A letter to David Hogg: You are better than college
First, I want to extend my sympathy for you and your friends at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS and Parkland. No one should have to go through something like that, let alone be thrown into the public spotlight and questioned and mocked by people who disagree with you. You are a brave, impressive dude.
That’s why I don’t think you need college.
A college degree is a signal. The thing is, this signal is not as valuable as you think. It’s a signal to the world of the value you can create in the market. It conveys information about your ability, skill, and intelligence. There is a lot of noise in the world of work, and it’s hard to figure out who’s worth working with. A degree cuts through some of that noise and puts you in a smaller pool of competitors.
College persists for the ambitious — and thus the self-reinforcing data about successful people having degrees — because of a religious-like belief in it’s necessity. But it’s not necessary at all.
Not long ago a degree may have been the best signal most people could get. There weren’t many ways to demonstrate your value to the market, so a degree was one of the better bets.
Things have changed dramatically. Technology has opened up the world. The tools available to you now have lowered search and information costs, and you can create signals of your own that are far more powerful than a degree. Now, a college degree is one of the weakest, least common denominator efforts to doing this and is easy to surpass.
You told Axios that you are thinking about taking a gap year. That is a great idea.
I encourage you to continue throwing yourself into activism, organizing, and speaking. Learn how big events are planned and operated behind the scenes. Learn what different kinds of messaging works best for certain audiences. Continue refining your speeches. Make personal connections. Build email lists, communities, and followings. All of this will help you gain the experience and skills that future employers will value. Don’t spend the next four years in a classroom, wasting the valuable opportunity you have now.
You have forward tilt. You have natural sales skills. You have organizing skills. You have some marketing experience. You know how to work in fast-paced environments. You have a drive and focus that most people your age will never come close to.
At Praxis, we work with hundreds of bright, ambitious young people and help them launch careers without degrees. They’re better than college. You are too!