I used to worry about not having a college degree. I finished a year at a community college when I was 19, but I got myself into some minor legal trouble the next summer so I took a couple years off to start working full time to support myself instead.
In the following years (throughout my 20’s), I returned to that community college to take a couple of classes each semester. I did night school for a couple years, then regular hours when I started working second shift. I finally got my associates degree in 2013, when I was 28; roughly ten years after I first started attending college.
By 2013, the degree didn’t really matter to me, because I’d discovered a new path; working on the internet. In 2009 (when I was 24), I discovered a wealth of free online knowledge related to web design, development, entrepreneurship, marketing and business. There was more information than I had time to learn, more tutorials than I had time to read.
Also, I’d started thinking about work differently; instead of looking for a job, I was looking for people and business who had problems that I could solve. I realized that I could do much of the work from home, remotely.
This changed a lot for me. No longer was I required to find a job in my local town (it was a pretty small town, and almost no tech jobs) and hope that someone would hire me and train me, I could train myself and then use the internet to find people with problems. And these people could be almost anywhere in the world (the developed world, anyways).
After a few years of working in Fort Worth with web design agencies (not a bad gig, all things considered), I built a freelance business helping people produce podcasts.
I now have a broad network of clients and professional contacts and more work opportunities than I have time to accept. Things could always change, but my future looks pretty good. At the very least, I’ve got plenty of work, a solid middle-class income, and minimal debt.
I worry about the next generation of kids who believe that college is the answer to their problems, like if they just go and get a degree, someone will give them a job and everything will work out. It’s bullshit they’ve been sold.
Some of the kids will be fine, especially the ones studying fields/skills that are highly in demand (coughtechcough), but so many will graduate and find themselves in roughly the same place they were before college, except for the thousands of dollars in student loans that they now have to pay off.
I wish I knew what to do to help. For now, the best I can think of is to share my story with anyone interested in listening.