Would you give this Education Hack the old "college try"?
When I was a kid in the 1980s, one of my favorite ways to spend time with my family was to play games… and especially The Game of Life.
While my brother liked the hard-nosed capitalism of Monopoly, I liked planning out my life according to MB Games…. Go to college… have a career… get married…. Work till I’m old and then retire.
The game told me that if I got a degree, I’d earn more money than if I went straight to work. That marriage and kids (in that order) were a given. And that life was going to follow a clean, predictable path to a happy retirement (as long as I followed “the rules”).
Well, my life experience certainly hasn’t reflected that. And as I look around me at the world we are living in now, I wonder if it was ever true. Maybe a couple of generations ago, but it’s certainly not the case now.
Leaving aside the moral pronouncements about marriage and fixed gender identities the game promoted, I want to look at the idea that choosing a college is the way to a high-flying career and riches. And a compelling, thoroughly modern alternative.
The cost of a college 4-year degree
The average cost of a year’s tuition at American colleges is $11,839. The average federal debt for students leaving college is $36,510, which takes an average of 20 years to repay.
And according to recent statistics, 10.8% of recent college graduates are on minimum wage jobs, and 6.4% are unemployed.
That’s a lot of bright people in a lot of debt. Not reaping the benefits of the hard work they devoted to their 4-year degree. Not seeing the promised bright future they were sold.
How many of those students will end up forging a life and a career that has nothing to do with their degree after all? I know I did.
Surely there has to be a better way?
How to hack college (no, not the “college try”)
Zach Clenaghan, the founder of “college for travelers” Edumadic, hacked his college education by traveling the world and studying online. He founded Edumadic to provide the sort of world-class traveling educational resource that he wished had been available to him when he embarked on his adventures.
In this enlightening talk, Zach tells us how you, or your children, can ‘hack the college experience’ through online learning and world travel.
What do students go to college for?
No one is going to say that college is useless. Or lacking experience for the students who decide to go.
Zach tells us that college offers 5 main benefits to students
- Job training
- Signal (proof of your ability)
- College experience
Certainly, these are all important. But is college the only answer?
Education and learning
We humans come out of the womb ready and eager to learn. The newborn begins to learn immediately, learning about the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feel of the world around them.
Learning is a necessary survival skill. But beyond that, it can be developed and encouraged throughout childhood to ensure that the child grows into a lifelong learner. We need to learn the skills that will allow us to thrive in the world, but we can also learn for pleasure, for the love of learning.
While college exists to provide learning, there are lots of other ways to learn.
Online platforms such as Udacity, edX, Coursera, and Futurelearn offer high-quality programs from renowned universities and colleges including Harvard and MIT. These can be accessed for free or can be certificated for a fraction of the on-campus tuition fees.
A common complaint amongst recent graduates is that while employers want new recruits to have degrees, and often even Master's degrees, they also want a number of years of work experience. How is a new graduate supposed to achieve this?
How do you get the experience if you can’t even get the entry-level jobs?
So while college might provide the relevant work experience for vocational training such as medicine, this is not the case for most degree programs. This could leave new graduates trapped in the sort of minimum wage jobs that don’t require degrees in the first place!
While the degree from the big college might seem exciting, it isn’t the only way to prove your abilities anymore. And in an increasingly globalized workplace, in many sectors, it is the proof of the practical application of your skills that matters most.
Anyone with minimal tech skills can now create a website to display their portfolio of work, share their learning and ideas, and demonstrate their competency.
Through social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, it is possible to establish your authority and position in your industry simply by sharing your ideas and growing your network.
Community, and the college experience
Aside from the learning and skill development offered by your college of choice, this is probably the most common benefit students get from going to college.
Making new friends, having adventures, feeling that first taste of freedom away from Mom and Dad…. it’s all part of the rite of passage of growing up, and an important part of life.
But college isn’t the only place you can find this community, and find the adventure and freedom that young people seek as they transition into adulthood.
An alternative to the mainstream college experience
Here at Galileo, we believe passionately that the best way to learn is through living and trying new things that spark your interest.
Zach’s approach to his education certainly did that. Zach combined his education with world travel, paying his way through freelance, remote work, and lived a life rich in learning experiences and adventures.
His experience taught him a lot about the ups and downsides of education and inspired him to create a business that would never have existed had he not taken the college route to learning.
Financing world travel and online learning
The remote working, gig economy is an absolute gift to the wannabe traveller.
As long as you have wi-fi and a device with some usable apps on it, you can work from anywhere in the world. Many companies work with freelancers for jobs such as copywriting and coding, so you can use, and develop your skills and build up a portfolio and work experience as you earn.
Living in countries such as Bali and Thailand is significantly cheaper than living in most places in the developed West. Zach lived and traveled with a budget of less than $1000 a month.
And with the whole of human knowledge available freely or reasonably cheaply online, it is possible to build your own program of learning either for free, or significantly cheaper than university tuition.
It is even possible to get certifications and degrees through the internet. Overall, some good judgment is needed when choosing your learning programs.
Downsides to replacing college with travelling experiences
Maintaining commitment to learning
Studying through the internet on your own is hard, especially when you are in beautiful exotic locations, with so much to see and do, places to explore and new people to meet.
It requires a lot of commitment and dedication to make sure you do the work. Of course, the advantage is that you can choose the topics that interest you, which always helps!
Traveling isn’t always easy
Life in places like Bali is very different from that in somewhere like the US, or UK. You will have to adapt to different cultures and customs, languages, currencies and more. Not to mention the practicalities of backpack life!
It is a rewarding and enriching experience, but it comes with challenges to be overcome.
While you will meet a rich variety of people on your travels, this might not always be compatible with your need to work and study. You will have to be committed and hold yourself accountable to your studies, or create a community around your study, by joining a live cohort program, for example.
These are the challenges that inspired Zach to create Edumadic. Proving that the traveling, online learning experience can create opportunities you could never dream of in your college dorm!
Galileo offers kids age 8-18 the opportunity to travel with their families while keep some consistency in their daily learning journey. Learn more about our worldschooling and unschooling offerings here.