100% College Admission – How Sad

Last Sunday on a leisure drive back from lunch we passed one of the most prestigious private high schools in our area.  A sign was proudly posted at the front entrance stating: “100% College Admission for our Seniors – again.”

I’ll have to admit I cringed on seeing that.  Now I know that any high school principal who doesn’t claim this as his/her goal is likely to be accused of not having the students best interests at heart and would also likely be run out of town by indignant parents.  But personally, I think there is a major elitism at play here.  And ultimately, a lot of those students suffer as a result.  Is our goal really to prepare every student for life in a cubicle?  In looking at my grandchildren I see those who would House - stoneworkweep at such a prospect.

The elitism is in believing that every occupation pursued by a path outside of college is somehow “lower” and not a worthy pursuit for our students.  We have become a culture that looks down on labor and craftsman positions.  So, really, in this graduating class we will have no Ferrari mechanics, no sculptors, no HVAC specialists, no one I can contact to design another water feature, no skilled carpenters, no stone masons, no welders and no piano tuners?

Two days ago I had a young man come out to do the spring check-up on our air conditioning systems.  Just a check-up, no parts were required.  He was here less than two hours and my bill was $149.  Yesterday my John Deere tractor was returned with new bearings in the front wheels.  Total bill – $2690.78.  Most of that was labor – billed at $70/hour.  At the same time I have a young attorney friend who is working part time at Kinkos at $10 to supplement his income.  The HVAC guy and tractor mechanic – $70 an hour.

In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter wrote that the expansion of “higher education” beyond what our labor market demands creates for white-collar workers “employment in substandard work or at wages below those of the better-paid manual workers.”  And then he added, “it may create unemployability of a particularly disconcerting type.  The man who has gone to college or university easily becomes psychically unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in professional work.”*  I’m sure you know people who are stuck in $12/hour jobs who would never lower themselves to work in something like being a tractor mechanic.

If we consider our children to be smart and really want the best for them, should we not consider a broad range of occupational possibilities?

I must admit I’ve made a very good living working with people who at 45 years of age admit they are living someone else’s dream.  As we unpack that incongruity and begin to move toward an authentic life, all kinds of things come to the surface as meaningful work possibilities.  Pastors have become artists, dentists forest rangers, and doctors organic gardeners.

Having the ability to go to college is not enough reason for doing so.  There must be more of an alignment with a person’s values, dreams and passions.  I have worked with countless professionals who have proven their academic ability to create a life they detest.

Aristotle in sunsetSpace does not allow for addressing the outsourcing issue.  Many of the jobs college students trained for can now easily be outsourced to China of Taiwan.  However, if I need my roof repaired, drain unclogged, lawn mowed, or want another beautiful sculpture of a standing tree on my property, I can’t have someone in China provide that service.  People with those skills are immune from outsourcing.  Or as has been said, “You can’t hammer a nail over the internet.”

Let’s stop depriving our children of their best options.  I’d like to see that sign say – 60% college, 10% trade school, 10% continuing family business, 10% entrepreneurs, and 10% world travel to further clarify a career path. That would make me want to send my child there.

Okay – bring it on.  I’m sure this will be offensive to many.  How would you defend this ridiculous goal of 100% college admission?

*(Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942; New York: Harper-Perennial)

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  • Dan – this is GREAT! I completely agree with you. Well said!

    • 48DaysDan

      Joy – thanks. Looks like the reactions are going to be fun!

  • Kevin Miller

    Yeah, I’m hugely offended you didn’t advocate I go to college, including killing yourself to pay my way. Barely made it out of high school and not a day of formal school after that. I’m such a failure. All I have to show for myself now is a business I love with residual income and biz coaching billing at $300 per hour. I’d trade it all for a degree to hang on my wall.

    That’s it. I’m unsubscribing.

    • 48DaysDan

      Dude – I’m just catching up with the reactions here. Yep, as your Dad I failed you miserably in not insisting you go to college. By now you could have worked your way up to wearing a name badge, a neck-tie and a defunct pension plan.

