulled him out of school at the end of 11th grade and put him in college.  

    He got his 2-year degree in design engineering in 1 year (4 semesters), graduating from college the same time his cohorts were graduating from high school.  He wanted to do this kind of work since he was knee-high to a chair.  Upon graduating he found work with exactly the software he wanted to work with doing mostly the kind of work he really wanted to do.  

    I TRIED to keep him in school to finish a 4-year degree in engineering.  Of course later he wanted to go back to school but didn’t want the debt.  So 4+ years later, with the same employer at 22 years of age, he’s giving it all  up to join the military.  Arrrrrgh!  —  
    Avoiding the military option was one reason I saw to it he got a decent education.  Oh well, I can at least be “happy” that he’s pretty well educated and has some work history behind him before going off to kill.  I guess this will be his chance to “see the world”.I DO think young adults should seriously think about changing their careers every time they feel like they aren’t learning from their jobs any longer.  No one should get stuck in a single life-long career any more unless it’s what you love from the get-go.

  • Brian Fradet

    James–There’s one glaring item I believe you’ve left out when you discuss what kids could do instead of college.  That is to travel (or not travel–skype) and learn a foriegn language.  Also, 8 years of school and I still can’t spell.  I hope you do not ever stop writing about the perils of going to college–  Thanks–Brian

  • Anonymous

    As a college student, I’ve been feeling this way for a while now. This post also pretty much echoes a few of the posts from a former favorite blog of mine. The author said this very same thing a few years ago. Anyway, This inspired me to write this post on my blog:

    Just figured I’d share :p

    • Fubar

      The public education system is designed to produce conformists and misfits. The misfits are then bullied and/or exploited by the system (overlords). Non-conformance to the “norms” of the establishment (whether liberal or conservative) is punished severely. You will receive little or no compassion, care, or basic human decency from the system if you take it on and deeply question its “unspoken” assumptions.

      Scratch away the veneer of “civilization” and you will find connections to a vicious imperial system that first exploited poor people in the rest of the world (starting with slavery), and is now exploiting them in the USA. At the precise point that the USA “won” the Spanish-American war 100+ years ago (which is what the fedeal income tax was invented to fund), Spain imparted its imperial tendencies to the USA.

      The basic tribal instincts of humanity are in a state of high dysfunction, the need for conformity is out of balance with the need for compassion and human decency.

      The historical roots of the issue were explained by Ivan Illich, a human rights advocate and “father of the deep ecology movement” over 30 years ago.

      Here is an article written by Illich for the Whole Earth Catalog folks:


      …Each time the West put a new mask on the alien, the old one
      was discarded because it was now recognized as a caricature of an
      abandoned self-image. The pagan with his naturally Christian soul
      had to give way to the stubborn infidel to allow Christendom to
      launch the Crusades. The wild man became necessary to justify the
      need for secular humanist education, The native was the crucial
      concept to promote self-righteous colonial rule. But by the time
      of the Marshall Plan, when multinational conglomerates were
      expanding and

      [***] the ambitions of transnational pedagogues,
      therapists and planners knew no bounds,

      the natives’ limited
      needs for goods and services thwarted growth and progress. They
      had to metamorphose into underdeveloped people, the sixth
      and present stage of the West’s view of the outsider.

      Development based on high per capita energy quanta and intense
      professional care is the most pernicious of the West’s missionary
      efforts – a project guided by an ecologically unfeasible
      conception of human control over nature, and by an

      [***] vicious attempt to replace the nests and
      snakepits of culture by sterile wards for
      professional service.

      The hospitals that spew out the newborn and reabsorb the dying,
      the schools run to busy the unemployed before, between and after
      jobs, the apartment towers where people are stored between trips
      to the supermarkets, the highways connecting garages form a
      pattern tatooed into the landscape during the short development
      spree. These institutions, designed for lifelong bottle babies
      wheeled from medical centre to school to office to stadium begin
      now to look as anomalous as cathedrals, albeit unredeemed by any
      esthetic charm.


