Learn a skill or trade that is not taught in college.

College educations are expensive, and the benefits are questionable (depending on the degree).

Many very smart people (such as James Altucher, Mike Rowe, and Gary North, to name a few) recommend doing something else with your life, instead of going to college. James Altucher names 8 Alternatives to College, and Mike Rowe is an advocate for learning a skilled trade. [To be fair, Gary North is not “against” college, but has some alternate ways of approaching education.]

I think that what these men have said makes a great deal of sense. College has lost some of its value – but real-world skills still have tremedous value. As a way to ensure that you are always employable (or can always start a business, or freelance) you should take a year to learn a skill or trade that is not taught in college.

Very likely you can do this for a small investment. It will cost much less than community college. A trade school can instruct you in skills such as welding and plumbing, or (if it’s a informational discipline) you can probably learn just as much from online training and books. (Don’t scoff at people who are “self-taught”: some of the best programmers and server admins I have known had no “formal” education; they were hackers who grew up trying new things with computers.)

Real skills that people need are always in demand, somewhere. Many trades can pay quite well. And you won’t be in debt when you’re done learning.

Recommended Resources

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College Can Wait!
Too many young people just don't know what they want in life and don't have a clue how to figure that out. This book helps with that path and lays out why college isn't the only way to go after high school - and why.
Better Than College
Subtitled, "How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree," this book offers concrete suggestions for what a young man might do instead of going to college. Before you spend four years in college, take four hours and read this book.
40 Alternatives to College
Altucher nicely lays out the case against college; he has good, brief answers to all the pro-college arguments. If you're someone who believes that college is the one true path to success in life, then hopefully some of his 40 alternatives will make sense to you.

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