      • Kevin Miller

        Grant me the tractor in your will and we’ll call it even

  • Alex Barker

    There should be an entrepreneur who provides a class on how to teach your kids to become entrepreneurs. I’d pay!

    • Kevin Miller

      There is Alex…a friend of mine http://raisingceokids.com/

      • Alex Barker

        Whoa! Thanks Kevin for introducing me! These guys will be great for my wife and I to follow

  • Theresa Lode

    Amen. With two kids now graduated, we’ve had a similar discussion in our home. I also cringe when I hear Obama’s goal to get every child on a college track. What a disaster for so many kids. “Elitism”(might I add arrogance too?) is spot on.

    • Kevin Miller

      It’s just so narrow minded. Like saying the only way to Christ is within the walls of the church. Or the only way to get fit is to run. Or the only way to freedom in your lifestyle is through self-employment. OK, I kinda believe that last one, but we all have our soapbox, eh?

  • Shelley

    our local college has classes and certificates for trade that is cheaper than the local trade schools… HVAC, construction, sculpture, cosmotology, computer repair, IT, etc…

    • 48DaysDan

      Shelley – fortunately, colleges are starting to see the writing on the wall. Kids are discovering that many of the degrees are worthless and colleges are scrambling to catch up with training that has some real value.

  • Excellent point! And very timely for me. I just completed my art degree and am going to take further classes in cabinetmaking while continuing to work on my painting and sculpting. Because I’m smart, I always felt discouraged from working with my hands, but that’s what I want to do. Now I finally have the courage to pursue it. This post further encourages my decision.

    • Kevin Miller

      Raven, check out the book, ‘Shop Class as Soulcraft’. Guy with his doctorate who owns a motorcycle repair shop and argues he uses his brain much more doing ‘manual labor’ than he did with the ‘intellectuals’

      • Thanks, Kevin, I’ll check it out. The summary looks awesome!

      • Kevin, I found it at the library today and am reading it. Thanks for the recommendation!

        • Kevin Miller

          You’re welcome!

  • My RSS feed is richer these days because I’ve connected with your blog after hearing about you from Chris McCluskey {I learned coaching at his knee more than a decade ago}! All I can say is that I am finding your writings to be spot on … just super!

    • 48DaysDan

      That’s great. Chris is a great coach – I’m doing a podcast with him tomorrow. Love the connections –

  • Your house looks incredible!

    Some of my relatives would disagree with you. They told me I’d go nowhere without a college degree. But none of them have started a business, written a book and some great songs, played at the Country Music Hall of Fame, hung out with famous authors, speakers and musicians, travelled to Australia or bungee jumped over a beach in Acapulco.

    Thinking about it now, a college degree may have really hindered my life experiences trapping me in a set course with student loans to pay off.

  • I couldn’t agree more, Dan. I’m a big fan of college, and wouldn’t trade my MBA – but it is a route to a cubicle (or office if you are lucky). I’ve recently found some outlets for my creativity, and that is where I am really able to break through.

  • Dan,

    Great fresh perspective! Thanks for keeping us thinking, I would not have read that sign from that perspective at all. You have provided me with some things to think about as I raise my boys to “college age” so to speak 🙂

    Appreciate you wisdom!


  • I couldn’t agree more Dan. We are preprogramed to go to college, get the degree, get the career and big house and live happily ever after. Those days are over and we need stop lying to ourselves.

    • 48DaysDan

      Kimanzi – along with the big house you might even get a badge with your name on it and a turkey at Thanksgiving.

  • Dan, great post. I got a degree, but I got it on the cheap. I used it for about 2 weeks. I remember talking to a friend who is a project manager and responsible for $100+ million dollar buildings. He had a son getting ready to graduate high school and he told me that he was trying to convince his son to take a trade instead of going to college. He told me it was the HVAC guys, electricians and other independent business owners that were making the real money and had more freedom. After talking to him and another friend that owns a cleaning service I know that going to college is really not the only way.

    • What a great example of hanging around the right people and seeking input.