      John Taylor Gatto has researched the issue of dysfunctional education for decades and concluded, amongst other things, that the old rule in political/journalistic analysis to “follow the money” applies. The public education system was put in place to destroy the independent small, family farmers near the cities, and

      ***nullify their political opposition to the large banks and corporations***

      that exploit working people. Colleges now primarily exist to serve the corporate state (which includes by a “liberal” and a “conservative” component, mutually hostile and mutually interdependent).

      The establishment of the current form of education bureaucracy was premised on raising taxes on small, independent family farmers in order to drive them out of business. Their land was then subdivided for suburban development. Suburban development generated the high tax revenues necessary to operate a large educational bureaucracy. Other nefarious forms of collective asset bloat were created at the same time to create the appearance of economic “growth”. In reality, much of the growth depended on the exploitation of resources and people in other countries, and of poor people in the USA. As the system consumed itself in “global economics”, working people became poor, and now middle class people are becoming poor.

      The educational bureaucracy has done little or nothing. Many of the people in side the educational bureaucracy that tried to do something to stop the rot were viciously attacked and marginalized, even at the most elite “liberal” universities that supposedly uphold a tradition of “academic freedom”. (see Christopher Alexander’s commentary on his book “The Nature of Order” about his fights with U. California, Berkeley over high attempt to integrate spirituality into architecture).

      You have a responsibility to learn some alternative discipline (political, spiritual, or whatever), not to descend into substance abuse or other dysfunctional escapes as you have seen around you in your young life. You survival depends on reaching some clarity about your goals, and ability to deliver on accomplishing them.

      America is a declining imperial state. A 300 year era of a system built upon slavery, war and exploitation are coming to an end, and it will not be pretty. It is crucial that young people find a vision of a more sustainable, compassionate, enlightened way of life that adapts to new realities and limits.

      If you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out Dr. Andrew Weil’s work in integrative medicine.

      • Fubar

        Christopher Alexander:

        A Commentary for Readers of The Nature Of Order, Book

        Christopher Alexander

        Many millions of people – by some counts (Paul Ray, Cultural
        Creatives) as many as sixty million Americans – are waiting for a
        paradigm change, and believe themselves to be in a paradigm change. They
        are convinced that society must change, that radically new ways of seeing
        the world are necessary in order to for us to get out of our present

        So far, so good.

        But a real paradigm change – a way of thinking which really and truly
        changes our ideas about war, equality, money, jobs, leisure, family… all
        that may be easy to say, but is nevertheless very hard to DO. It is
        frightening to do, because to do it, we really have to change the things
        we are comfortable with. We may, yes indeed, be conscious of the fact that
        we are screwed up, and we may wish for better things for ourselves and for
        our children – but we remain enmeshed in a system which makes us secure
        (relatively), happy (relatively), morally OK (perhaps), and protected from
        starvation and disease (if we belong to the privileged 10% of the world’s
        population who are economically OK in the world today).

        But, we ourselves are enmeshed, deeply enmeshed, in the production of
        ugliness, zoning, banking, transportation, corporate America, making
        warplanes, destroying beautiful land by permitting and encouraging
        construction of freeways for our cars, and by permitting and encouraging
        the ravages of commercial development and strip malls. No matter how much
        we look down on it, and criticize it as bad, evil, and harmful – still we
        ourselves live off the product of this kind of America we hate. It is
        therefore easier to keep walking as a cripple with a pair of crutches,
        than it is to throw the crutches away, and take the huge effort of
        actually learning to walk again.

        We are part of that which we criticize and part of that which we hate.
        Yet we are sustained by that of which we are a part.

        So talking about a paradigm shift is nice stuff for armchair reading,
        but very much harder to DO.

        And that, as I say, is where it got me into plenty of trouble,
        especially at the University of California, Berkeley. When I began writing
        and teaching about the kinds of processes which would lift architecture
        and architecture processes out of the mud that they are in today, students
        began paying attention. Students found that the subject of architecture is
        more interesting when it is looked at like that. It gets better results.
        People get excited.

