College is extremely expensive, especially in the United States. Over the course of a four year degree many students are paying $100,000 or $200,000 on tuition alone. Last week I read about someone who accumulated $450,000 in student loans over the course of their undergraduate degree and grad school. This is way too much to pay for school, and even if you’re university was free you’re still paying a lot.
There is an opportunity cost of going to college. It’s the alternative you’re missing out on over the four years you’re in school from 18-22. Over those prime four years what kind of experiences could you have had, what kind of skills could you have developed, and what kind of businesses could you have built?
1) Get a job working with people
Having a job working with people will improve your social skills. At college you are constantly meeting new people and it’s great for your social life. I recommend you try to get a job at a bar/club or banquet hall, this will teach you important social skills like the art of conversation, and improve your understanding of social dynamics and body language. The alternative is to take a sales job, which will teach you sales and the art of persuasion and conversation. Both job choices are good, the advantage of working at banquet hall or bar/club will be more social opportunities and stories, and the advantage of the sales job is that you will learn how to sell (an extremely high value skill).
2) Start blogging
Blogging gives you the ability to create a location independent online business with extremely low costs. If you follow a guide and do it the right way you can make thousands of dollars of profit per month. Blogging is a long-term project that will allow you to create an asset that earns more money as it grows. By blogging you will learn skills such as writing, marketing, search engine optimization, web design, and copywriting.
I would recommend you spend a lot of time on your blog (20-30 hours per week). This blog is a business, and there are plenty of successful bloggers that make six (hundreds of thousands) or seven figures (millions) annually, but they didn’t get there without putting in the work. Your blog needs to be built with the right principles and with the right tools so it grow into an asset that makes serious money. Check out my start blogging guide to get started.
3) Read a lot
If you’re young it’s incredibly important to read a wide range of different books. This will allow you to be exposed to different ideas, and develop a more complete understanding of the world. The smartest people in the world read a lot of books, this is not a statistic you can ignore. quote here about reading
Since you are starting a blogging I would recommend you read online marketing books, and you’re young so look at the 8 books I would read if I was young and broke. What you really need to do is read a ton of books in a wide variety of areas, if you don’t have a library card you should get one and roam through the shelves picking out books and reading the descriptions on the book covers. Take out books you’re interested in and read them (but don’t hesitate to stop reading a book if it feels like a waste of time).
Other places to find good books include Goodreads, a platform for people to review books and create book lists, and the suggestions of the most successful people. You can search Google for book recommendations from people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and there will be tons of articles with the books they recommend.
4) Exercise and eat well
You can’t be performing at your best without exercising and eating well. I don’t care what anyone says, if you’re not taking care of your body you’re leaving a lot to be desired in life. At least 80% of the time you should be eating healthy foods like lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and good carbohydrates. Also make an effort to drink enough water, a lot of people are living most of their lives dehydrated without even knowing it. When it comes to working out you need to find at least one form of exercise (lifting weights, running, swimming, yoga etc.) you enjoy and stick to it for 3-5x/week.
Exercising and eating healthy is a practice that is a lot easier to make into a lifestyle if you begin when you are young. You don’t want to be overweight and out of shape at 40 and try to get health then. It’s far better to start the process early.
5) Develop expertise in one high value skill
You’ll be learning a lot skills and a second stream of income though building your blog, but you will have a lot of time to dive deep and learn one skill to an expert level as well. I recommend you try to develop one expert level skill as well, this will allow you to either become employed in this area or freelance if you wish. Since you are blogging, and reading a wide variety of books (point #3) you will naturally feel drawn towards certain areas more than others. This self-knowledge will allow you to determine what skill you want to learn.
Examples of some high value skills are:
- Graphic Design
- Web Design
It can create a lot of value if you use this skill to improve your blog. For example:
- Using copywriting to sell products through your website (as an affiliate or your own)
- Learning web design so you can create a very professional looking website for your blog as well as other projects you launch in the future.
- Doing graphic design with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to make infographics and high quality images for your website to enhance your articles
Whatever skill you decide to learn, I recommend you follow this process:
Start by reading the 3 best books in about the skill you want to learn. These books will allow you to build a solid understanding the first principles of the subject. If you’re learning a technical subject such as graphic design, web design, or programming watch an in depth video course on Lynda.com (if you can get a login through your local library) or use an interactive learning platform such as Code Academy to learn the basics. I would avoid MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) since these have a greater than 95% dropout rate. Most importantly, learn by doing, no one has ever developed mastery of a skill without putting in the necessary work to develop expertise.
6) Learn a foreign language and travel
Plenty of people take time off before university to travel. They do this because they feel it is the only time they will be able to travel for months at a time before they go to university, get a corporate job, start a family, etc. They also spend all their savings and often go into credit card debt to pay for their travels, not good.
If you travel two years after starting this alternative to university program you will be in a lot better shape. You can avoid the debt because you will have considerable savings from working your sales or bartending/serving job, and your blog should be earning thousands per month. This is more than enough to finance your travelling.
I don’t recommend you decide to travel on a whim, you should travel somewhere you will enjoy and have the ability to learn a foreign language. You should then stay in this country or region for at least six months learning the language, immersing yourself in the culture, making friends, and developing a broader perspective of the world.
A year before you start travelling you should start learning the language. You can start by self-studying the vocabulary and grammar, or use a program such as Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone. This will be just to learn the basics, you will want to start taking 1 on 1 lessons with a personal language teacher. This is the by far the best way to learn a language, and it should not be difficult to find a teacher if you live are trying to learn popular world language, which I recommend you do.
Where will you be after 4 years?
I don’t think this plan laid out is overly ambitious, 80-90% of people should be able to achieve it in the 4 years from 18 to 22. The intangible skills you will develop are the ability to follow your curiosity and trust your instinct. Since you are carving your own path instead of taking the culturally prescribed route of going to university you are learning independence.
You will also have a blog that should earn you thousands per month and teach you writing, SEO, and web design among other skills. You will have fluency or at least proficiency in a second language and 6 months to 2 years of experience travelling and living internationally. You will also have developed a high value skill of your choosing, giving you the opportunity to freelance or get a job in this field.