    • 48DaysDan

      Yep – that’s the point. To assume ONE way is going to be right for any group of kids is preposterous. We need to show them the full scope of possibilities.

  • Dan,

    If the sign had said, “100% of our students go on to do work they love” I would move my family to Nashville to sign my kids up pronto. College, trade school, no college, business owner, whatever…as long they’re doing what they love I’d be confident their education was worthwhile.

    • 48DaysDan

      That’s great – what a time for celebration that would be!!

  • Eric Pulsifer

    Dan, good stuff. College isn’t for everybody, and even if it was, it won’t teach anyone how to think.

  • I’m sure the people at the school sincerely believe college is the best bet for everybody, whether they become cubicle wage slaves or sculptors or HVAC specialists.

    They’re still wrong.

    It would have been a waste for me to go to college when I was 18. I went in the Navy instead, then worked in various technical and engineering jobs, then went and got my degree in my 30’s when I was ready.

    • 48DaysDan

      You are so right. A little time spent in varied environments can be a wonderful clarifier.

  • Many people spend their early 20’s convincing others that they’re “taking a break from school” or “starting school next semester”.

    In reality, they’re ashamed to say they’re trying out different career paths or that they simply have no idea what they want to do.

    Society puts that kind of pressure on many young people. It’s the idea that if you’re not going to school, but “smart enough”, you’re wasting your potential.

    But really, who knows what they want out of life at age 18, 20, or 21?

    The whole system is ludicrous.

    • Exactly. Some people think I’m cruel for saying this, but I’m convinced most people don’t give much thought to life and what they say about it. They just parrot what they hear others say. So when parents tell their children “You WILL got to college!”, I’m not convinced they’ve thought it all the way through. It just makes them feel smart and or demanding and good parents.

      Or when teachers try to tell students going to college is the best thing, I don’t think they’ve really thought it through either.

      One size does not fit all.

    • You can run that age from 21, to 31 and even 41. It’s funny how many adults asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. I should have asked them back, “Did you want to have a job you hate as much as you do when you were in high school?”. haha, but you know, respect your elders.

      • 48DaysDan

        You can always pull the Dr. Phil response: “So how’s that working for you?”

    • 48DaysDan

      David – yep a little time in real life can be a wonderful clarifier.

  • Brilliant observation Dan.

    If a PLAN is set in motion and college training is a necessary part of the process (physician, engineer, CPA), then of course it makes sense to take the higher-education step. However, pigeon-holing kids into an academic environment (or any environment for that matter) can silence their voice and stifle their creativity and contribution.

    • 48DaysDan

      Joel – as you well know, finding our voice is a very individualized process. I resist the cookie-cutter approach for anyone.

  • Judy Ptak

    While I agree, I have a bit of a different perspective. I’d be more concerned if the sign said 100% Enrollment. You see I want my kids to apply to and be admitted to college! Once they have the opportunity and the open door then what they choose to do with it is up to them. I simply want them to have confidence in knowing that they could have chosen college and that they turned the school down rather than the school turning them down, plus it gives them a reason to keep the grades up senior year.

  • Jeanne Bilbo

    Your post reminds me of a conversation I sat in on years ago with my very smart son and his local high school counselor . He was interested in changing his college path to a technical path to do Turf Grass Management. Because he had always been a good student and was in JROTC she suggested he stay on the college path and go to a Military Academy. He shared that he really wanted to do the Turf Grass thing. He was always the kid who would rather do ten jobs outside than one job inside. She said that he didn’t want to be in those classes because those kids were not his caliber. He never did do the tech program and never did go to a military academy or any other college. Guess what he does today? He works in the landscaping business with a public municipality AND mows grass. Guess what his father-in-law and brother-in-law do? Turf Grass! Read my lips….the boy said TURFGRASS!
    Moral of this story? Even smart people may enjoy these other more manual type jobs!

    • 48DaysDan

      Wow – what a tough story to reflect on now that some time has passed and you see how it’s unfolded. We certainly do our kids a disservice by not listening to how they are uniquely “bent.”

