Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates.
“If they can drop out of college and create multi billion dollar companies, so can you. College is a waste of time. It’s for followers. Leaders carve their own path. Leaders have the courage to drop out and pursue their dreams.”
I’ve heard this statement a million times. I’ve heard my friends say it, I’ve read it in popular online blogs and I’ve most commonly come across it in blogs that have 2-3 articles – started by over enthusiastic, adrenalin pumped youth who quickly lose the motivation to continue writing.
A few years ago, when I was an undergrad, I almost bought into this story. In my junior year, I was tried and frustrated by my tough 4 year engineering program. I wanted to quit the program and start my own freelance web development/design business. For a few days, I contemplated how I could design a few free websites for small businesses, get my name out there and slowly but surely, get paid doing freelance web development work. However, after tons of talks, arguments and fights with my parents, I gave up the idea and decided to complete my degree on the condition that I won’t necessarily work for a big name IT corporation after graduation.
Right now, I am at CMU studying HCI and loving it. I have built up on my passion for web design but instead of taking the route of instant gratification of quitting my degree to pursue it full time, I hung in there and completed what I started – my undergrad CS degree.
What would have happened if I was stubborn and didn’t listen to my parents?
What would have happened if I set up shop as a freelance web developer?
Where would I be today, 5 years later?
What would a typical day in my life look like?
Would things be as rosy and exciting as my naive youthful thinking?
Through my counterfactual, what I essentially want you to consider is this –
Is dropping out of college a courageous act of fighting the system or a cowardly act of giving up something because it’s too difficult?
Is the fascination with college drop outs essentially a fascination with instant gratification?