Joe asks, “Why go to college?”

Joe Manna asks, “Why or why not go to college?” There’s plenty of answers to this question, but I think most of the common ones miss the mark.

Joe, when I first started college, I felt similarly to what you expressed. I was frustrated by a very uninspiring required core curriculum. However, as I continued (and nearly dropped out), I eventually figured out what I had been missing.

College is just another concentration of people, so immediate access to a wide variety of minds was readily accessible. There were a large number of average folks–no surprise–but, there was also a good number of very bright people. A college concentrates these people into a particular area, so it increases your odds of meeting them, as opposed to meeting them randomly on the job, or out in the rest of the world. There are people who I met at college who I still periodically keep in touch with today and my life has been made better for it. I don’t know if I’d have met those same people, otherwise.

Another benefit of having access to these people is, when you know what you want to learn, you can hunt down the right people who really know their stuff. I learned more in a 30 minute conversation with the right person than what I probably would have learned spending a week reading a book, or spending 3 months on the job, “doing it.” Of course, there are some skills where you only improve at through practice and there’s no substitute for hands-on experience, but there’s also a whole realm of knowledge that is very time-consuming to deduce experimentally, but being able to ask the right questions can help you understand it very quickly.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t be successful if you don’t go to college. But, if you take full advantage of it, I definitely think it can give you an “edge” over your competition–those who don’t. Naturally, the opposite is true, too: just because you go to college doesn’t mean you’ll gain any real benefit from it. Your education is an active experience, not a passive one. You don’t benefit from just going and being there. It’s what you do when you’re there that makes the difference.

I’m sure everyone has their own reasons for or against going to college. I’d like to hear about them … share them with me in the comments section below. Thanks!



  1. Hey Dossy, did you ever think of meeting Girls as a reason for college? Only half kidding. Anyway, having gone to CUNY (both Queens College and Hunter College) I had the benefit of learning from some of the best minds – generally left-leaning of course in the various fields of sociology, economics and political science. Those were mandatory classes for a liberal arts college but for me they had the effect of breaking down the lowest common denominator thinking that I was trained for in my upbringing endlessly pounded by popular culture. For that I am thankful.
    The Computer Science/math/Accounting courses were plain vanilla as would be expected of those fields but they also prepared me to enter the workforce in various ways but mostly as we all know by having the piece of paper that counts for so much (too much in my opinion) in the outside world.

  2. Thanks Dossy for your insight. It ‘comforts’ me that you see where I’m coming from. I will concur, as I did take a couple Linux courses and the instructor was a genius and it was nice to meet other people with similar goals and mindsets as me. I just never really pursued it ’cause of a lack of core curriculum as you mentioned.

    I am looking into next semester’s courses and stuff, and will be working on more of a vocational start rather than general-ed stuff like Math, English, etc… for now. It’s tough to get into it again, but reflecting back to my first college experience – I got into the flow and somewhat did enjoy it.

    Thanks again for letting me re-evaluate my decisions, and visiting my blog.

  3. My $.02: I would say that academics (including independent study, formal and otherwise) accounted for about 5% of my college experience.

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