college_vs_not_college

“College vs. Not College?” – It’s not the only question!!

college_vs_not_college

It is really annoying when I propose that somebody not go to college and they think I mean NEVER go to college.

Considering I don’t know what the future holds for me or anybody else, I don’t propose ever simply ruling something out like that.

See, the question is not:

Should I skip college and instead do nothing with my life forever?

Nor is it:

Should I skip college and instead do this one thing that everybody does when they do not go to college?

Because that is the whole point of not going to college: there are a LOT of things to do instead. And… it just shouldn’t be a question of, “should I go to college or not?”

Here is how the question ought to be asked; you should see it all as looking at OPTIONS and then making a PLAN.

Say you want to study English, or Agriculture, or car repair. Here is how you would consider your options and make a plan:

English:

“I really like reading books, writing about them, and writing books. I am not sure this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I think universities provide excellent outlets for things like this. SO, instead of making college either/or, I am going to look into taking some English classes, because I think that would help me both learn and make my decision about majoring in this in the first place. I will also take the extra time I will not be spending in school and perhaps join a book club or two, form a writing group, and start a story on a blog that I will eventually compile into a novel that I will self-publish. That sounds good for now. Good thing I didn’t rule out college altogether, and good thing I have a plan that involves a number of different and interesting outlets.”

Agriculture:

“Sure, you can major in agriculture at a university, and that sounds romantic and grand and everything, but since my ultimate goal is to start a community edible forest, I think that is probably going to be the longest route to learning what I need to know in order to accomplish this. So, I have decided that I am going to accomplish my education in two years, like so: travel around for the first year, gain hands-on skills and knowledge on a variety of different food farms in the climate I want to start my edible forest in, meanwhile supplementing with tons of gardening and horticulture books; in the second year, I will apprentice under two different professional gardeners in two different seasons, meanwhile continuing my education in horticulture, permaculture, and starting to learn the laws of the community that I plan to build my forest in. After these two years, I will stop and see where I have gotten and reevaluate a new plan from there.”

Car repair:

“I’ve been fixing cars with my dad and older brother since I was 8; I know there’s still so much I don’t know, and while my dad always liked Chevys, I personally just can’t get enough of the Subaru. But I’m not ready for college just yet, and I think there is a lot that I could learn on my own before that. For the next year, I am going to scout around, find other Subaru owners, join the Subaru club in the next town over, and get as much experience as I can just toying around with people and their cars, plus becoming one with my own beautiful hatchback. Then after that, I will enroll in the 2-year vocational track at the technical college, which is really in-depth and I think I can really get a good, hands-on formal education as a mechanic – all the while still doing the Subaru thing in my spare time. After that… well, I could either become a specialist, or just be a normal mechanic that has a secret Subaru streak – let’s see where all this takes me!”

 

The reason I wanted to point out these differences is because sometimes I see trepidation in people who are trying to make an either-or decision about college. And there doesn’t need to be this fear or this feeling of taking a huge leap into a great void. You’ve just got to take some time, figure out what you want to do or at least want to try out, and start doing it. That might mean taking some classes, or getting involved in the community, or talking to somebody, reading a book, or taking a weekend trip to a different city… or all of the above!

Don’t know where to get started? Need help figuring out what you might be interested?

Check out my new book, Life Without College: The Method. There are several exercises in it that work you through your current interests so you can find the ones that really matter; and once you’ve done that, the rest of the book is set up to guide you through making a plan, executing it, and keeping track of what you’ve accomplished, just like my hypothetical English, Agriculture, and car repair people.

Check it out! And don’t forget to sign up for my e-mail list for further updates and resources. :)

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Announcement – The Method is Here!

cover crHey College Rebels!

My new book Life Without College: The Method is now live, available in ebook and print!

From the back cover:

“You are considering rebelling against college to pursue your own path your way. You have very personal reasons for doing so, probably a lot of anger and frustration reasons. Do any of the following predicaments sound familiar?

