Thoughts/Opinions on College, Universities, Post-High School Education

DudderButter

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Today in my personal finance class, we discussed five major foundations to saving money. One of those being to pay cash only for college-basically not taking out a student loan-to get you out of debt. Our objective in our assigned group was to establish how we were supposed to pay for college in cash and the benefits. As we conjured up ideas, one of my peers mentioned college being a scam.

That got me thinking a bit. I've always wanted to go to a technical school to get an Associate's degree in an Information Technology major around the 7th-8th grade. As a high school junior now, and listening to other people in my community about their opinions of post-secondary schooling, it made me rethink a lot of the things I wanted to achieve after I graduate.

My opinion, you may ask? I don't really see college, technical school, universities being a scam if it's something that rewards you in the long run and if you're fully committed to the career path you've set yourself on. I've been set on going to get into the IT field since my early teen years. Many of my classmates and upperclassmen don't have a clue on what they're set on. So in the future, they may just randomly pick a major they think they'll excel at and turn out feeling betrayed...feeling scammed. Do I think college is necessary for every possible career? No. You can make a living off of a certain set of skills or perfected hobbies and potentially earn more than that of a college graduate. It takes time, patience, and dedication.

Your thoughts?
 
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Chary

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I think society pushes people into college when they don't need it.

Speaking from an American POV, at least, kids are conditioned to learn rote memorization and nothing more for state-wide tests, with hardly any focus for thinking for themselves. They're already failed a strong education right out of the gate. Then when they're finally given their first opportunity to decide on their schooling and what they want out of life, it's a single choice that locks you into a general career path from age 18 until you retire, with a huge debt to pay if you're not eligible for FAFSA grants or scholarships. No pressure!

Even those who want nothing to do with higher education, those who wouldn't mind jobs that focus more on trade skills, are considered "failures" by their peers and parents. What, you're too stupid for college? Wow, you don't want to pursue college, what a loser. Etc. There's no shame in not wanting a career that requires higher education, and yet, most will absolutely shame a person for not going all out on college.

You have a set goal in mind, and a desire to achieve an end result--that's admirable, but is it common? Exactly how many people leave high school feeling motivated and confident in what they want to do with their lives? It's easy to feel scammed when you're $40,000 in the hole and realize in your last semester that you hate what you do because you made a snap choice at age 18.
 

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They want to push you into college because that's how colleges get money. They try to sell you that you need college. So they can sell books and teachers get money. Whether you fail college or not they get money.
 
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The Catboy

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I can't speak on behalf of anywhere else but there's a lot of flaws in the American college system, from the stupidly high prices of everything to the redundant classes students are "required to take" for the credit. There's more I regret from going to college than what I've happily taken out of it. College wouldn’t be as regretful if all of my debt was necessary, but a good portion wasn’t.
 
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I did it many years ago now in the UK.
I don't know that I would do it right now in the UK, prices being far higher for actually not that many years (nothing else having gone up by similar percentages, much less for the same product) but not yet US levels, and would run very far from the current US approach. Prices there are insane compared to anywhere else in the world*, to the point where I am waiting for the bubble to pop (which is going to be spectacular).

*various things have been online for decades now, https://openlearning.mit.edu/news/mit-opencourseware-marks-10th-anniversary being a 2013 article marking the 10 year anniversary, done a bunch of them because I can. Nothing I did not get in the UK (or seeing again while I am helping some people get through theirs now), and nobody in the rest of the world is in awe of US degrees or clamouring to go there outside of various parts of China and Asia (even then it can be debatable -- for computing then some of the stuff I have seen coming out of Vietnam is insane). That should tell you most of what goes.

As above it is pushed -- your career advice/guidance counsellors not only likely get kickbacks from universities (seriously go look up all the scandals involving those) they send people to they also likely have no experience of life (if you want to learn something you ask someone successful in the field) having done school-university-school for their life thus far, and said schools not exactly being known for fostering good life skills, critical thinking or the like. Schools might also be ranked by percentages going on to tertiary education, or tertiary education of fancy varieties (Ivy League in the US, Oxbridge/Red brick in the UK, you don't want to know what goes in China).
That such places also advertise themselves not on academics but party lifestyles says a lot of what I want know as well (nothing like that comes for free, and even if you don't partake you are subsidising things).

