Last month, I wrote about the skyrocketing cost of college and how to get your fair share of financial aid you’re entitled to receive. What I didn’t acknowledge in that article is just how many students consider dropping out each year.
When you step back and attempt to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of college tuition, you’re faced with some serious questions about the true value you are receiving for your investment in your education. In short, there are some very valid arguments to skip college altogether.
This article, however, is not encouraging you to drop out of college. Instead, I’d like to introduce you to a powerful book that was just published called Hack College Like an Entrepreneur by Antonia Liu.
Why So Many College Students Consider Dropping Out
If I asked you to name the top 10 entrepreneurs you admire, you’re list would most likely include names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, and Richard Branson especially if you’re part of Generation X. And Julian Assange, Evan Williams, Jan Koum, Travis Kalanick, and Daniel Ek if you’re a Millennial or Gen Z. All of these successful billionaires dropped out of college (and bonus points if you can name the one person who dropped out of High School and never attended college at all).
According to Liu, college debt in the US is now over $ 1.4 trillion which is almost double the size of all credit card debt combined. Liu further notes an Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report, which reports 70% of Millennials would like to start a company one day. By the way, if it’s bugging you and you’re not sure who dropped out of high school, it was Richard Branson who dropped out at age 15.
Instead of Dropping Out of College, Hack College Like an Entrepreneur
After much soul searching and interviewing some of her peers, successful entrepreneurs and professors at top universities, Antonia Liu decided to write a book. In her own words, “What you will find are the start-up mindsets and skill sets that you can use to prepare yourself for an entrepreneurial journey and to maximize your college experience.”
Liu shares many powerful hacks throughout her book and recommends that the best way to get the most out of your college education is to begin with a clear outcome. “Having clear outcomes is a powerful yet often overlooked hack to creating great results.”
She even recommends the same advice for reading her book. Rather than reading from cover to cover and taking it all in, she recommends that you, “Write down the five questions you want this book to answer for you. Then go look for the answers. Treat each chapter as an independent, powerful hack.”
How to Hack College: 13 Simple and Important Hacks
Having taken her advice for the book itself, chapter 19 gave me what I was searching for – the essence of the title of the book, “How to Hack College.” While all 40 chapters and 279 pages deliver on her promise of independent, powerful hacks, here are some of her findings on how to hack the college experience.
Below is a combination of her 13 hacks (the titles in bold) as well as a one or two-sentence summary hack of the hack. That is, the essence of the point I took away based in part on my own college experience.
1. Don’t Do All Your Reading. Before reading anything, know the questions you want to have answered and then skim as much as you need to in order to find the answers you seek.
2. Become a Club President. College is a great place to “fail safely”, so stretch yourself and apply your entrepreneurial spirit in a club atmosphere where lots of support is available and you can try your hand at leading people.
3. Seek out Phenomenal Achievers. College learning isn’t regulated to the classroom, so look around and get to know the other students who appear to be doing really well (so that you can learn from them).
4. Never Pull An All-Nighter. What seems like a great way to get hours back usually turns much less productive and can ruin your next day too. Instead, go to bed early (i.e. 10pm) and start your day as early as your body will allow (i.e. 2am or 4am).
5. Ask One Question at Each Lecture. This will get you noticed by the professor, but more importantly it will force you to remain focused knowing that you’re going want to ask a powerful question that reinforces what you’ve ben learning.
6. Always Sit in the First Row. Another strategy to stick out among your college professors who tend to have “front row” bias, and you will increase your focus during the class itself.
7. Don’t Study In Your Room. Too many distractions await inside your room, so head on over to the library and flex your inner focus; the atmosphere does wonders to condition your brain to focus and get work done efficiently.
8. Study Abroad. This is simply the best education money can buy as you get to learn different cultures and step outside your nationalistic comfort zone.
9. Befriend A Professor. So few students take advantage of the office hours, so take advantage of this opportunity to dig deeper, gain greater insights and discover the full resourcefulness of the person instructing you in his or her class.
10. Schedule Everything. Time management is what sets successful leaders apart in everything they do (see related article about The Rule of 168).
11. Make Friends Your Number 1 Priority. College lasts about four years, where friendships can last a lifetime. Many successful entrepreneurs discover their life-long business partners in college.
12. Learn Important Things Outside of Classrooms. College is the perfect time to become great at something you care about (even if it’s not one of the classes you are attending).
13. Pick Professors Over Classes. Interesting course titles taught by average teachers pale in comparison to great professors who’s passion is contagious. Learn whatever you can from the masters as the truly great teachers will forever change you in the best possible ways.
Of course, the best advice from Antonia Liu in Hack College Like an Entrepreneur is to take massive action. In her own words, “No one chapter can turn you into a millionaire entrepreneur or Rhodes Scholar, but each chapter has the power to impact your entrepreneurial journey if executed well.”
As my extremely wise Grandma Beth Carmody used to say, “In life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do so much more than the things you did.” Taking bold action will ensure that you live life to the fullest and accomplish any outcome you set your mind to figure out how best to achieve.