Has School Been Replaced? #AskCory

Question: Can side projects, open source projects, internships, and educational resources online replace college?

Answer: There are too many aspects of ‘college’ to give a clear answer to whether side projects, open source projects, internships, and educational resources online can replace it. If you are taking the entire college experience into account, then the answer is NO.

I can’t go to a Facebook University football game followed by a fraternity party. This isn’t the college experience for everyone, but it is for many. There are some things in college you just can’t experience online, but if you’re looking outside of having a social life, there is a real debate and several things to consider before putting yourself in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for a diploma.

Online communities and networks are growing in size, popularity, and intelligence, but it’s still difficult to replace the social experience of being surrounded by like-minded college students (the ones who are there to learn and better themselves). College is one of, if not the best, networking opportunity of your life.

I dropped out of the University of Illinois to start ONE with co-founder Michael Callahan, who I met while at school. I also developed relationships with other students and professors that helped my development and made me who I am today. I would not trade my short time at U of I for anything, but I made the right decision to leave when the right opportunity was too good to pass up.

Although school was beneficial for me, it was the social aspect of it that couldn’t be replaced. I could’ve studied computer science outside of the university, but the series of events that led me to this decision occurred because I sought advice and networked with others.

You will learn more from doing than studying. Experiential learning is a term that is being thrown all over the place, and for good reason. You can read 1,000 books on tennis and watch 2,000 YouTube videos on playing the game, but if you don’t get out there and experience it, you’ll never be able to hit the ball.

If you are considering skipping school altogether, don’t underestimate the value in experiences. Combine your academic pursuits with extracurricular activities (conferences, Hackathons, competitions, parties, etc.) and hands-on experience. Check out Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy, and YouTube to discover just a fraction of the available information on any given topic that you’re interested in learning.

Before making any decisions, write down your goals. Map out what you want to accomplish and where you want to be in five years. If you can accomplish these goals without school and you think you’re passionate enough to do it all on your own, then you may be better off saving that tuition money to put into your venture or expenses associated with your future career.

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Cory Levy is the Co-Founder and COO of ONE, creator of the NextGen Conference and Internapalooza. ONE is a mobile application that lets you know when there are people right next to you who share your interests. ONE raised millions in venture capital from True Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Ron Conway, and others. In high school, Cory did externships at: TechStars, Union Square Ventures, Founders Fund, and DFJ Mercury. Cory took an absence after studying CS at the University of Illinois to start ONE. Connect with Cory on Twitter.

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