– You know what you like doing, but you could never pick one thing to passionately focus on – You are intensely passionate about 10,000 different things and doubt if you could ever settle on one

– You know exactly what you want to do and are ready to get started

– You at least have a basic idea of what you want to do.

Whether it is concrete and defined like, ‘Play cello with the London Philharmonic,’ or more vague like, ‘put college off indefinitely so I can figure out what I really want,’ you have your own opinion of what sort of direction or goal you should be working towards right now. But how do you get from here to there? How do you even begin to begin? Let me show you how.”

Interested? You can purchase your own copy here on Amazon! And make sure to sign up for my mailing list for further updates on both the book and CollegeRebellion.com.

Happy reading, y’all!

stick it to the man

Boycotting College vs. Changing College

stick it to the man

We can talk all we want to about how college should stop doing this and start doing that, or how it just should not be a requirement, etc. etc. We have been talking all we want to for years now.

Are we changing anything yet?

In some ways, we are. Though we are still in the minority, the rise against higher education is happening. Some of us have started our own businesses, some of us are traveling the world. Some of us have sought life’s answers outside the doors of a university only to find, years later, they are led back to those doors, with tons more purpose and determination.

This morning I read two interestingly similar articles sent to me by my friend Todd and my mom, respectively: “My Fellow Americans, It’s Time to Boycott College” by Matt Walsh, and “4 Radical Ideas for Reinventing College” by Margaret Rhodes.

In the first article, Matt Walsh (a man whose ideals and ideologies I usually detest but we seem to be on the same side on this subject I’ve done my best to get over myself) details a story about his friend who couldn’t get into a field he had years of hands-on experience in because he lost every job prospect to a recent college graduate.

The entire post is very stand-up-and-rise-against inspirational/motivational stuff, but what he is proposing is, unfortunately, worlds away from happening, if ever – let’s literally boycott college. Let’s just not go, not advocate for our children to go unless they want to be a neuroscientist, and I guess by default all those lazy employers will realize, “oh man, all of my applicants only have real-life hands-on experience, so which one am I supposed to pick??”

This would be a fine and dandy notion to entertain if we could actually just convert the majority of would-be college-goers to not going to college and then go around explaining to businesses the drop in degreed applicants – it might take a few hundred years, but it could happen!

The second article explains how Design Students from Stanford University put together a video interview project with subjects from the school and from other backgrounds such as leaders of rehabilitation programs and people from varieties of different careers. (The second half of the headline of the article, “Drawn from Stanford Research”, is highly misleading, sounding as if this was an official academic study; and though it is absolutely not, the Design Students came up with good points regardless.)

The Design Students took into consideration the thoughts and feelings they were hearing again and again in these interviews and came up with the “four smart proposals for reinventing college.”

Mostly, these proposals boiled down to all the stuff we’ve been saying for a long time. “Liberal arts” degrees don’t apply to everyone or ever major. Classes need to be less lecture, more hands-on. Picking a Life Path right out of high school is stupid (but high schoolers are the only ones who see this, and not the grownups?). Et Cetera.

Like I said, we’ve been saying things need to change. But are we going to change it? Yes? Then how? What are you going to do right this second to change the entire college-centered system of the western world?

*blink* *blink*

Now, I will grant you that those students at Stanford are indeed taking their findings and starting a true campaign for universal life-long learning.  The official website is set in the future ‘looking back’ on how the higher education system was transformed around the year 2025.  It’s really, really cute.

But.  Perhaps the whole notion shouldn’t be how we are going to change the world by reinventing college, or how we are going to change college by reinventing the world.

That is not going to work, and we cannot just go around in life expecting anything that doesn’t work for us to change around us so that we can have a better chance at success. The antelope doesn’t just loaf around thinking, “Well if things would just get better in the food chain I wouldn’t HAVE to be on the alert, I wouldn’t have to drop dinner at a moment’s notice an run for my life, I could eat in bloody PEACE for once in my life, why doesn’t somebody DO something???” No. That antelope fucking pays attention and RUNS LIKE HELL. So – life lesson from the antelope today: pay attention and run like hell. You aren’t going to succeed without a degree if you’re just waiting for the system to change – you’ve just got to go succeed anyway. It’s a hard, hard life in the safari – but don’t give up. You’ll make it.