        But – and here comes the slammer – as they learned these things, it
        also made these same students very suspicious of the “normal” ways of
        doing architecture that they were learning day in, day out, in the classes
        they went to. So, of course, students started taking more and more of my
        classes, more and more of the classes my close colleagues offered, and
        less and less of the classes my more conservative and professional
        colleagues offered. The students also started asking very awkward
        questions about WHY, why architecture was done and taught in the fashion
        of the 1980s, and why they were forced to learn it when it was so
        obviously wrong. These questions alarmed, angered, and sometimes terrified
        the professors in the school. Otherwise-respectable professors began
        forcing students to take the classes which did NOT make as much sense, in
        order to prevent them from having access to the dangerous new material.

        This HAD TO BE STOPPED by the authorities. Of course, because Western
        civilization would fail if it was not stopped, and the architectural
        establishment would collapse, and God knows whatever other dangerous
        things would happen, too. So the Department did their best to stop this
        material from being taught. We had quite a donnybrook at Berkeley, from
        about 1985 to about 1992, a first -amendment legal case between me and the
        Department of Architecture, which finally concluded after seven years, in
        the University agreeing that the new material must be permitted and must
        be taught. But it was so frightening to the faculty, that three years
        later, the University Administration turned tail, and found yet another
        way to make it impossible for me to teach these classes.

        So this is what you have in Book 2: The Forbidden Classes of
        Christopher Alexander at Berkeley, 1985 to 1992… all the knowledge that
        was too dangerous to allow the students to take, or to absorb, is
        presented in this book.

        Yes, it is dangerous. Because if you start to understand how everyday
        processes in our normal lives are linked (or not) to the creation of life,
        in us, in our neighborhoods, in our surroundings, …then everything will

        This material comes from new ways of thinking about the way the world
        unfolds. It suggests a new vocabulary of thought about living process,
        defines some of the main ideas, shows hundreds of examples, and discusses,
        patiently, carefully, all along, why and how one process destroys life,
        and why another process enhances life.

  • Josh Ingram

    College is a must if you want to become a university professor, lawyer, doctor, nurse, school teacher, engineer or an architect. That is absolutely what’s required right now, there’s no way around it. Lots of companies require you to have a BA in something, it’s a symbol of determination and strength.

    However, I will concede you can become successful without a degree. It is after all, a little piece of paper with a fancy seal, however you’re going to have to be a self-starter, extremely motivated, and this is asking a lot from a generation that raised like sheep. 18 years of dependence and indoctrination in public/private schools, it’s a lot to overcome.

  • inventions ideas

    The view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from nurture (life experiences) is known as tabula rasa
    (“blank slate”). Most of the confusions in the way of ideas arise at
    least in part from the use of the term “idea” to cover both the
    representation percept and the object of conceptual thought.

  • mary york

    Sometimes when I read your stuff I think you are kinda immoral, but this post alone tells me you are part genius.  This is so overwhelmingly true.  I would add to this: “Don’t ever ask a college professor for career advice, unless you want to be a college professor, or your professor is an adjunct who has a substantial career outside of academia.”  The worst, absolute worst advice I ever got about my job future was from profs.

  • Borni

    A couple of months ago I dropped out of college. The last two months have been
    a great success to me, I’ve improved my programming skillz at such level that I managed
    to create a web app from scratch. I feel happy, I feel I have made the right decision.
    I discovered your posts a week ago. Thank you for knowledge, you inspire me really.

  • lolguidos

    Whatever happened to apprenticeship? That seems a far superior method of teaching job related skills then hoping that an employee had learned that stuff while hungover at some community college. True, they have internships, but they should just intern straight out of high school, or something along those lines anyway.

    Is this really 2 years old? WTF?

  • ME

    I’m 17 and have these exact reasons for not going before I even read this..I don’t see a point in getting in debt and then getting some job that I hate.

  • Tegina

    Just found your blog and love it. You are so right.

    I and, all my honest colleagues, will tell you that they did not learn how to be a mental health counselor in college. I knew when I went to graduate school that it was a hoop that I had to jump through (because it is required in Utah to be a licensed counselor). I knew it wouldn’t teach me HOW to be a good counselor. I knew because I asked all the counselors I met. Everyone I asked said they didn’t learn their job in college. I did it because I knew I wanted to be a counselor (and, btw, I love it) and I had to get the degree to be able to do it. The degree is a complete rip off, along with the licensure requirements (tests we pay to take, continuing education we pay for, etc). Having a degree and a license does not ensure one is competent. Everything I learned about being an effective counselor I learned by pursuing training and information through books, the internet and trainings offered by private institutions/people.

