Growing up my Dad did everything in his power to ensure I went to college. He’d take me to our local church building to borrow the Satellite and watch BYU Football games on TV. He engrained in us throughout High School to get grades that would prepare us for the best school we could go to. Heck, I think he even bribed each of me and my siblings with a free computer if we went to college. He, a college grad and MBA knew something that we didn’t about college.
You see I never got why he was so passionate about it though. I had 2 passions in grade school – music/arts and computers. Neither really required a degree to finish. I was also an entrepreneur – throughout High School I would get the art students to donate their artwork and I’d create T-shirts out of the artwork. I would then re-sell the T-shirts at a 50% increase on my cost. I would also buy candy in bulk from Sams Club and sell that to all my friends. The entrepreneur thing only added more fuel to the fire when it came to school.
It was for this reason that I really dragged my feet when it came to college. I went through several schools, none of which I really call home (perhaps a semester each), all while working full time as a software developer during the dot-com boom. I was becoming just as successful as a software developer there as I would have ever become going to school. In fact, at that time, I probably would have made less coming out of school than I would have at the rates I was getting paid writing websites and other software. It made no sense to me.
It wasn’t until the dot-com bust happened that I finally decided to give it a try. I was laid off from my job and having trouble finding work, and realized, while I had the same or more experience as those I was competing with in my job search, their degrees were getting them the jobs. I decided to do something about it, and I found a school I could work full time while supporting a family and still do well in school. I ended up graduating Summa Cum Laude at Strayer University, having challenged (pass the Final exam with I think B or above) or proved work experience for about half my classes, and the others received straight A’s.
The funny thing is that it wasn’t until I went to school that I realized why school was so important. While the degree is important and will open doors for you, the power of a good education is in the variety of classes and new areas of education you’re exposed to. I was exposed to the arts and literature, along with economics and accounting. I learned what a balance sheet was and the basic tenets of marketing. Even in my own field I was able to be exposed to Oracle, Cisco, and architecture and design techniques I would have never been exposed to elsewhere. I could now make decisions in my own field, based on a much broader mindset, than I ever could before. It was at that point I realized why school was so important for anyone in big business, or especially an entrepreneur like myself. I’ve used so much of that as I’ve ventured off to do my own thing.
For many of these reasons, I found this Commencement speech by Larry Page, co-founder of Google very inspiring. Here you have a very rich and successful entrepreneur, who could have probably achieved his career without a degree saying such things as “This University, that is responsible for my existence…”, and “[in college] I was taught how to make dreams real…” He almost talks with regret that he never received his PhD. There is something more than just that degree with school. I hope, that if you are debating going to school or not, that you watch this, find the right time to do it, and seriously consider it as something more than just a piece of paper:
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