  • TroyD

    I completely agree with your last paragraph saying what the sign should say. However, my problem is that the tractor mechanic, landscaper etc all require continued education to some extent. Even trade school is crazy expensive and regrettable at a later age. The $70 an hour you paid the tractor repairman probably went to the company he works for, and he actually sees $15 an hour of that. The rest goes to the collage educated CEO who hates his job…. 🙂 Does anyone ever guess correctly when they are 18 at what profession will feed their soul for the rest of their life?

    • 48DaysDan

      You are absolutely right. Nothing lasts forever. Anything we chose at any point requires ongoing learning. At 18 I could not have even described what I’m doing today. And frankly, I expect to be doing lots of different things 5 years from now.

  • Sam Iam Espinoza

    Dan, I was one of those elitist you talk about in your article. I believed everyone should go I college, until I started thinking the same thing you described. If everyone has a degree, what will happen to the job market? I had no idea what I wanted to do at 18. I thought I wanted to be a psychologist, but hated school. I became an auto mechanic, and to my surprise, loved it. I was never late to work. I was always 10 minutes early. I changed careers because of the elitist mentality, and went to a too private university for my MSW. I’m always late, hate doing the work, and find every excuse to avoid working. I find myself say seemingly about my other options. So now I’m my work I talk to kids about taking their time choosing, and to parents too, to allow their children to be what they want, not what the parents want them to be.

  • You left out the biggest win after going to college: the giant pile of crushing debt that is the cherry on that rancid sundae. Ugh.

    I worked at the administrative level in a school district. The push to put everyone on the college path regardless of desire, ability to pay, academic ability, match to skills, interests and talents, was huge. To suggest otherwise was to risk the wrath and censure of the elites.

    The only way a teen was considered for a vocational program—which our town had spent millions to create and build, by the way—was if they were a loser who just wouldn’t be able to get into any college.

    What a gigantic tragedy our educational system is.

    • Dan Miller


      Oh could you be a little graphic in your images?? “the giant pile of crushing debt that is the cherry on that rancid sundae.” Ouch. It is a tragedy – but I think people are waking up to the myth that been sold for so long. Thanks for your comments.

  • Damon

    I think people confuse wisdom with intelligence. You don’t have to be smart to be wise. Intelligence is just how smart you are. Wisdom is how skillful you are at living life. This is how you end up with Einstein-like geniuses working $8/hour flipping burgers: very smart person with no ability to skillfully and craftily live life.

    Our modern education system does not and can not teach you how to craftily live life. the only thing they can do is help smart people get more letter behind their names.

    • Dan Miller

      Wow – you could write a book about the issues you’ve touched on here. One time I had a young gal come in (brought by her Dad) who had just gotten a degree in graphic design. I discovered she didn’t know how to use the computer. She struggled with that so the college just put her in classes where she did pottery and simple art projects – then awarded her a degree in graphic design. She had NO marketable skills whatsoever – but she had those letters behind her name.

  • Mike Salsbury

    Dan, your points are valid, but as a freshly minted college professor in theatre, I am inclined to ask you to lighten up. After 30 years of trying to make it in both theatre and ministry, following the passion and vocation the Lord gave me and trying to be as entrepreneurial as possible (I’ve followed you for a long time), I am finally walking in my destiny, the way I was “bent.” I may be hopelessly in debt, but I know I’m investing in the next generation of Christian theatre artists the best way I know how. Theatre is an art form that may not require a college education, but my observation of the ones who are succeeding is that more have degrees, and are grateful for them, than don’t.

    • Dan Miller

      Me – lighten up? Probably not – ha! I just want kids to see ALL the possibilities and not be railroaded into one direction only. Glad you’re finding your own meaningful path.

  • Dianne Drinkard

    I think it depends on the direction of your ultimate dream. If you want to defend people in court, you might need to go to college, but if you just want to defend battered women, for instance, you might volunteer at a shelter and then maybe become a life coach for them with little formal education. I am in a bit of a conundrum myself in choosing between more college and achieving my goal without it. I would like to research the cause of the world’s diseases, but am already in student loan debt, as well as other debt, and would like to go about this without piling more debt on. I know I could do it, but who in the world would hire me for this purpose without a bachelor’s degree? Any ideas Dan?