James and Angela the Alpaca

House Sitting: Long-Term Travel Made Possible

James-and-Ralph-on-ground“Couple in Melbourne looking for someone (or a couple/family) who can come and look after their dog and cat while they go away for three weeks. We have wifi, all the modern amenities and are just minutes from the tram stop which will take you into central Melbourne. All we ask is that you walk and look after our dog and care for our cat.”

It might sound too good to be true, but the above advert is real and just one of several thousand different adverts on TrustedHousesitters.com. A free place to stay, in Melbourne, and all you have to do is look after the cat and the dog.

I’ve been house sitting for several years now. Last year I took on four house sits in various locations in Scotland and one in the South of Portugal. In total I managed to house sit for around eleven months, making long-term travel suddenly a very realistic option.

What is ‘house sitting’ and why would someone allow you to stay for free?

james pool

Many people need someone to keep an eye on their place while they’re away. This could mean just living in the property – and in doing so acting as a deterrent to burglars – but it could also mean carrying out a few tasks such as watering the plants, collecting the mail and keeping the cat company. (Taking Melbourne as an example, you can get an idea of what the ‘average’ house sit involves by looking at some of the latest house sits there).

Now in the pre-internet days, house sitting was typically the remit of professional house sitting agencies who charged a flat rate for literally sitting in the house and anything extra (such as walking the dog or mowing the lawn) was, well, extra.

These days most house sitting is done as an exchange as it works out as a win-win for both parties: the homeowner gets their property (and pets) cared for and the sitter gets to stay somewhere, usually in a different city or country to their own, for free. Oh and the pets don’t have to go to kennels either!

A lot of the house sits I’ve taken on have several pets which makes sense. While it might be possible to find someone who will look after one pet, the more pets you have, the more responsibility you’re asking the other person to take on.

alpaca sitting 2

To date the largest menagerie of animals I’ve taken on has to be a farm of 18 alpacas and 7 cats. All of the alpacas had names and even responded to their names. I got so used to working with them I was even able to tell them apart, which if you look at the picture is quite a feat! 18 alpacas and 7 cats is unusual, but from experience, do expect a lot of the house sits that come up to involve looking after more than one animal.

How do I get started as a house sitter?

The first thing you should do is create a profile on a site like TrustedHousesitters.com. Fill out the profile thoroughly and upload a few good pictures of yourself. Top tip: pictures with you and pets work best. Another top tip: use the code ‘collegerebellion’ to get 25% off your membership.

Next, get some references. If you haven’t house sat before, it’s possible to add character references, employment references and references from previous landlords.

While getting a character reference is a start, having a house/pet sitting reference is obviously worth a lot more. When I first started out house sitting I contacted friends and family, particularly those who had pets, to let them know I was able to house sit. I soon had my first reference.

At the same time I was keeping an eye on the house sits that were appearing popping up in my area. The reason for this is that while someone in the Caribbean might be reluctant to take you on if you’re new to house sitting, someone local – especially if they can meet you first – might be more willing. It wasn’t long before I saw a house sit pop up in Edinburgh, where I was living. The house sit was to look after two Bengal cats, one of which required daily medical treatment, as well as to keep an eye on the apartment.

Although I’d started this house sit thinking it would be great to get a reference, this ended up being one of my favourite house sits of all time. I got to live in a very nice part of Edinburgh (Stockbridge) that was otherwise a little out of my price range and the cats were great company as well.

Once you have one or two references, whether it’s for house sitting or character references or both, you’re now in a good position to start applying for house sits wherever you might want to go. I keep an eye on the listings daily, both through the feed on the website and through email alerts, and as soon as I see one, I apply straight away.