People have said go only if you are doing STEM (or have money to piss away from an trust fund I guess). For engineering, which would extend to computing, I am not even convinced that is necessary.
Now there are bad ways to go about doing computing -- most boot camps and entry level certificates are useless as far as getting a job, and might even actively harm you (someone comes up to me proud as punch about their comptia/A+/CCNA and I know to dismiss them). If you are already there and need to cross skill or get back to bleeding edge then a properly selected boot camp might do more for you, and there are real boot camps to go from scratch (though as a hint they are not usually two weeks long).
Similarly degrees you have, save maybe that they are from serious places (which is to say nowhere that offers that 2 years associates nonsense that US seems to go in for), count for little past a few jobs -- your portfolio/github and possibly your stackexchange account being more interesting there for a lot of hiring types/hiring types that are looking for the good jobs**.
Certs is a whole other world and varies dramatically month on month at times, certainly year on year and past about 5 years can be a whole other world (your MSCE, such that it even exists within Microsoft's certificates, is worth far less than it was 15 years ago but not yet worthless as people still use Windows). They also run the gamut from "basically a phd level affair" (this would be some of the virtualisation setups, and possibly AI but I am not so familiar there) to "thanks I needed some toilet paper".
Back on universities then you have the long recognised time lag problem, even without the professor doing their own pet language problem. This being what you learn today might well be useless in 3 years when you are thrust into the world, and that even assumes they had it together well enough. This also means there are those doing what they claim to be masters level things that actually teach you up to date skills, and being a year to get stand a chance of being relevant.
There are plenty of scams with masters level stuff too (see 95% of penetration testing/computer security offerings, though the 5% do good stuff from what I have seen), but not as much as undergrad (I will hire a computer programming degree to make my games, might not hire a game programming degree to make my games and certainly won't hire the game programming degree to make my in house customer management software where the first guy will be in the running).

There is also a lot of IT fields doing on the job training these days -- everything from penetration testing to programming to sysadmin. Obviously you start at the very bottom of the totem pole in those (he what runs metasploit/kali/port scanner, basic QA testing/documentation and presumably helldesk respectively) unless you have some other interesting skills (military or law enforcement physical security type deal, testing is a real skill https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/04/30/top-five-wrong-reasons-you-dont-have-testers/ , and maybe you know how to swap a graphics card out already for the previous examples) where someone with more might start higher but hey.


** that said you might still have to deal with the HR slimes and working around them -- go have a look for the unix greybeard type jobs and what might also feature "needs to know Microsoft office" added on there in what you know would have been, and your mind might even forcibly "correct" to, a different size of comic sans font if the HR oxygen thief had not had their desires robbed by your chosen job posting site doing it in plaintext.

More classical engineering fields. In the UK even up until the 1950s it was a path you took rather than a degree foisted upon you, even if that was a path. Today I am working with a lot of people without degrees that I would not be able to fox without serious effort and do very well at a lot of seriously technical things, including design work. Looking out in the US then the machinist (be it classical*** or CNC) looks to be rapidly rising -- see some of the prices CNC peeps are being given just to train, never mind coming in with actual skills. This varies a bit -- straight mechanical can be a bit harder in some aspects than electrical to break into (soldering iron, chip programmer, bunch of LEDs... costs nothing really and can be demonstrated, even old iron costs about that of cars and serious hobbies which is harder to fall into).

***the ability to repair things, modify things, reverse engineer and fabricate one off is not going away any time soon.

On top of this if you still insist on university, and can stomach having to do mandatory extras with no great relevance to either you as an intellectual or you as a would be computer botherer, then the US also has a nightmare system of transferable credits in addition to accredited degrees (anybody can set up a university after all, check and generally ignore anything that advertises on late night TV) that troubles everywhere. That you will want someone that knows the system for.

Trades in general are probably also on the up and up. Total lifetime earnings is a point of comparison (and you had better be factoring in loan costs into that, and if you are really good then taking the same money and investing it -- compound interest is a killer both ways) but far from the only one. University also all but assures you will be working in an office unless you are really pushing hard not to.