    • Dan Miller

      Dianne – it always does depend on your ultimate dream. If you want to be nurse or an attorney or an engineer then go get that college degree. But unfortunately I know lots of nurses who would have been amazing artists, musicians, gourmet cooks, and florists if they had not been pushed in one direction only. So decide on your big goal and then just do the action steps to make that a reality.

  • Jamie slingerland

    Amen Dan! I love this post!

  • Dale

    About last year I wrote into your podcast about becoming a counselor. That process is still forth coming. One of my long term ideas I’m working with is how to retool our educational system. What is needed is a process that helps students find their calling. Their needs to be a process in place to help set people on the path to their calling early.

    I know this is going to require some level of education on the counseling side and I intend to get it. When I’m don’t I’m not gonna whine and cry about employers not beating down my door ill cast the net far and wide to get into my profession and then transition to more Enterprising pursuits. The point I’m making is that we need to be open to as many methods as necessary to achieve our goals. Thanks

  • kentsanders

    Dan, as a college professor I see much of what you’re talking about from the “inside.” I see so many kids, even (or maybe especially) those who are training for ministry, who spend 4 years training for a role I know they won’t stay in for long. Many don’t even enter ministry to begin with. I don’t have any issue with that at all — not everyone is cut out for ministry, and to be honest with you, based on my own experience in church ministry I know everyone is not cut out for it. Most of the the time it can be a long, frustrating road.

    What does really bother me about the whole college system is that it’s an incredibly expensive way to figure out what you like and dislike, what you’re good at and not good at. For a lot of students, college is a great option, but I completely agree that we should do away with this idea that everyone should go to college. I don’t even think someone should go to college unless they have a clear idea of what they want to do. Otherwise, they waste a lot of time spinning their wheels.

    • Dan Miller

      Thanks for your honest input here as an insider in the college system. You are so right. For many, going to college is an expensive way to procrastinate having to make any decision about a career path.

  • terryweaver

    Stellar post Dan! Love to unpack this idea with you soon. I live in Thompsons Station. We met at Chickfila leadercast last May. I speak in High Schools and would love to have your perspective to share with them. Love to connect to unpack this concept some more and how we can empower students. We are working a documentary and curriculum this summer to put into schools. Tweeting this post now!

  • David Kimball

    The share of high school graduates who enroll in college
    in the following fall averaged about 50 percent from 1970
    to 1979 and rose to about 64 percent from 2000 to 2004. The
    share of twenty-five to twenty-nine-year olds who had completed
    bachelor’s or higher degrees rose more slowly, from 22
    percent in 1975 to 29 percent in 2005. 2005 Digest
    of Education Statistics (Washington: National Center
    for Education Statistics, tables 8 and 182).


  • David Kimball

    On average, 21 percent of grads go to a four-year California college, while 51 percent go to either a two- or four-year school.


    Dan, you are dead on with this article. Just because someone is “qualified” for college, does not mean they will go or be successful at it. Our nation’s youth are not being prepared for reality. But, I suppose life will …….

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/01/24/1497777/see-which-high-schools-send-the.html#storylink=cpy

  • Susan Kiamba

    Dan, your message is spot on.

    Going to college for the sake of going should be a thing of the past.

    The decision to go to college should be in response to a desire to follow your passion. This means that if college is the path you must take to realise your passion then great! If not, ask what is? and pursue that course with no apologies.

    • Dan Miller

      Susan – well said. If you want to be a nurse then by all means go to college. But unfortunately I know lots of nurses who would have been amazing artists, musicians, gourmet cooks, and florists if they had not been pushed in one direction only.

  • stephen s.

    The only people who half way cared about my education were employers. Since working on my own, not one client wanted to know what my GPA was. They just wanted to know if I had the experience. When I started working for my first employer after college they paid me 8.75. That was about 8 years ago. On my own, I sometimes make 150.00 an hour. Thats like working 3 days in one hour. Every time I have thought about going back to an employer for work I keep having to face this reality. Time is not money and people want experience more than a good GPA.

