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  • Jason Flurry, CFP

Why having a college education alone may not be enough

We’ve come a long way as a society in the past 50 years or so. And one of the big reasons we’ve seen so much advancement is due to the remarkable discoveries we’ve seen in technology, medicine, transportation, and so on. In most cases, the innovators and leaders we’ve grown to know and admire built their empires on the foundation of a good education. After all, you’ve probably heard it said that the more you learn, the more you usually earn.

Education can be very valuable in that way and that’s why it’s super important to try to get your kids the best education possible, right? As parents, we all want our kids to be prepared to take advantage of whatever opportunities they can find that could make their lives rewarding and joyful.


But let me ask you this… Is getting that great education confined to college campuses exclusively? In my opinion the answer is no. Whereas college used to provide someone with an advantage at work and in life, and for many people it still does, more and more people are finding their way, or certainly enhancing their journey, through self-education efforts, which is what I want to discuss a little bit about in this article.


Don’t get me wrong. Going to college is still important and you should try to do the very best you can to provide the best opportunities possible for your children – and for your own sake get the best deals possible to make college more affordable. But, if you follow the masses who simply send their kids to college just so they can follow the path everyone else does, maybe because they think they have to, you may be missing something important that could be critical to your son or daughter’s future success.


In my opinion, that missing piece is self-education and personal experience.


Waking up from the American Dream Far too few kids are graduating college today thinking that if they just do what they’re supposed to do, like get a good job, by a house, and save for retirement, everything will work out in their favor in the long run. It’s great to think that way, but we have a couple of generations now who have been to college and are now chasing the American dream. When you look at their results, studies show that roughly 60% of Americans today haven’t even saved a thousand dollars for retirement. 40% of Americans living in the best economy in the history of the world say that if an emergency came up, they couldn’t raise $400. And some of that has to be due in part to the massive amount of college debt people are carrying. There’s roughly $1 ½ trillion dollars in student loans out there now - and it’s the largest single receivable on the federal government’s balance sheet.


So, clearly going to college for the sake of going to college has not yielded the fruit of success that many people envisioned. That’s why it’s important to take charge in two critical areas.


The first is to find the best college possible, learn what they look for in an ideal applicant, and then reverse engineer your student to be the logical choice so you can get a ton of merit scholarships and/or need-based grants to make college affordable.


The second is to supplement their formal education with seminars, courses, books, and first-hand experiences that teach them about themselves, the world around them, and new skills and tools they can use to become invaluable and influential in their lifetime.


Reading and studying under people who have 20, 30, 40 years of knowledge and experience you and your kids don’t have can allow those folks to compress decades of learning into days, speeding up your ability to learn exponentially. And this is a different kind of learning than what your kids have exposure to in college.


See, very often professors even at the best universities have never done what they’re talking about in the real world. They’re just telling you about it because they’ve studied it. And sadly, much of the information they learned is obsolete by the time students go to use it.


For example, with a medical doctor, the life of medical education is only about two years now. That means two years after you leave med school, 50% of what you learned is worthless. It’s been replaced by new methods, new discoveries, new technologies. It’s the same situation for nurses, pharmacists, and a lot of other specialists in the medical field. And it’s not just medicine – the fast pace of today’s world is changing a lot of industries, making textbook knowledge less and less valuable, all the while the cost to get it continues to be more expensive.


The certainty of uncertainty I’ve read where experts are estimating that 50% of today’s graduates will be working in jobs that don’t currently exist today. Isn’t that amazing? How can college prepare our kids to be successful in those areas when no one knows what opportunities will even be available down the road?


Just think back 20 years. There were no social media influencers or drone operators then. The Internet was just in its infancy and no one could have imagined how companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and others would change our lives.


Because the landscape is going to continue to change, it’s important that our kids learn critical thinking skills in addition to acquiring a good education.


The goal of using a standardized curriculum like most colleges use today is to create equal outcomes and keep everyone the same. The problem with that is the world is not looking for somebody who’s the same as everyone else. What the world really needs someone who stands out, who can lead, and who has the skills and tools to act on the knowledge they acquire in school and in life.