Look at it this way. If I were a hiring manager and you were to present to me someone without a college degree and someone with a college degree, why would I choose the dumber one?
At the risk of being joke spoiler is that one of those "actually wait up" type deals?
Someone that puts themselves in debt they will never repay (compound interest, expected salaries and all that)... I mean they are likely to stick it out when someone that is free to move as the wind takes them is free to move as the wind takes them so I guess there is that.
 
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Kraken_X

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Make sure that you check what the starting salaries and placement rates are for the college you plan to attend and the degree you plan to get. If it's not a degree that's in demand, chances are it's a waste of money, but a degree is required to break through the pay limits in many fields.
 
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Mama Looigi

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Look at it this way. If I were a hiring manager and you were to present to me someone without a college degree and someone with a college degree, why would I choose the dumber one?
That feels like a very one-sided mindset to be fair. Sometimes the one who didn’t go to college was the smarter or more capable one.

* * *

On the topic of American colleges-
Unfortunately there’s many, many people who have gone to college… before they even had a reason to, they went because they were pressured in to it or something of the sort.
The result of it is…
Exactly how many people leave high school feeling motivated and confident in what they want to do with their lives? It's easy to feel scammed when you're $40,000 in the hole and realize in your last semester that you hate what you do because you made a snap choice at age 18.
this.

The prices can also be ridiculous at times, not unreasonable, but still not very feasible for a large amount of the population. Quite a bit of the fees are unnecessary and more than excessive sometimes.
 
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renatarogers

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I think college is needed, but not everyone. It is necessary for people who want to develop in the academic or political sphere. But for people who want to work in a creative professions or professions that can be mastered quickly, college is not necessary. But in reality, it can still come in handy in the future, so the best option for me is to combine college and work, courses, and so on.
 
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I did it many years ago now in the UK.
I don't know that I would do it right now in the UK, prices being far higher for actually not that many years (nothing else having gone up by similar percentages, much less for the same product) but not yet US levels, and would run very far from the current US approach. Prices there are insane compared to anywhere else in the world*, to the point where I am waiting for the bubble to pop (which is going to be spectacular).

*various things have been online for decades now, https://openlearning.mit.edu/news/mit-opencourseware-marks-10th-anniversary being a 2013 article marking the 10 year anniversary, done a bunch of them because I can. Nothing I did not get in the UK (or seeing again while I am helping some people get through theirs now), and nobody in the rest of the world is in awe of US degrees or clamouring to go there outside of various parts of China and Asia (even then it can be debatable -- for computing then some of the stuff I have seen coming out of Vietnam is insane). That should tell you most of what goes.

As above it is pushed -- your career advice/guidance counsellors not only likely get kickbacks from universities (seriously go look up all the scandals involving those) they send people to they also likely have no experience of life (if you want to learn something you ask someone successful in the field) having done school-university-school for their life thus far, and said schools not exactly being known for fostering good life skills, critical thinking or the like. Schools might also be ranked by percentages going on to tertiary education, or tertiary education of fancy varieties (Ivy League in the US, Oxbridge/Red brick in the UK, you don't want to know what goes in China).
That such places also advertise themselves not on academics but party lifestyles says a lot of what I want know as well (nothing like that comes for free, and even if you don't partake you are subsidising things).