  • houquilter

    I agree and disagree at the same time. My local community college offers several vocational/technical programs which prepare the student to go right into the workforce in positions such as cosmetology, landscaping, surveying, auto/diesel mechanic, and some of the finest medical programs (x-ray, RN, LVN) in the state.
    A person going into a four-year college should be going there for a specific reason: teacher, doctor , etc. Going to college just to go to college is not the way to go. We have too few people going into the trades, I do agree with that wholeheartedly, though. My grandfather poured cement foundations most of his life and made his family an excellent living, there’s nothing wrong with working hard.

    • MJG in GA

      While they may have an RN certificate program, that alone will not allow for the best advancement in Nursing. Today’s RN’s need to have the bachelors degree to be considered for advancement and have long term options for their profession.

      • Dan Miller

        If you want to be a nurse then by all means go to college. But unfortunately I know lots of nurses who would have been artists, musicians, gourmet cooks, and florists if they had not been pushed in one direction only.

  • Rocky

    Dan, great post! I have had several conversations on this topic in the last week. We need to start changing the perception that the only place for “successful minded” young people to go is to college. Even if you have the money to pay for it, there may be a better choice! You knocked it out of the park again, Dan! Thanks!

    • Dan Miller

      Rocky – thanks for your comments. Seems to have hit a nerve. And frankly, I’ve been surprised there was not more pushback. Maybe those people just aren’t speaking up here.

  • Dan I so agree. As a college professor myself, I am seeing even the technical jobs offered to motivated people with no college degree. Employers are telling me “if I could get a motivated high school grad who can use Google, they would be better than that typical college grad who can only do that one thing they are taught to do.”

    You have to admit, the college board is the best marketing system in the land. They have convinced everyone they need a college degree to survive.

    Since when did education become the property of the university system? Truth is that it is not. Education is critical, but today you have TONS of options of where to get that education.

    • Dan Miller


      Thanks so much for your input here. Your statement about what employers are telling you is profound – and a sign of the times. And oh – I so agree. “Education” can be gained in many many ways. We need to recognize and honor those.

  • Jonathan

    I learned 1 thing in college. Working inside is not for me. Recently I’ve been searching for a new job in agriculture. After reading your book twice, I sent letters and resumes out and got some positive feedback. Then I started getting offers from around the country from companies I hadn’t heard of. I’ve accepted one in an area I like with a group of people I’m excited to work with. I’ve spent almost my entire life in agriculture and have never been more confident in the sacredness of my calling or my own immortality. When I ask myself if I want to be working this hard 20 years from now, the answer is yes.
    Thanks for your encouragement.

    • Dan Miller

      Jonathan – I spent yesterday trimming the trees and shrubs along our very long lane. I was so exhausted last night I could hardly move. But I love the feeling of having done a hard day’s work – doing something where you see the results rather.

  • ryan j. rhoades

    Dan, I’d like to talk with you about this, maybe on our Google Plus show if you are interested. I am a college grad who has started a few businesses with mild success but nothing close to what I’d be at if I didn’t have the backbreaking student loan debt from believing the lie that I needed that expensive piece of paper.

    My twitter account is iAmAHero613…let me know?

  • Ashurst

    Since I work at a community college…I will defend it. We have an open door policy..so anyone that wants to come, can come. Of course, one of our largest programs is the GED program for people who have not completed their high school degree (paid by the tax payers and free for the attendees).
    We also offer HVAC programs, and Heavy Machinery Programs as well as many technician level programs. The college transfer programs are large and growing as well.
    We even have a compensatory education program for people over the age of 18 with severe enough mental disability issues that they are still working on life skills.
    I agree with most of what Dan says, but want to remind people that most high school, nowadays, won’t provide you with what you need to succeed. Most people need some sort of education beyond high school…what that education is depends on you and your goals. It may be a full fledged MD or PhD or a bachelors or a two year HVAC degree or many of the free entrepreneurial classes taught at Small Business and Industry Center.
    Check out your local community college. They rock.