After that, it’s a matter of waiting for the homeowner to get back to you. Usually they’ll ask a few questions and if they want to take things further ask to arrange a Skype call.

If you need some inspiration for where house sitting can take you, here are a few interesting blog posts from sitters of a mixture of ages:

http://wanderlusters.co.uk/wanderlust-guide-house-sitting-abroad/

http://www.landingstanding.com/housesitting/

http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/332583/want-to-see-the-world-on-a-budget-become-a-
global-house-sitter/

http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/2011/08/12/see-the-world-by-house-sitting/

——

James and Angela the Alpaca

James travels the world and house sits with his partner Jemma. To date they’ve looked after more than fifty pets, although that does include the farm of alpacas!

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The Internship is the Key

Firstly, in case you missed it, I was recently interviewed on The Sociable Homeschooler by the amazing Vivienne McNeny.  We talked about my new little book, “Dreaming YOUR Dream“, about my education growing up homeschoooled, and about my thoughts on college lately.  Check it out!

intern1-1024x645Some people think that internships are only for people in college. Those people are wrong. Internships are for whoever wants them badly enough. Sometimes internship-giving companies and organizations say they only want people who have or are pursuing a college degree. If this is the case, and you do not want to jump through such timely, expensive, and potentially boring hoops, then I have two other suggestions for you, which may spark other ideas.

But first, the general steps to acquiring The Internship:

  1. Find a company or organization – online, through word of mouth, etc.
  2. Research them, their purpose, and their mission thoroughly
  3. Arrange a tour and meeting with the company or organization (if this is somehow not feasible, perhaps you could find a Reliable Cohort to go in your place: though, if you are really serious about this internship, it’s best to find it within your own means)
  4. Take everything into consideration and apply with the company/organization’s best interests in mind, not yours. (i.e., what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.  See, “How NOT to Get Hired.”)
  5. They may want a resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation: unsure of how to get these together? E-mail me – I am working on a tutorial!

This is often enough for getting into the “entry-level” internships – the less picky ones.  Now we will cover what to do if the internship narrow-mindedly requires you to have sat in some relevant classes at some institution of higher education:

First of all, this is probably an “advanced internship”: prior experience required. A degree or degree-in-progress is the most recognizably concrete evidence of knowledge today.  However, it is not the only evidence.  What your future internship-givers really want is concrete evidence that you have a good amount of hands-on experience, relevant knowledge, and the drive and determination to be a great intern.

How do you get this?

  • “Entry-level” internships: 1-3 internships, ideally each building on one another in terms of duties, responsibility, learning experience, and skills developed.  Do not complete these internships without securing a letter of recommendation from at least one person overseeing your work – certificates of completion don’t hurt either.  Document your experience.
  • Volunteering – often volunteers have intern-like responsibilities. Always look for opportunities to volunteer, especially at relevant organizations.  Same goes for volunteering as does internships – try to leave with a voucher of how wonderful you are.  And don’t forget to document!
  • College students spend a lot of time in the books: it can’t hurt to do the same!  When you read a book (or article, or watch a movie, etc.) on your subject, write or film an essay or review on the book, and upload it to your blog or website. When you apply, you can send an e-mail with links to these reviews/essays.
  • Present your non-college case as earnestly and confidently as you possibly can when you apply. (If you are unsure of your speaking abilities, attend a local Toastmasters club for a bit; if your writing needs improving, a good word-wise friend can help).
  • In case I didn’t emphasize it enough before: document everything you do!  Pictures, blog posts, video, art, whatever!  Prove that you are learning and growing in these experiences – it is VITAL to showing you can be just as good as any old college student retaining what they learned in class just long enough to regurgitate it on the test the next day before moving on.