    I’ve told my kids that they should not go directly to college.. they should travel, explore, etc.. However, I must admit that I thought college was a good idea — no, I thought it was required to be successful (eventually). Hmmm. Now I think that unless you need that degree to get the job you want (like myself), college is A Big Trick.

  • Guest

    Nice write up, loved it pretty much what i thought of all my life at 35 started noticing this more and more at 45 pretty much came to the same conclusion. I liked the comment from someone below -” business of college is not to educate but to perpetuate the college business.”. Also not going to college or univ won’t work for a majority since they are probably brain washed completely in school they have nowhere else to go to nothing else to do. Second and the reason this business model works is you can not go to college live and work in spain or south america learning spanish and doing programming the deal breaker is should you need to work for someone in a system that will be with us for a long time to come there is no way to get your foot in the door for an interview. You have no Cred as in Paper to validate your experience this is what College and Univ do. So my opinion is go to college pick the easiest and funnest thing you want to graduate in get out into the real world and do the same thing. Don’t hold your breath that you will get your pot of gold cause you went to a nice college with a tonne of debt… cheers.

  • sunny.p.badalera

    Nice write up, loved it pretty much what i thought of all my life at 35 started noticing this more and more at 45 pretty much came to the same conclusion. I liked the comment from someone below -” business of college is not to educate but to perpetuate the college business.”.
    Also not going to college or univ won’t work for the majority, since they are probably brain washed completely in school. They have nowhere else to go, nothing else to do.

    The other reason this business model works, sure you can get away by not going to college live and work in Spain or south america learning Spanish and doing programming all fun. Until should you need to work for someone in a system! This will be with us for a long time to come. Without the Paper Diploma there is no way to get your foot in the door for an interview. You have no Cred as in Paper to validate your experience this is what College and Univ do. So my opinion is go to college pick the easiest and funnest thing you want to graduate in, get out into the real world and do the same thing.
    Don’t hold your breath that you will get your pot of gold cause you went to a nice college with a tonne of debt… cheers.

  • Tara

    woot woot! ;)

  • disqus_HkK4RNb6J8

    The reason college tuition has gone up at a rate higher than inflation is primarily due to federal government loans. If the colleges did not have the federal government subsidizing education costs they would not have such an abundance of applicants and would have to keep their costs down. The concept that everyone has to go to college is completely wrong– some people are just born to be ditch diggers, yet our education system has become based on the notion that all must go to college. It should be that everyone should have the opportunity to go to college, if they so desire, regardless of means.
    I always thought that you do not go to college to actually learn a subject, but to learn how to learn and how to solve problems. Those are the skills which you will apply throughout your life, long after you have forgotten the details of what you were taught in any given class.
    Student loans that take decades to pay off for degrees that never return their investment are a definite scam and should be a crime.

  • adada

    i went to college, graduated and then paid it all off in less than half a year. now im reeling it in.

  • Liz

    Another great article James. I am very pleased to find this website and I love the vibe I’m getting from it so far.

    I am another one of your young readers, 19 this year, on her way to university after taking a gap year. Obviously, being Asian (I can relate to the book Tiger Mom), not going to university is a huge no-no. I have been accepted into a number of presitigious universities to do biology/zoology, but am thinking of rejecting them all. What’s the point of spending $120,000 to get a piece of paper that qualifies you to work in a field that will pay you less than $2,000 per month?

    After my gap year, I began to view university as an option, not a necessity. It is an institution that churns out desensitized people with a piece of degree, saddled with debt, who think that finding a well-paid job working for someone else is the way to success and alas, find that elusive idea we term happiness. I was brought up to think this way – but I longer do.

    I have sent you an email James regarding some advice needed. Hope to hear from you again.