    • Dan Miller

      Well said – and I totally agree. I just want to inform the high school students about all the options – not just one.

    • Andy Hynds

      I was going to say the same thing. I too work at a community college, and I am amazed at the number of high school graduates who don’t consider this option. It’s a worthwhile investment. Since all U.S. residents have access to a community college, and all community colleges have an open-door policy, then really this high school is making a “boast” that every single high school in the country can also make. I do agree with the spirit of this blog post, though, when it comes to the number of students who try college because they Don’t know what else to do.

  • OneAmericanAmongMany

    Dan – Bravo for this post! There are too many people in our society who equate “college educated” with “smart.” One of the smartest people I ever met was an HVAC installer who worked on my furnace (twice). This man had as much of a gift for working with heating and cooling equipment as any doctor does in working with the human body, and was worth every penny I paid him. He also was highly articulate, well read and had more than a dollop of common sense. On the other hand, some of the most ignorant people I’ve known have had masters degrees. For my money, I’ll take the person who can keep my car in top shape or manage production on my farm over the person with a Ph D in “Women’s Studies” any day.

  • Darre

    “I have worked with countless professionals who have proven their academic ability to create a life they detest”
    That’s me! I desperately wanted (and earned) a college degree but what I discovered was that I really didn’t need it in order to keep, or learn, how to do the jobs I have done since. You can’t learn common sense in an ivory tower… you learn by doing and observing others whom you respect and/or whom you want to emulate. Great post Dan.

  • Jason Pockrandt

    That is funny and I agree. I was that guy who was $12 an hour in a people job. I will be the first to admit I am unable to pick up a quick skilled trade because I never learned it. Books are where I go to learn that and all the previous years of college.

  • Debbi King

    I teach this everyday to students all across the country. Too many young people go to college for 4 years for something they are not passionate about. Students tend to put the cart before the horse, going to college with no true idea of what they want to do with their lives. Thank you for the article.

  • Dan – this is so thought-provoking that I just had to share your link with my readers on this week’s Gleanings –


    Many thanks, my fellow coach!

    • 48DaysDan

      Thanks Linda –

  • Mary Baker

    You are so right; we do not all fit into the same mold. In our state every high school student either follows the college prep or the Gifted and talented track. I had an 18 year old, repeating his freshman year in English for the third time, say to me, ” I don’t mean any disrespect, but we can’t all read Shakespeare!” (Smart observation that our lawmakers haven’t made yet.) That young man left to go with Job Corp, and I hope he has done well. We are graduating too many from high school who can not function in the job market because they haven’t been taught the skills they need to survive there—but they have been exposed to Shakespeare’s plays!!! They are still on the streets though, and that is a tragedy!!

  • Wow. To continue the hammer and nail analogy, I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head.

    I’ve spoken at career days for junior high and high schools in the past and have counseled young kids that they need to think about “making their own game” as much as anything (to borrow a phrase from Timothy Ferriss).

    When I started in broadcasting, you only got in by the good graces of a gatekeeper who held the purse strings. That often meant paying your dues and doing things that had nothing to do with your passion in order to get your foot in the door.

    Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the thing to understand is the gatekeepers are’t in sole possession of those keys any longer. You have the power to (if you desire to ‘broadcast’) start a podcast, as I am doing just next month. Or start a YouTube channel and distribute content that way.

    My point is, the internet has almost single-handedly leveled the playing field. What used to require a giant factory and a few hundred hourly workers can now be done from your laptop in the guest bedroom.

    Don’t go through four years of college only to sit on the sidelines waiting to be picked. PICK YOURSELF!

