Is College For Everyone? Things Have Changed in 2023

For a long time, I never saw any other alternative to going to college; it seemed like the most natural pathway after high school.

But then I started wondering, can I succeed without college? Is it true college isn’t for everyone?

One of the most fundamental reasons is that some employers like to see a degree or have it as a requirement.

I mentioned this in a previous article, but I will say it again. My dad works as a Director of Engineering, and part of his job is hiring software programmers.

I asked him if he would ever consider hiring someone without a college degree, and he said yes, but he also said it’s unlikely he would ever meet someone without a college degree.

This is because there is software that sorts through submitted resumes, and one common way the program weeds out the applicants is by excluding those without a college degree.

weighing options

Is College for Everyone?

When deciding your future, you may have asked yourself if college is the right move for you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as everyone’s situation is unique. Let’s explore some pros and cons of a college education:

Pros of College Degree

Higher education can provide many benefits, such as:

  • Increased earning potential: A college degree often results in higher paying jobs and greater opportunities for career advancement.
  • Networking: Meeting new people in college can help you build connections that will last a lifetime, benefiting your professional and personal life.
  • Personal growth: College can help you learn new skills, discover your interests, and gain independence.
  • Job security: A college degree often leads to increased job security, as many employers value the skills and knowledge brought by educated employees.

Cons of College Degree

Despite the advantages, there are some downsides to pursuing a college education:

  • Financial burden: College tuition fees and student loan debt can be a significant financial burden, placing you under immense pressure during and after your studies.
  • Time commitment: Full-time students often spend four years or more in college, which can feel like a long-term commitment.
  • Job market saturation: A college degree doesn’t guarantee success, and some fields are extremely competitive, making it difficult to find a job even with a degree.
  • Alternatives options: Vocational schools, apprenticeships, or entering the workforce directly can be suitable alternatives to college, depending on your career goals and interests.
Increased earning potential and career advancementFinancial burden
NetworkingTime commitment
Personal growthJob market saturation
Job securityAlternative options
Pros and Cons of a College Degree

Alternative Paths to Success

College may not be the best choice for everyone. There are alternative paths you can consider to achieve success in your career and life.

These paths include vocational training, entrepreneurship, and self-education. The key is to choose a path that aligns with your skills, interests, and goals.

The future of work won’t be about degrees. More and more, it’ll be about skills. And no one school, whether it be Harvard, General Assembly, or Udacity, can ever insulate us from the unpredictability of technological progression and disruption.

Stephane Kasriel, Upwork CEO

Vocational Training

Vocational training provides you with specific skills for various trades or careers.

By pursuing vocational training, you can develop the expertise necessary for various industries such as healthcare, automotive, or hospitality. Examples of vocational programs include:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Automotive Mechanic
  • Welding

These programs typically take less time to complete than a traditional college degree and often have lower costs. Gaining hands-on experience in a specific trade may lead to a stable career with growth opportunities.


If you have a passion for creating your own business or being your own boss, entrepreneurship may be the path for you.

Starting a business, developing a product, or offering a service can be both challenging and rewarding. The key is to have a clear vision and develop a solid business plan.

Small business resources, like the Small Business Administration (SBA), can provide valuable assistance in getting your business off the ground. It’s essential to research your target market, identify risks and opportunities, and create a detailed marketing strategy.


A self-directed learning journey can help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to achieve success in your chosen field.

By seeking out learning opportunities, such as online courses, books, podcasts, or workshops, you can build a solid foundation of expertise.

Take advantage of free or low-cost resources available on the internet, like:

  • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • YouTube tutorials
  • Professional blogs and forums

Remember to set clear goals for your self-education and continuously evaluate your progress. Dedicating time and effort to this learning path can help you gain the skills needed to excel in your desired career.

5 factors

5 Factors to Consider When Deciding If College Isn’t for You

Personal Interests

When deciding if college is right for you, consider your personal interests. Think about what subjects and activities excite you, and determine if pursuing a formal education in those areas is necessary or beneficial to achieve your goals.


