in Life Optimization

Why I’m Not Trying At College Anymore

I’ve been actively neglecting my academic studies for the past year. No, not just goofing around in class and forgetting homework – I’m talking about being aware of what is expected from me to get an A in class, and consciously deciding that I won’t do it. Instead, I duly complete assignments, attend the majority of classes while skipping some in order to go on long weekend trips, and skim through readings without really paying attention.

The result of this is that I haven’t seen an A since sophomore year. (This from a 4.2 high school GPA.) I don’t care anymore. As long as I pass the class I’m on track to graduate on time with a college degree, and that’s the only important thing. Cs get degrees. Before you protest, my mother didn’t take this news too well either, so let me explain:

I’m graduating with an International Studies – Political Science major and a Business minor. But I won’t ever do anything remotely political in the future, and the things I’ve learned in the business classes are all better put and more efficiently presented in a few dozen nonfiction books available for far less than the cost of my tuition. My credentials on paper are based off of a mistaken freshman belief that Economics would be a good choice for a career, when I had no idea what I wanted to do. Fast forward a year and all I knew was that it wasn’t economics. Fast forward to now, when I have a good idea of what I want to do – why should I waste time on anything else?

My class time these days is spent learning things that:

  • I don’t care about
  • Aren’t useful in the real world.

That’s a one-two punch of irrelevance. If I cared about it but it wasn’t useful, I’d at least pay attention in class and enjoy myself (perhaps like Theatre majors). If it was useful but I didn’t like it, I’d at least try to synthesize the information for better future use. (like engineering) But it is neither. When will I ever need to expound further upon the social effect’s of Brazil’s social program under Lula? Do I really need to spend hours of my life learning the intricacies of the 4 Ps of marketing? I can do that faster and more thoroughly online. But I can also do it learning actionable information that helps me succeed.

My time is better spent doing and learning things that do matter outside of academia. Building things. Failing forward. Setting my own goals and deadlines. Doing what I think is best for my future based off of a bigger picture than that of a tenured professor. Right now that entails  building writing skills and a personal brand through this blog and Matador articles, marketing and building out my Life is a Game book, and helping create a better off campus housing experience through OnMyBlock. The learnings I gain from these experiences are things that I’m interested in, and the skills directly relatable to the real world – primarily because they are the real world. I get graded through page views and book purchases. These activities create products that are of actual use to other people, instead of a 20 page paper that my professor will read exactly once.

Plus, that’s not to say I’ve stopped learning. As Mark Twain notes, “I never let school get in the way of my education.” I’m learning Ruby on Rails with OneMonthRails, devouring a nonfiction book almost every week, and actively connecting with professionals from my field online and in person to learn from their experiences. When I learn like this, I do it at my own rate, which is a lot faster than the 12 point one-size-fits-all lesson plan found in class. When I’m confused, I can slow down and review the material with the aid of the entire Internet and real people’s previous questions. Compare that  to 80 minute lectures whose entire contents can be absorbed in 5 minutes through powerpoint slides and a few minutes on Wikipedia.

I understand that this approach does not work for everyone. If I was a Computer Science major, I daresay I would be paying a lot more attention. An Engineering major would probably have in class projects that actually translate to non-academia. But I was not born an engineer, it’s too late to change majors, and staying on additional years in order to learn things that I can learn  faster and better on my own is preposterous. I can confidently say that my situation is the same as that of most liberal arts majors. Without hard skills, learning is best done on your own, pursuing things that matter to you and are more useful in the workforce than a Communication degree.

Plus, there’s more and more content out there confirming that GPA doesn’t matter outside of graduate school. And unless you’re a doctor or similar, who wants more school? For business, Dave Mcclure puts it best: “I’d rather see you fail at your own startup than be successful reading about someone else’s.” Get out there and learn in the field. Do things, and let your failings and successes tell your employer what you’re capable of, not how well you sucked up to the Political Science teacher’s style.

Even your alma mater isn’t as important outside of reputation and the network it brings – what matters is that employers know you can deliver. My extra curriculars say that far better than a flawless academic record would. If you agree, act accordingly.

  • CursiveVerses

    Brilliant! I respect your decision, especially after reading the article. Add “persuasion” and “logical arguments” to your list of growing self-taught skills.

  • Tam

    If you were already learning and doing so much of your own work, why still spend 10k+ a year and your valuable time in college still? Why not drop out?

    C’s get degrees sure but at what cost? I know you already graduated but I’m curious on why you stayed. I have the exact same mentality as you right now and dropped out from SJSU recently… Considering on going back. Or maybe to Draper. Or maybe traveling abroad.



    • Corey

      This was second semester senior year, so it would have been a waste to drop out with the end so close. If I was trying to save money and learn the most I would definitely not go to college – instead go make things, create something impressive like that Quora answer I linked to in the article says.

      Real world experience beats a GPA every time, but if you’re almost done with college, might as well finish it out, was my rationale.

      • Tam

        Thanks for replying Corey! So at what stage do you think you would drop out? Soph year? Junior year? Or it all depends?

        • Corey

          You’re a fellow Choose Yourselfer, – you know what James would say. I mean don’t go to college at all! Assuming you would have to pay for it yourself, there are much better ways to learn and build a resume on your own. But you’d have to have an idea of what you wanted to do instead, which is something few college freshman possess, unless you count ‘get drunk’. That’s the trick with the ‘uncollege’ movement – you have to go do something constructive to replace college.

          • Tam

            Most def. I dropped out, not going back. Well, maybe. But for now, no. I don’t want to stay too close minded though.

            I was just curious on your opinion, so thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Tiara Angelica

    I know it’s 2 years late, but thank you for writing this. You conveyed EXACTLY what I was feeling right now. Funnily enough, our major/minor is the same: International Relations/Economics. I was also beating myself up for not choosing a natural science major before (was offered a scholarship in biology) because in retrospect I think it would have been more pragmatic to the real world.

    Thank you for not making me feel alone in this. Your advice is completely helpful. I also agree with the previous commenter; “persuasion” and “logical arguments”, huh? I expect nothing less from a lib. art student 🙂