    • 48DaysDan

      Jeff – oh I love that line – “Pick Yourself”

  • Roger

    At 57 years old and finding myself looking for a job, I feel my college degree may even be a detriment at this time (along with age). I don’t get callbacks from the normal lower paying jobs such as retail etc. that I am very qualified for, The majority of my career has been in advertising, production and media sales. Thus I am working on a television program and am having some success getting it distributed and feel the sponsorship dollars will follow as we grow our audience. I am doing this with no budget, but teammates that believe in what we’re doing and will receive a good percentage of profits when they come. I didn’t plan on being self employed at this point in my life for many reasons, but I appreciate Dan and the encouragement he gives entrepreneurs! I have also learned quite a bit from Dan regarding marketing products, including intangibles! Thank you Dan!

    • 48DaysDan

      Sounds like you’re taking action on a creative idea. Those typically hold far more potential than filling a cubicle anyway. Please keep us posted on your successes!

  • Dee

    As a teacher in a rural public school in Tennessee, I’m so thankful our principal acknowledges that college is not for everyone. We strongly encourage our students to discover and utilize their gifts. I’m a firm believer (and regularly tell my students) that if you truly love what you do, you’ll never “work” a day in your life!

  • fs2

    I was an IT guy (programmer) for 20+ years when the large bank I worked for decided to outsource a significant portion of our programming and support and I was downsized. A job that entails sitting at a computer terminal all day can be done from anywhere in the world. I began to drill into my children that whatever career they chose, whether requiring a college degree or not, should be one requiring a hands-on presence and portable skills. You can’t outsource a plumber, dentist, or diesel mechanic, for example. But those three- along with many others- can ply their trade anywhere in the world. The man (or woman) who can fix things can always earn a living.

    • 48DaysDan

      We are starting to recognize those skills that can’t be outsourced – as you so clearly identify. I’m looking for someone to tend and care for all of our flower and water features on our property. An eager worker in Taiwan won’t fit the bill. I need real hands and legs right here in Franklin, TN.

  • Sharon

    I couldn’t agree more with what Dan says about students, college, and their futures. I think it’s more important that we encourage students to find the paths they are meant to travel, using their gifts/skills and obtaining the training/schooling needed to accomplish their goals. It also seems that when a person is pushed into going to college, he either quits, or is miserable in the profession chosen. Life it too precious to live hating what we do. When we need a specialist for some home repair, I want experience. Where he went to school is of little value at that moment.

    • 48DaysDan

      You are so right. We need to find those unique talents that each person has – not some cookie-cutter career path out of a book. Thanks for your comments.

  • DeanJ

    I get your point but part of the problem is perpetuating the idea that students who attend some form of post-secondary education to become HVAC technicians, mechanics, and welders aren’t attending “college”. Community colleges and technical colleges train students for these types of careers everyday. A narrow definition of “college” as a four year degree leading to a white collar job is elitist in itself.

  • TRW

    The mechanic who repaired your tractor didn’t necessarily rake in the cash. I work as a heavy equipment mechanic in a shop where the labor rate is $78/hr. I earn $12.25/hr. But the company owner hired me with no tangible experience (I built guided bombs for Harriers and maintained equipment in the Marine Corps for 12 years and I have a Class A CDL and can run a decent welding bead, but I had never worked as a mechanic before on heavy equipment) and gave me a chance to prove myself. THAT’s what the job market is missing. There are all kinds of employers looking to hire tradesmen and mechanics, but not a lot who are willing to TRAIN anybody. All of the job vacancy announcements demand years of experience rather than mechanical inclination and a good work ethic. And it’s not that college is beyond my grasp. I could use the G.I. Bill and get a degree; I just have no idea what I would want to study.

  • Holly

    Dan, my son teaches math and computer sciences at an elite East Coast prep school, where 100% of the students also go to college, many to Ivy League schools. The students at his school come from all over the world to attend his institution in the hope of their children obtaining an Ivy League education. Believe me, every one of these parents would also consider a future of “life in a cubicle” too horrible to contemplate for their children. They want their sons and daughters to be future “Masters and Mistresses of the Universe”, so to speak. No cubicles for THEIR kids, only a suite of prestige offices will do. I am sure the same thing is envisioned by the parents of the elite private school you passed. You mentioned “elitism”, and it’s a lot more sinister and pervasive than you know.