What, No Gold at the End of That Rainbow?

Michael Adorno, 33, one of the Corinthian 100.

This story is in line with my caution to teenagers who are thinking that college and a college degree will make them smarter or wealthier.  If you want to be a professional–doctor, lawyer, teacher, et al–then by all means you’ll need a degree.  (By the way, on each of those professions, before you let your passions get to you, ask to interview a teacher, lawyer, or doctor and ask them about their vaunted careers and how they like their bureaucracies.)  And degrees in engineering and computer science tend to pay off.  But if you want to learn “the secrets of the human mind” and you pursue a psychology degree, then take caution.  Ask yourself will this degree translate into more money?  And if so, then how much more money?  Do the basic search on that question that you would on any thesis question from one of your English classes.  And if you’re of the mind that money doesn’t matter to you as a way to prove that you are of a higher ethical standing than your peers or to prove that your motives are purer than everybody else’s, well, then you’ve worked yourself into a more deluded state than even I can imagine.

Michael Adorno, 33, is unemployed.  He went to college, Everest Institute, to be exact.  They are owned by Corinthian Colleges, Inc., based out of Santa Ana, CA.  Michael earned an Associate’s degree in network administration; that’s computer networking, not social networking, from the Everest Institute in Colorado Springs, CO.

And now he can’t find a job.  He is blaming Corinthian Colleges, Inc.  I am on board with that.  The primary goal of any institution is to make money to keep its doors open.  According to the “About” page on their website, CCi claims that its mission is “. . . is to help students prepare for careers in demand or to advance in their chosen field. We primarily offer short-term diploma programs and associate degrees.”  Fair enough as institutions go. Every institution/organization has a mission statement.  They are promises.  Empty promises.  They are not money-back guaranteed promises.  Their mission statement finishes by saying “We serve our students and operate our schools in keeping with our core values, including integrity, service, excellence and accountability.”  Ah, yes, nothing says commitment to paying clients like a declaration of faith to abstract concepts.  Nothing specific, just excellent.  Nothing particular, just service.

But in all fairness to the school, Adorno should have been a little wiser to the ways of the world.  Every student enters college on his first day ready to best any competitor or challenge.

I write about this story to illustrate Adorno’s complaint in more vivid terms.  He got stung for $37k.  He is out that money.  And the time it took to earn his degree.  So he’s out two or more years and $37 grand.  And for what?  Well he’s not sure.  He says that he did not learn what he signed up for. Said that he was assigned “a lot of unnecessary gen-ed classes such as literature and oral communications . . . .”  He was expecting a far more focused program.  Didn’t he attend an orientation?  Probably so.  But these are nothing but sales pitches.  He talks about his student advisor being “a great salesman.”  The ombudsman and VPs of colleges are also salesmen.  Everybody, Mr. Adorno, is selling.

So he has joined the “Corinthian 100, alumni of Corinthian Colleges who refuse to pay back their student loans and claim they were defrauded by Corinthian.”  Good luck with that.

You want focused?  Don’t want to waste your time or $37,000?  Then find courses to take online.

Try James Altucher’s college challenge.  You will by far be more productive.


I give up. I can’t tell my kids not to go to college. I have tried all the usual statistics:

A) student loan debt you’ll never be able to pay back.
B) for the first time ever, greater than 50% of the unemployed have college degrees. So that whole myth of “you can’t get a job without a degree” is over
C) you don’t learn anything in college that you can’t learn on your own.
D) you can get a five year head start on your peers if you give up on college.

None of that works. The myth is too strong. I had to fight harder.

So then I wrote a book: “40 Alternatives to College”.

I found out a lot of people don’t have calculators. A lot of people, for instance, said that “starting a business costs money”. But they didn’t compare it to the cost plus opportunity cost of college.

A lot of people also said, “not everyone is an entrepreneur”, ignoring the fact that I had 39 other alternatives in the book. So I really wondered what college gave all of these people.

Ok, I give up on all of that.

I have a new approach. It’s a sneaky approach because that’s the way things get done. By people doing sneaky things.

The College Challenge:

If they do one of the below items, I will “help” them go to college.  I wanted to come up with challenges for them that are realistic but extremely difficult. (e.g. I didn’t put on the list, “win the NY Marathon”).  I’m convinced if they do any of the below they will no longer buy into the societal myth that you need to go to college to be happier and more successful.

And it’s not all about money. The below challenges will make them healthier, more creative, wealthier, etc, depending on what they do. And none of the below requires that much money.

They will also have the pleasure of doing something that is utterly unique and will ultimately be considered cool or fascinating in their social group.

A) Make a YouTube video (or channel) that has five million real views.
B ) Get past the second series of Ashtanga Yoga. (at least part of this has to occur in India).
C) Make a business that has over $50,000 in revenues in the 12th month.
D) Write a book (or set of books) that has more than 5000 paying readers
E) Create a blog that has over 100,000 unique monthly readers. Note: you don’t have to be the only writer on that blog.
F) Take 50 or more courses on Coursera. With me.
G) Intern with someone who is among the best in the world at what they do.
H) Organize at least 20 meetups of twenty people or more around a specific topic.
I) Run for political office and get at least 30% of the vote in a primary.
J) Have 50 people write to me explaining, in detail, how you saved their lives.

All of these are such massive achievements that you should no longer see the need to go to college to achieve something great in life. All of these will solve the problem of “how do I socialize with people?”

And any of these challenges will put you on the path to mastery at a much younger age than most people. You will feel immense self-satisfaction.

Also, after people graduate college, they can no longer afford to go on the path to mastery. They have to pay down their college debts.

Well, what if you are not an entrepreneur? No problem, don’t do “E”.

What if you can’t write a book that gets 5000 paying readers.

No problem. Write 100 books that get 50 readers each. Make each book 15 pages. No big deal.

Anyway, just pick one.

Well, what if I pick one and then I fail at it?

Ok, then learn from your mistakes and either try again or move onto the next thing. You are still no worse off than your peers who are learning nothing and getting into massive debt.

I wish my parents had done this for me when I was eighteen.

But it’s easy to believe the storytelling and mythology of prior generations which put blinders on how much the world has changed in the past few years.

Doing the above items will help you take the blinders off.

Doing the above will help you succeed far greater than your peers and even me (hard to believe but true!).

And even if you don’t succeed in the traditional sense, my guess you will learn much more about yourself than joining the herd and becoming another monkey in the zoo. 

There are some good reasons to NOT go to college.


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