5 Things to Do Instead of College image

5 Things To Do Instead of College

Don't be one of the 75% of Americans who regret their college loans. Here are five things to do instead of going to college.

It seems like a modern-day rite of passage. I’m talking about student loan debt.

When I was a kid, my poor dad encouraged me to go to college. He wanted me to get a good education so that I could get a good job and enjoy a good salary with a pension. He and I had different definitions of the word good.

Back then, college wasn’t nearly as expensive as it is now, but the line of reasoning was the same. The cost of college would be worth the return you got in better work and higher pay.

It’s common advice, trotted out by parents all over the world, but turns out even they don’t really believe in it.

Most Americans regret their college debt

According to a new survey by Citizens Bank, almost 75% of Americans "wish they had done more to minimize the burden of their student loans”.

The survey also showed the top advice they would give themselves if they could go back in time and have a conversation:

  • Prioritize paying off student loans as soon as possible (43%)
  • Spend time to fully understand student loan options (41%)
  • Have more conversations on educational financing with experts (33%)
  • Attend a less expensive college (29%)
  • Refinance student loans to get a lower interest rate (26%)

The reality is that most Americans with college debt regret getting that debt. This is doubly true if they used that money not just for a college degree but for other frivolous things as well. As I wrote a while back: Nearly 50 percent of college kids take out student loan money in order to spend it on things like:

  • Vacations (3%)
  • Restaurants (13%)
  • Clothes (15%)
  • Car Expenses (19%)
  • Monthly expenses like mobile phones (41%)

The combination of easy money, lofty promises, and low financial intelligence have propelled the student loan industry to over a trillion dollars in market share. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of people with regrets.

With so many people regretting their college debt, you might do well to learn from their mistakes. If you’re thinking about college (or going back to college to finish your degree or get an advanced degree), consider doing one or all of these five things instead.

  1. Work to learn

    When I graduated from college, I had the opportunity to work in the shipping industry and make good money. But I knew that I didn’t want to be an employee. I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

    So instead of take a sure thing, I did the risky thing — I took a job as a salesman at Xerox making next-to-nothing in a field I was not experienced in. Why? I knew I needed sales skills in order to be successful in business. At Xerox, I could learn those valuable skills while getting paid.

    At first, I was the worst salesman on staff, but as I learned on the job and applied myself, I became our top salesman. Those sales skills have paid off more than anything I ever learned in college.

  2. Explore non-traditional education

    There are important skills you can learn outside of the traditional, four-year institution that will help you, depending on what you want to do with your life.

    Many community colleges offer courses on investing hosted by professionals rather than professors. Also, you can learn important new-world skills like computer programming, web design, and more at a fraction of the cost. Rather than spend four years wondering what you want to do, racking up debt and taking classes you’ll never use, figure out what you want to do and take specific classes that will benefit you in the future at a fraction of the cost.

    Additionally, build your financial education by attending seminars, reading books, taking classes, and hiring a coach. All of these services are widely available, including through our Rich Dad Workshops.

  3. Begin investing

    If you have to spend $45,000 to get a degree just to work at Starbucks, you might as well skip the debt, get a job at Starbucks, save some money, invest in your financial education, and begin investing. Find an asset class that you’re interested in, learn all that you can, and use the money you would have spent on college to start building your financial future now rather than later.

  4. Start a business

    For most people, the whole point of college is to get a good job. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you think differently than most people. Some of the most successful business owners and entrepreneurs I know never went to college or dropped out. They understood that they could spend all their time, youth, energy, and talent putting money in other people’s pockets and building other people’s dreams, or they could use those resources for their own pockets and dreams. If you have a good business idea, run with it now.

  5. Serve your community

    Finally, spread some goodwill with some of the free time you’ll have from not writing term papers on ancient history at three in the morning.

    A lot of people want to serve their community but never seem to have time. “I’ll do it after college,” they say. Then it’s, “I’ll do it after this internship.” Then, “I’ll do it after the kids are older.” It goes on and on.

    I’m a firm believer that helping others is not only good for your soul but also good for your financial future. As the old proverb goes, if you plant good things, good things will be harvested.

    Serving your community allows you to think outside your world, make connections with people you’d never meet otherwise, identify needs and opportunities, figure out ways to meet those needs, and opens many doors that would otherwise be closed—all while doing something worthwhile and good.

Summary of what to do instead of college

Original publish date: April 03, 2012