Aside from being millionaires and billionaires, what do Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have in common? While they are multibillionaires who are known to have changed the way we live our lives, they are also college dropouts. Yes, none of these billionaires hold a college degree. They do have honorary degrees from several universities, but those were only awarded after they have achieved massive success in their lives. For most of the time that they built their empires, they were nothing but undergraduates.
With their success comes this new wave of thinking that people don’t really need a college degree to be successful in life. But the meaning of success varies per person. For some, success means earning a lot of money regardless if they practiced what they studied. For others, it means pursuing their degrees, applying what they have been taught in school.
But ask yourself this: am I going to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? Do I have the skills and the genius to create something akin to Microsoft or Apple? While there are plenty of people who succeeded without a college degree, they are more of an exception than a rule. Leaving the university does not guarantee success. And yes, staying and finishing your degree does not guarantee success, too. So what does?
No Guarantee, But More Opportunities
You don’t have to finish college if you can’t because of financial reasons. If you have to work to provide for your family, then do it. You need to look at your options, though. There are plenty of work-study courses and diploma courses that can provide you the academic background and experience you need to be more competitive. Just in case it isn’t clear yet: you can succeed without a college degree, but the chances of succeeding with one are bigger. Unless, of course, you’ve got Gates’ or Jobs’ IQ (but even that isn’t a guarantee).
Around the world, studies showed that degree holders earn an average of 66% more than high school graduates. People with a bachelor’s degree will earn $1 million more in their lifetime earnings than someone without a degree. As for unemployment, high school graduates have an 8% higher unemployment rate than college graduates.
So while it is possible to find success as an undergraduate, the opportunities are better when you have a college degree. Your bachelor’s degree will give you more chances of getting employment. It will be what sets you apart.
Exception, and Not a Rule
The likes of Jobs, Zuckerberg, Gates, Whole Foods’ John Mackey, and Uber’s Travis Kalanick are exceptions. They are not the rule. Leaving the university doesn’t guarantee the same path as these billionaires’. In fact, a study found out that more than 94% of the world’s CEOs, politicians, and business leaders finished college. More than 50% of them went to an elite college. So, it’s not just about finishing your degree. It’s also about which college or university you went to.
Finding Success After College
A college degree may present more opportunities, but it doesn’t assure success. It all depends on what you do after earning that degree. Do you immediately launch to pursuing your career? Do you while away your time as you wait for an opportunity to open its doors to you?
Studies showed that many people plan for their college education. They apply to colleges and universities. They take the time to pad their academic qualifications and college applications. What they don’t do is plan how they’re going to transition from school to the industry they choose to be a part of. This is what’s going to separate you from the rest of the workforce.
Then again, you should do more than that. A college degree will only take you as far as your resourcefulness can get you. If you don’t make use of your time well, you’re going to lose many opportunities that could be knocking on your door. For example, during your internship, make sure to learn as much as you can from your mentors. Shadow them as much as they will allow. While a college degree is essential, experience remains to be the best teacher.
It is nice to think that people can succeed without a college degree. And for some, that is true. But whether you have the IQ of Elon Musk or not, that is not a guarantee that you will succeed (whatever success means to you). The success formula is still the same: hard work, sacrifice, right timing, and a bit of luck.