#1: What Is University?
Strictly speaking, university is the place where you go learn stuff to get a job later.
In the pre-internet era, universities were convenient because knowledge wasn’t as accessible as it is now.
If you wanted to learn something, you had to go get books at the library, buy them, or ask someone to teach you.
But times have changed.
Universities no longer have the monopoly on knowledge.
So why do they still exist?
Peter Thiel observed that students conceptualized universities in four different ways.
- A consumption product: a giant party where you do nothing besides drinking for four years.
- An investment product: a way to raise your own quality so that you raise your future salary and can recoup your investment.
- An insurance product: going to university will help you get a good job to avoid falling into the cracks of society
- An endless competition (what Thiel thinks university actually is): a place where great minds compete to become management consultants and investment bankers instead of changing the world as they had originally intended.
To me, university is a period of your life during which you have the occasion to sharpen yourself by gaining knowledge and experience so that you can deliver value later.
- Is university the only place to get knowledge and experience? Hell no.
- Is university the cheapest and best way to get knowledge and experience? Nope.
- Is university teaching you things you can only learn there? No (well, depends, more on that below).
However, universities provide you with two big advantages:
1. Professors, which can give you feedback (can also happen with customers or a mentor).
2. A community and a “sandbox”: a place where you can test stuff and make mistakes that don’t have consequences in the real world.
I’ll be honest with you. If your purpose is to learn, you will be disappointed. To really learn something nowadays, you have to get into the top universities in the world (Ivy league, Oxbridge, Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands).
It’s the only place where knowledge is worth it. The rest is a waste of time. The best way to get knowledge nowadays is by yourself online.
Here’s a list of fourteen places where you can learn valuable stuff for free, or almost free.
- Khan Academy
- Lynda (Linkedin)
- Google Certificates
- Amazon Certificates
I am sure there are many more.
You don’t want to go there.
Companies are the ones at the frontline of innovation, and they are slowly replacing universities.
The great minds of the world left academia and are working in the private sector.
Google and Amazon have established their own universities and are no longer basing their hiring on degrees.
Going to uni or not depends on one question only: what do you want to do with your life?
#2: What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?
When it comes to making money, you have two choices. You can:
- Create a company or become a freelancer.
- Get a job.
Let’s have a look at option 1:
Is university mandatory to build a business or become a freelancer? No, unless:
- the country you live in requires you to have a university diploma to start a company (Belgium).
- you want to build a business for which a diploma is obligatory (finance, accounting, law, medical sector, etc).
However, mind that there are ways around it.
Sometimes you can do an internship and get the paper you need to get started. Some other times, you can partner up with someone that has the qualification you don’t have and split the shares of the company 50/50.
Now, let’s have a look at option 2:
Is university mandatory to have a job?
No. 99% of companies nowadays hire based on a university diploma “or equivalent experience”.
Let’s have a look at other reasons for which you’d want to go to university.
Want to learn? No need to go to university as we outlined above.
Want to party? Just move to Europe or Asia for a year. You’ll have the benefit to learn a language on top of that.
Want to meet people? Join events, masterminds, conferences, forums, do an internship, or travel.
Want to chill for three-four years? Yes! Then going to university might be for you. Study communication, art history, social sciences, or gender studies, it will be easy.
Am I against universities? No.
My dream is to go back to university, do a Ph.D. in economics, and spend the rest of my life writing and teaching there.
However, I am immensely disappointed in universities because they didn’t teach me anything.
As such, I have wasted five years of my life when I could have taken this time to build a business or read books instead.
The only positive experience I got was doing an exchange in one of the best universities in the world, where professors dine with the prime minister.
That’s when I understood that reaching the top was possible. The people I was with weren’t different than me. They were just harder working, more confident, and had had better education.
The bottom line is this:
If you want to be rich as fast as possible, skip university.
If you want to learn how to code, skip university. You’ll do it better and faster by yourself.
If you want to learn business, just build a business. Studying business is useless (I know, I did it).
If you want to party, skip university (the cost isn’t worth it).
If you want to learn STEM, university may be good for you (because it’s harder to learn by yourself).
If you want to give yourself some time and test out different stuff, try university (as long as it’s not putting you into monstrous debt).
If you want to improve your social skills and network, go to university.
If you want to gain international experience, learn a new language, and study for free, go to university in a foreign country.
Whatever you do, don’t go to university just because everyone is going there.
Traveling or working is better as you will mature much faster.
Universities were dying before the virus hit. The pandemic only accelerated their death.
If you go there, know why you do so.