College can be a significant financial investment. Analyze your current financial situation and consider potential scholarships, grants, and loans that may help finance your education.

Develop a clear understanding of the long-term costs of pursuing a degree and the return on investment for your chosen field.

Career Goals

Reflect on your long-term career aspirations and determine if a college degree is required to achieve those goals. Research potential career paths and consider the educational requirements and qualifications necessary for success in your chosen industry.

Readiness for College

Assess your academic preparedness and personal circumstances to determine if you are ready to embark on a college journey. Consider your study habits, time-management skills, and ability to balance academic commitments with personal responsibilities.

Support System

A strong support system can be crucial to your success in college.

Evaluate your existing support network (family and friends) and consider the resources available at prospective institutions.

This may include academic advising, tutoring services, and personal counseling resources, which can contribute to a positive and successful college experience.

Success Stories of People Who Didn’t Graduate From College

While pursuing a college degree can open up many doors, it’s important to recognize that it’s not the only path to success.

There are countless non-college graduates who have achieved incredible accomplishments without a degree.

Let’s take a look at three well-known examples of people who have thrived without completing higher education.

Richard Branson

As the founder of the Virgin Group, which controls over 400 companies, you might be surprised to learn that Sir Richard Branson never attended college. Instead, he left school at 16, driven by a natural entrepreneurial spirit.

After starting a small magazine called “Student,” Branson went on to create a record business, eventually growing it into the empire we know today.

This incredible journey emphasizes the importance of finding a passion and using it as a catalyst for growth and entrepreneurship.

Oprah Winfrey

Another hugely successful individual who didn’t finish college is Oprah Winfrey.

While Oprah did attend Tennessee State University, she left before completing her degree to pursue a career in media.

Thanks to her determination and talent, she quickly rose through the ranks and eventually hosted her iconic talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which became the highest-rated program of its kind.

Despite not completing her degree, Oprah is a shining example of how perseverance and hard work can lead to incredible success.

Steve Jobs

Another quite famous example is Steve Jobs dropping out after one semester and then finding Apple.

Steve Jobs’ story is kind of funny because the college he went to offered some calligraphy classes which he took.

Many years later, when his team was creating the first Mac computer, he used the skills he learned in that calligraphy class to give us the many fonts we love and use today.

These three examples demonstrate that it’s possible for you to achieve great things without a college degree.

Remember that the key to success lies in discovering your unique talents and pursuing your dreams relentlessly, whether through formal education or alternative paths.

So, Why College is Not for Everyone

No, fortunately, your life is not over if you do not pursue higher education. For a long time, going to college was a given for me.

And I have not changed my mind about going to college because I still see value in doing so, but I have changed my perspective.

I have realized that a college education is worth nothing if I don’t make the most out of it, and having a degree does not equate to success. 

A few months ago, I was completing an unrelated assignment for school when I randomly came across this interesting article.

Elon Musk, one of the richest people in the world, basically said college should not be a requirement for job placement because “college is basically for fun and to prove that you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning.”

His companies, Tesla & SpaceX, require job applicants to have college degrees. Still, Musk hopes to drop that requirement because the only requirement should be “exceptional ability,” and a college degree doesn’t attest to ability.

As I mentioned earlier, a college degree isn’t enough anymore. You need experience and talent to show the employer you are irreplaceable. That you have the skill to contribute and make a positive impact on the team. 

I was actually interviewing a girl from Northwestern named Sohae who told me something similar. I asked her if she felt Northwestern (a top school) had prepared her enough for post-graduation and into the workforce.

You would expect that you would get invaluable opportunities and skills in return with the money you’re paying for these top colleges, right?

Apparently not. Sohae said she doesn’t feel prepared at all. She said the things she learns at Northwestern would serve her minimal use when she graduates.

In the end, the choice is yours.

Carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages listed above, as well as other factors that are important to you, to make the most informed decision possible.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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