People have said go only if you are doing STEM (or have money to piss away from an trust fund I guess). For engineering, which would extend to computing, I am not even convinced that is necessary.
Now there are bad ways to go about doing computing -- most boot camps and entry level certificates are useless as far as getting a job, and might even actively harm you (someone comes up to me proud as punch about their comptia/A+/CCNA and I know to dismiss them). If you are already there and need to cross skill or get back to bleeding edge then a properly selected boot camp might do more for you, and there are real boot camps to go from scratch (though as a hint they are not usually two weeks long).
Similarly degrees you have, save maybe that they are from serious places (which is to say nowhere that offers that 2 years associates nonsense that US seems to go in for), count for little past a few jobs -- your portfolio/github and possibly your stackexchange account being more interesting there for a lot of hiring types/hiring types that are looking for the good jobs**.
Certs is a whole other world and varies dramatically month on month at times, certainly year on year and past about 5 years can be a whole other world (your MSCE, such that it even exists within Microsoft's certificates, is worth far less than it was 15 years ago but not yet worthless as people still use Windows). They also run the gamut from "basically a phd level affair" (this would be some of the virtualisation setups, and possibly AI but I am not so familiar there) to "thanks I needed some toilet paper".
Back on universities then you have the long recognised time lag problem, even without the professor doing their own pet language problem. This being what you learn today might well be useless in 3 years when you are thrust into the world, and that even assumes they had it together well enough. This also means there are those doing what they claim to be masters level things that actually teach you up to date skills, and being a year to get stand a chance of being relevant.
There are plenty of scams with masters level stuff too (see 95% of penetration testing/computer security offerings, though the 5% do good stuff from what I have seen), but not as much as undergrad (I will hire a computer programming degree to make my games, might not hire a game programming degree to make my games and certainly won't hire the game programming degree to make my in house customer management software where the first guy will be in the running).

There is also a lot of IT fields doing on the job training these days -- everything from penetration testing to programming to sysadmin. Obviously you start at the very bottom of the totem pole in those (he what runs metasploit/kali/port scanner, basic QA testing/documentation and presumably helldesk respectively) unless you have some other interesting skills (military or law enforcement physical security type deal, testing is a real skill https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/04/30/top-five-wrong-reasons-you-dont-have-testers/ , and maybe you know how to swap a graphics card out already for the previous examples) where someone with more might start higher but hey.


** that said you might still have to deal with the HR slimes and working around them -- go have a look for the unix greybeard type jobs and what might also feature "needs to know Microsoft office" added on there in what you know would have been, and your mind might even forcibly "correct" to, a different size of comic sans font if the HR oxygen thief had not had their desires robbed by your chosen job posting site doing it in plaintext.

More classical engineering fields. In the UK even up until the 1950s it was a path you took rather than a degree foisted upon you, even if that was a path. Today I am working with a lot of people without degrees that I would not be able to fox without serious effort and do very well at a lot of seriously technical things, including design work. Looking out in the US then the machinist (be it classical*** or CNC) looks to be rapidly rising -- see some of the prices CNC peeps are being given just to train, never mind coming in with actual skills. This varies a bit -- straight mechanical can be a bit harder in some aspects than electrical to break into (soldering iron, chip programmer, bunch of LEDs... costs nothing really and can be demonstrated, even old iron costs about that of cars and serious hobbies which is harder to fall into).

***the ability to repair things, modify things, reverse engineer and fabricate one off is not going away any time soon.

On top of this if you still insist on university, and can stomach having to do mandatory extras with no great relevance to either you as an intellectual or you as a would be computer botherer, then the US also has a nightmare system of transferable credits in addition to accredited degrees (anybody can set up a university after all, check and generally ignore anything that advertises on late night TV) that troubles everywhere. That you will want someone that knows the system for.

Trades in general are probably also on the up and up. Total lifetime earnings is a point of comparison (and you had better be factoring in loan costs into that, and if you are really good then taking the same money and investing it -- compound interest is a killer both ways) but far from the only one. University also all but assures you will be working in an office unless you are really pushing hard not to.



At the risk of being joke spoiler is that one of those "actually wait up" type deals?
Someone that puts themselves in debt they will never repay (compound interest, expected salaries and all that)... I mean they are likely to stick it out when someone that is free to move as the wind takes them is free to move as the wind takes them so I guess there is that.
You...
wrote that article in your post (10th anniversaire) .. too ?

PS: The "website link" in your profile is broken.
(I don't like 4shared anyways...)
 

godreborn

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I'm a college graduate, but I don't think I really needed it. I'm very good at teaching myself stuff without any help and through reading and testing. Though, I will say that college does help with this sort of thing, it helps people learn to think for themselves, to question things.
 

Kioku_Dreams

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Ultimately I think it depends on location? The American colleges I honestly feel like are just money pits. For instance, I could go to school for four years. Walk out with a Bachelors degree in some type of Computer Science or Networking. I'd have spent upwards of $50k for this degree. Or, I can spend a fraction of that and go for a few certificates and gain the same knowledge in possibly less time.