  • Chris Grande

    just awesome. And it’s part of the financial planning advice I am giving to clients. Kids need to learn skills such as languages, basic computer programming, basic statistics, negotiating, how to listen and process info, etc. But paying 50k/year to take an English class in the middle of the woods of some snowy state? Not sure I see the value…

  • Jess Larsson

    Coming from an 18 year old (who to the contrary, thoroughly enjoys philosophy.) just completed her first semester at the University of Connecticut, then realized all of the above was true (prior to reading this); I packed up my life, gave a BS reason for leaving to most people who asked and moved to North Carolina to live with my father.
    Yesterday I dropped out of college. I’ve never been happier, or felt more responsible for my experience. Life on this earth is short, literally we live about 100 years. In the grand scheme of things that is synonymous with a grain of sand. If that. Before I jump back into “college” I want to CHOOSE my experience, make an impact, enjoy the damn ride. Then I will go be a sheep.
    Until then… Never stop exploring. LIFE begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

    – Jess

  • KGLevine

    So agree and rant that no kid should go to college until self supporting for a year. Also think the universal draft with an option for armed service or good works service might just get our country back on track.

  • karlson

    Bravo, anyone should read “A Millionaire’s Mind” by Stanley. Stop being paranoid about not having a degree. Never follow the crowd.

  • Failure First

    I dropped out of college. Started first company when I was 21 and failed – started another at age 23 and failed – then started a 3rd company and left it when I was 28 – then started a 5th company and it crashed also — Now I am planning to start a 6th company.

    Failures are my best friend..

  • Open Minded

    Hi, James

    I could not agree more. I support education but the reality is that college is not the only way to receive education and college isn’t for everyone. Most people learn by actually working and gaining experience. Another thing that should be abolished is “Education Discrimination” which means being discriminated for not having a certain diploma or degree. It should be illegal for companies to have as a requirement that employees need to have a certain degree or diploma to be able to be employed in that company or be able to pursue a higher position within the company. If you have the knowledge and experience you should be given the same opportunity.

    Imagine if Bill Gates applies for a job at Microsoft and Steve Jobs applies for a job at Apple and Mark Zuckerberg applies for a job at Facebook and all were denied because of ” Education Discrimination”.

    This happens everyday so you could imagine all the talented people that are being denied better jobs or jobs period. Not only do they lose but all of society loses.

    I can keep on going but lets just leave at that for now.

  • Truth

    A college degree is a basic signaling device that shows people that you are educable. It also is a social signal that you are of a certain class.

    Class distinction in America is everything, and not having a college degree is absolutely frowned on by many people.

    Imagine that you are in a business meeting, I have been in 4 this week. In not one of those meetings was there a single person without a bachelors degree. Over 1/2 had an MBA and a few also had JD (who were not lawyers.) many of us attended small private Universities, Ivys, or little northeastern Ivys.

    With the exception of a few finance classes, micro and macro, and the MBA and law school guys, most of these degrees had very little impact on our business dealings. Instead these sheepskins are just an entry ticket to get into the door.

    The problem is that without a degree, you are viewed as just another unwashed striver. Why should I listen to someone’s business idea? I get pitched ideas all of the time. I have found that the younger, poorer, and less educated that you are, the more likely it is that you “want to go into business” or “want to be an entrepreneur

  • hyperdant

    I found your article quite interessing, because I have a totally different perspective on that, certainly because I’m not American, I’m French. And in France, the education system is basically free (or 500 $/year, of course there is still private and costly school, such as Engineer School and Business School), but the fact is, we have one of the largest inequality system concerning the acess to high education…

    And in France, if you don’t have a degree you can’t be recognized for what you’ve done, and you can’t pretend to “white collar jobs” without a good degree. The jobs market is much more

    Knowing that, I think every people who could go to college, should go and graduate.
    And I do not take into account, all the memories, the true life-lasting friendship you could make, and the few more years of innocence you can grab.

    Of course, not everything you study in college, will be used later in your life, and your reasonning coudl be totally true IF you make valuable the time save by doing something useful, but we both know that is rarely the case…

  • Brad

    Two time drop out here with plenty of student debt. Sarcasm aside, that is what I am doing: Seeing my ridiculous debt and actions as a valuable life experience.

    What else can I do?

    There is a lot to be learned from managing capital and credit. Aspects of personal finance that I was oblivious to while digging into debt for a degree.