When Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion this week, David Karp, Tumblr's 26-year-old founder, became an instant celebrity -- and joined the pantheon of tech entrepreneurs to make it big without a college degree. In fact, Karp dropped out of high school at his mother's suggestion, to get homeschooling and a tech-world internship. And his success has rekindled some old conversations about whether college is the right place for brilliant, innovative minds. A few years ago, Paypal founder Peter Thiel launched a $100,000 fellowship for a select group of under-20-year-olds, promising them mentoring and thinking they wouldn't be able to get in college.
Karp and the Thiel Fellows are clearly special cases, but their stories spark a broader question about what college can and can't do -- and whether, in an age of skyrocketing tuition and student debt, higher ed is the best choice right out of high school. Some sports stars and performers launch their careers before going to school. Some entrepreneurs decide they just can't wait. What would make you drop out of college, or put it off? Below are some thoughts about skipping school. Add yours to the comments below, or tweet your ideas to #BostonComment.
Not unless you're very, very special
Dropping out is a completely rational move for a tech genius who wants to get a world-changing idea to market before somebody else does -- just as it's rational for a star college athlete who wants to cash in, rather than getting injured while playing for free. But how many of today's 18 million undergraduates really fit either category? A few dozen, tops? Everybody else should stay in school.
Dante Ramos, @danteramos
Deputy Editorial Page Editor, Boston Globe
Reasons to start a business before starting college
What do you learn when you are young and start a business (regardless of success or failure):
you learn how to come up with ideas that will be accepted by other people
you begin to build your b------t detector (something that definitely does not happen in college)
you learn how to sell your idea
you learn how to build and execute on an idea
you meet and socialize with other people in your space. They might not all be the same age but, lets face it, thats life as an adult. You just spent 18 years with kids your age. Grow up!
you might learn how to delegate and manage people
you learn how to eat what you kill, a skill also not learned by college-goers
James Altucher, @jaltucher
Hedge fund manager, writer, and entrepreneur
"8 Alternatives to College"
Why do people go to college?
Learning how to be independent is not what I needed from college. While attending classes and gaining knowledge from professors would not have hurt, at the end of the day, my decision to skip college was about one thing: time. I didn’t want to be like my friends who went to college because they didn’t want to be an adult. They would continue further into graduate programs to avoid figuring out what they wanted to do. As if hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and twelve lost years could to solve a fundamental problem in their soul. To this day, friends still ask me whether I would ever take night classes to get my college degree. After what I have accomplished, I can’t imagine retreating backwards. Why should I?
Yashar Ali, political strategist/writer
The Good Men Project, March 31, 2012
People are talking...
A word to the wise?
That is not a path that I would haphazardly recommend to kids out there. I was in a very unique position of knowing exactly what I wanted to do at a time when computer science education certainly wasn’t that good in high school in New York City.
David Karp, @davidkarp
Interview with the Associated Press
Reality, for some
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