I'm going back to school now, but only because my wife works for the local community college and I get the classes for free. Books and materials I pay for out of pocket.

If she wasn't, I'd be going for my CompTIA and other certifications.

It's a shame, but I feel college is only for validation. Like, you get a piece of paper proving you learned something that some of us could learn elsewhere for much, much cheaper. This does not apply to certain fields, like medical or legal. Honestly, I'm not sure if there are alternative programs for those.
 
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FAST6191

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It's a shame, but I feel college is only for validation. Like, you get a piece of paper proving you learned something that some of us could learn elsewhere for much, much cheaper. This does not apply to certain fields, like medical or legal. Honestly, I'm not sure if there are alternative programs for those.

Legal wise then to be a lawyer you get to pass the bar or whatever the equivalent is where you are at (outside the US there is still something of a distinction between what in the UK would be a solicitor which will do various legal paperwork and prep certain cases and a barrister -- one what argues in court). Paralegals, researchers and such have lesser things available as well.
Many will still have legacy routes that allow you to have a lawyer vouch for you, say you did the required work and then attempt to pass the bar with the same exams as everybody else (plus all the character and fitness).
Stats for it are pretty dire as far as degree vs not, and stats for having a law degree and passing the bar are already not brilliant (different states/areas are harder than others but some can be down in the 60% range for passing, and as very few opt for the secondary route...).
Video


Medical wise.
I barely understand the US system (it is quite strange compared to a lot of other places where it is more of a long degree program with serious practical elements + continuous further training) for doing the whole doctor bit but it is pretty tied to higher education and further studies these days.
Back when then nursing was a far more on the job affair (around here even those in the 80s and 90s still were predominantly using that) but in recent years, and much to the chagrin of many older types, it has gone school based in a far bigger way these days everywhere I look.
There is also stuff like operating theatre assistant (think scrub nurse but some notable differences, and not so widely recognised) that do more day release and similar training.

Some add engineering to the "must have degree" for bit but I covered that above (short version there are many alternative paths, though it will probably be trickier). Not to mention many places will have a further qualification to become an engineer in title (Canada and Germany being two of the more notable here where it is a protected title, France having some more, the US having a bit if you want that iron ring nonsense, chartered engineer among others https://www.engc.org.uk/professional-registration/ if you want the UK take and also that for several other places). Computing is also under the umbrella of engineering in various places these days if you want to go that path.

Depending upon where you are then you may also have to do courses to be certain flavours of trades (or indeed even think about touching things they would if various bodies have their way) -- usually electrician and anybody playing with gas but plenty of others depending upon where you are. Those are still quite often day release and apprenticeship schemes (not that I am a fan of them for various reasons).
 

godreborn

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Ultimately I think it depends on location? The American colleges I honestly feel like are just money pits. For instance, I could go to school for four years. Walk out with a Bachelors degree in some type of Computer Science or Networking. I'd have spent upwards of $50k for this degree. Or, I can spend a fraction of that and go for a few certificates and gain the same knowledge in possibly less time.

I'm going back to school now, but only because my wife works for the local community college and I get the classes for free. Books and materials I pay for out of pocket.

If she wasn't, I'd be going for my CompTIA and other certifications.

It's a shame, but I feel college is only for validation. Like, you get a piece of paper proving you learned something that some of us could learn elsewhere for much, much cheaper. This does not apply to certain fields, like medical or legal. Honestly, I'm not sure if there are alternative programs for those.
I was able to get out of paying for my degree. it was around $12,000 after scholarships and grants. the only way to get out of it is if you're disabled. you have to fill out a small form, then have your doctor fill out the rest. it's much easier to get this than actual disability. they monitor you for 3 years though, and you can't go back to college and get grants from the federal government. I filled out that fafsa thing to get it originally. was paying about $120/month for several years (not sure how much left I had to pay). my uncle has a doctorate and pays over $800/month.

edit: I was unable to make more than around $1,084 or so/month during those three years in order to get waived on paying for my college. not sure if I can make anything now, but it's been at least two years since then.
 