Keep planning for college, but also consider signing your kids up for a speed reading course. Buy them books in the areas of human development, psychology, and physiology. Sign them up for programs where they can learn life skills and become more self-aware of their unique talents, passions, and abilities.


Making this type of education available to your kids is a power that never existed before. But, thanks to the Internet and an endless supply of resources, you and your kids could learn from people you’d never be able to learn from otherwise. You can find the best experts on earth from wherever you are in the world. You definitely can’t say that about the university system today. It’s too exclusive at the top and the costs for most people is so prohibitive that they’re locked out and forced to settle for less than they deserve. Unfortunately, the higher education system is failing them, but we don’t have to let it define our kids’ futures anymore.


Success leaves clues A man named Jim Rohn used to say, “Success leaves clues.” If someone is truly successful at anything and if they stay successful at it over time, they’re not lucky. They’ve discovered something that required a different way of thinking and being, and that’s worth discovering for yourself too.


Find out what rich people do and do that too. Also, find out what poor people read and do and don’t read or read those things. By poor people, I don’t just mean people who are financially poor I also mean people who are emotionally poor and spiritually poor too, because whatever they’re feeding their mind, that’s what comes out in their lives. You always reap what you sow, right?


To really give yourself an advantage in life, leverage other people’s experiences in your favor and then extract 20 years of learning into a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, or at most a few months if something is really complex. That’s how to get the MOST from your education and acquire critical life skills that can open doors of opportunity many people never unlock.


You get what you pay for (maybe) You may be surprised to know that there are currently 110 universities now that have over a billion dollars set aside in their endowments. In fact, Harvard recently raised $9.5 billion recently by itself. Yale University’s endowment is run by one of the top financial investors in the world and he took them from $1 billion in assets to roughly $24 billion since he’s been there. That’s a lot of money, and yet their sticker price is still over $75,000 per year!


Now, what about the education students are receiving in college? Surveys have shown that only 27% of the people that come out of college actually say they’re applying what they learned in their job. In other words, for 73% of college graduates, their formal education has been worthless. And they spent $50,000, $100,000, or maybe even $200,000, $300,000, or more over 4, 5, 6, or 7 years - and they got nothing to show for it!


I’ll save this topic for another day, but what we really have out there at some of these universities is a bunch of hedge funds that have universities attached to them. We call them universities now and we pay for all that, but if you want to have true knowledge and understanding, you have go to the people that are actually doing things that make an impact. You can do that through college as an intern or in a co-op, and I would encourage every student to consider at least one internship while they are in college. The mentoring and hands-on experience you can get from these opportunities can be far more valuable than anything that’s taught in a classroom.


Andrew Carnegie, who was one of the richest men of his day, commissioned Napoleon Hill to interview the wealthiest, most successful people in the world and write down the principles that helped make them extraordinary. His book Think And Grow Rich is still very popular today and a must read for anyone interested in learning how to thrive academically, personally, and professionally.


Jim Rohn, who I mentioned earlier, said “You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” So by reading and studying the thoughts and insights of people who are farther along in life, your kids can adopt their mindsets and benefit from their wisdom even though they may never actually meet those people personally. The impact can be the same nevertheless.


As a parent and as a College Planning Specialist, I appreciate the value of a good education for my kids and yours. Because you’re reading these articles, I know you do too. That’s why I want you to be creative and take charge of your kids’ education instead of leaving it up to the colleges to handle alone. Investing in yourself and in your children’s personal development is one of the best investments you can ever make. In fact, it’s likely yield far greater results than their college degree ever will and it can help make them into more of the person they were created to be.


Going to college may eventually help your kids get a good job, but by also giving them a practical, self-directed education they can use throughout their lifetime, you’ll be helping equip them to live a more successful and significant life. They need both kinds of education to reach their true potential and it’s up to you to help show them the way. Go for it and good luck!

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