If you are dead gone on this particular Super Awesome Internship and want to go on and apply to them ASAP instead of in another year after building up your resume, keep in mind you may be aiming a bit to high just now. But if you’re going to do it anyway, please take heed to follow these steps:

  • Apply with the same amount of zeal and earnestness in both writing and speaking as I mentioned before, and present your less-experienced case as smartly as possible.  Perhaps spend a couple of nights studying salesmanship before filling out the application.
  • Emphasize and highlight any and all even moderately applicable experience, and please keep in mind what I said in the general guidelines: focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • Beseech them in the application to, if they cannot accept you as-is, at least oblige you with suggestions/leads for ways that you could gain the experience that they are looking for in an intern at their company.

As a reminder, do not put all your eggs in one basket: apply to more than just one or two internships, just as you would apply to more than just one or two colleges.  And don’t sit on your rump all day waiting for a response – pursue more experience and knowledge in the field(s) of your choice every day.  Your dream is out there just waiting for you to live it!

 

The Value of Trade School in a Bad Economy

Arthur Posey is a retired high school guidance counselor and freelance blogger specializing in issues that relate to education (including education reform, TEFL and the importance of vocational schools). When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him rafting his favorite rivers or fixing up his motorcycle.

A few short decades ago, all it took to land a decent job was a high school diploma or a GED.

Flash forward a few decades to 2013:

In the last ten years, the price of higher education at a four year university has risen drastically. According to an article on CNN.com, tuition at private nonprofit four-year colleges has risen by 60% in the last decade. That’s nothing compared to public four-year colleges, whose tuition rates have increased by 104% in the same amount of time. It’s hardly a surprise that student debt has surpassed credit card debt for the first time in history, with over $1 trillion owed by students. Meanwhile, the job market continues to shrink. College graduates are having a harder time finding jobs that have anything to do with what they studied in college.

So what’s one solution to this problem for people who find themselves unemployed? Trade school.

For years now, higher education has been framed as a necessity, as opposed to an option – and now the American economy is suffering a shortage of skilled workers. The shortage stems from the cultural emphasis on the importance of attaining an undergraduate degree, combined with the social stigma associated with trade schools; culturally speaking, highly trained blue-collar workers (plumbers, carpenters, welders, etc.) are often looked down on by their white-collar counterparts, despite the fact that they often make more money than the average college graduate.

According to an article posted on Forbes.com back in May, there’s a growing deficiency of skilled workers in the United States. Our economy needs skilled electrical technicians, boilermakers, crane operators, masons, plumbers, power line technicians and pipefitters. The article on Forbes.com goes on to explain that the gap will only increase in the near future, since many of the people who currently hold these positions are approaching retirement age. If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to see a labor scarcity that could significantly damage the American economy. What people don’t seem to realize is that we’re not going to fix that labor shortage by sending more kids to university.

In a bad economy, having a trade or vocational education is better than having a traditional 4-year degree, for a number of reasons:

1. Trade school takes less time to complete. It takes most people four years to earn their undergraduate degree – it only takes an average of two years to finish trade school. This means you’ll spend less time in the classroom and more time getting valuable hands-on experience.

2. Learning a trade is cheaper than an average education at a four year college. A recent statistic cited on CNN Money said the class of 2013 will graduate with an average $35,200 in student loan debt. That is an absolutely astronomical amount, considering the high unemployment rates amongst recent graduates. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who went to school on a full-ride scholarship, paying for college can be a lifelong endeavor.

3. America needs skilled workers. The current shortage of skilled labor is adversely affecting the economy. Trade school can fix this—students who complete trade school are ready to immediately enter the workforce. They have the skills and know-how to fill the rising demand for skilled workers, which is a huge advantage in an economy where undergraduate degrees are barely worth the paper they’re printed on.

Americans are tired of the higher education system. People are looking for ways to better themselves that don’t require massive investments of time and money. Vocational education could be the answer they’re looking for. If we want to help get the American economy back on track (that is, if we want to fix the labor shortage and stop outsourcing blue collar jobs overseas) without sacrificing ourselves, our time and our money on the altar of higher education, we need to start promoting other, often marginalized options like trade school.

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Check out more of Arthur Posey’s writing on alternative education:

Inspiration Avenue: The Myth of Higher Education

Uncollege: Vocational Schools: A Great Alternative