chrisrlink

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I'm a college graduate, but I don't think I really needed it. I'm very good at teaching myself stuff without any help and through reading and testing. Though, I will say that college does help with this sort of thing, it helps people learn to think for themselves, to question things.
you don't learn all (or forget some) of your college like that question you asked the other day about making a symbolic link in linux? I helped and yet I flunked college 3 times and flushed quite a bit of money down the toilet and yet without a piece of paper you can't get a decent job now a days, that's the very sad part
 

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As someone who was a college dropout let me tell you something that might blow your minds. Most of the time when a job opening has overly specific requirements for college degrees over experience, most of the time the people that put these out have absolutely zero information on how these positions work and the actual skill needed as well as the acquirement of such knowledge. Thinking a piece of paper would be more valid and simple of a means to prove your worth than actual showing of skill from experience and self learning.

I remember once reading an opening for a programmer that one of the requirements was +5 years experience with a type of code that was not even 3 years old yet. The type of people that put that shit out there are managers or HR folk that have no idea on what they are actually looking for, or how to go about it. If anyone needs proof of education its these people that run their companies looking for qualifications that simply do not exist or are far beyond the standard of the job detail/payout.
 

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yet without a piece of paper you can't get a decent job now a days, that's the very sad part
Two things.
1) Even with a bit of paper you can struggle. See the whole worthless degrees thing/devaluation of degrees, and even the traditionally "safe" thing of STEM is not sure fire (I and those I came up with appeared freshly minted on the engineering scene in 2008, I got to watch the crash happen live on US TV too*, was not a good time and I only had UK concerns rather than US style loans).

*still remember the news peeps saying "we are not in a recession". I know they have to tell the lies but lies is lies, also why when they say inflation is not happening this time it is even more evident.

2) Plenty of jobs in the trades don't need a bit of paper. Some appear to be trying to go that way under the guise of "it is dangerous" (dubious everywhere else I have seen it, and I will spare my rant about electricals in the UK once more as I don't need more evidence against me when NICEIC ironically have an electrical fault burn them to the ground) but hey.
Income for them can be quite considerable.
Also what I am seeing people get paid to learn to operate CNC machines these days (drills, mills, lathes and whatnot but controlled by computer to do things a master might never manage, and all in a fraction of the time), never mind actually rocking up with skills, puts you north of a lot of degrees and without the millstone of all that debt around your neck.
I also mentioned certificates in computing as well, though I suppose that is technically piece of paper.
 

godreborn

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you don't learn all (or forget some) of your college like that question you asked the other day about making a symbolic link in linux? I helped and yet I flunked college 3 times and flushed quite a bit of money down the toilet and yet without a piece of paper you can't get a decent job now a days, that's the very sad part
that's kinda hurtful. I didn't go to school for linux or even computers. my first major was Japanese, even studied abroad at Shinshu via OSU during that time, but then I transferred to OU, where there was no Japanese major. OSU didn't really have one either, so I changed to Chinese for a year, but then I got sick (why I'm on disability), so I had to finish my last year from home. I wasn't diagnosed with my condition until about 6 years later, so it's been a very painful memory for me.
 

chrisrlink

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that's kinda hurtful. I didn't go to school for linux or even computers. my first major was Japanese, even studied abroad at Shinshu via OSU during that time, but then I transferred to OU, where there was no Japanese major. OSU didn't really have one either, so I changed to Chinese for a year, but then I got sick (why I'm on disability), so I had to finish my last year from home. I wasn't diagnosed with my condition until about 6 years later, so it's been a very painful memory for me.
sorry it came out the wrong way i guess what i mean in a nutshell some very intelligent people flunked college like both steve jobs and bill gates and they both became successful but the fact remains those types are too far between college education is too far reliant by employers as a gauge of contempancy for a job and not raw natural talent as another route for success
 
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godreborn

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sorry it came out the wrong way i guess what i mean in a nutshell some very intelligent people flunked college like both steve jobs and bill gates and they both became successful but the fact remains those types are too far between college education is too far reliant by employers as a gauge of contempancy for a job and not raw natural talent as another route for success
I actually skipped over 2 levels of Japanese by taking tests, one was at OU, and that was based on studying on my own.
 
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