Answered on Quora: How to Do Stuff Outside the Normal Path

A Quora user asked:

How can I start studying at college or any school program without a highschool diploma?

My response:

I have no HS diploma and I got an associate’s then bachelor’s degree (and later MA). I never got a GED or took the ACT or SAT.

At age 15 I just enrolled in community college. They don’t care, they just want your money. I took an assessment test to determine which classes I should start with. I did two years of classes there and got an AA. The AA and my CC grades transferred to the nearby state university no questions asked. They, too, want your money.

There may be a more fundamental question: Why do you want to go to college? Getting a HS diploma was (correctly, IMO) deemed not worthy of your time. Why is a degree better?

If you want the college social experience, or the knowledge from classes, or anything other than the piece of paper, just move to a college town, go to parties, sit in on classes without registering, etc. Save yourself tens of thousands or more and get all aspects of the experience.

If you want the piece of paper, ask yourself why. It’s a signal to employers that you are roughly average. If you’re even a little bit ambitious and creative, you can build a better signal yourself. Google>resume, and a portfolio of value created, an online presence that proves it, a network, and great experience>generic degree.

The most compelling reason to go to college is if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you want to do something that legally requires a degree – law, medicine, academia, or government bureaucratic work – even here, I’d encourage some thinking about entrepreneurial ways to approach it, or at least spend a year or two working in these fields before sinking 4+ years and 6 figures into a degree that almost locks you into that work for life.

If entrepreneurship, art, software, sales, marketing, or a host of other self-directed, creative endeavors appeal to you, don’t wait around in a classroom. Save the time and money and start doing awesome stuff now. (check out Praxis if you want some help doing awesome stuff with no credentials.)

Whatever you do, don’t be bored. Life is too short and too valuable to do things you don’t enjoy.

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