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You Are Not Mark Zuckerberg, So Stay In School 438

Posted by timothy
from the sure-beats-death dept.
theodp writes "Over at TechCrunch, Vivek Wadhwa offers some don't-be-a-fool-stay-in-school advice to students that sounds a bit like an old-school Mr. T PSA. TechCrunch CEO Michael Arrington's questioning of whether students need to get any degree or go to college at all may sound appealing — dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates did do alright for themselves — but Wadhwa gives some good reasons why you should probably take the school-is-for-chumps argument with a grain of salt. 'The harsh reality,' warns Wadhwa, is that for every Zuckerberg, there are a thousand who drop out of college and fail,' and many big companies won't even consider hiring you for that fallback job without a degree. And, believe it or not, you can still become a tech billionaire later in life even if you're cursed with a PhD." Tech entrepreneur Michael Robertson approaches this question slightly differently; here's an analysis he made a few years ago, with the conclusion that the college investment pays off only about half the time.
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You Are Not Mark Zuckerberg, So Stay In School

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  • It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by papasui (567265) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:17AM (#33702384) Homepage
    I'm not an unethical thief who would thinks nothing of stealing from friends.
    • Re:It's true (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:32AM (#33702450)
      Hey even Zuckerberg needed to go to school to find people to steal ideas from, right?
  • Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot@nosPAm.jawtheshark.com> on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:19AM (#33702392) Homepage Journal

    The harsh reality is that for every Zuckerberg, there are a thousand who drop out of college and fail

    When I get into discussions about this topic with (young) people and they think they can play the "Bill Gates" trump card (For some odd reason, they think I should admire the man since I'm "into computers"), this is exactly what I tell them. It's just plain common sense.

    If you can't or won't get a college degree, go into plumbing, carpenting or another trade. They are highly undervalued "socially", but I know many of those who make much more money than I do with my computer science degree and cushy admin job. Of course, you won't get "rich" in the "rockstar rich" sense, but if the goal is to make a good living, those jobs are very good choices.

    • As an electrician, one can make (under ideal circumstances) around $40/hr. As long ago as 1999 (not sure how true this is 10 years on) I heard that a *nix admin could make as much as $80/hr (under ideal circumstances).

      • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Aladrin (926209) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:31AM (#33702442)

        Actually, as either, you -can- make hundreds of dollars per hour. Most don't, though. Discussing what you can make is pointless. Find some statistics about how much the average person makes and that's a lot more meaningful.

        • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ezzzD55J (697465) <slashdot5@scum.org> on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:34AM (#33702464) Homepage
          if you wanna get that tough, talk median, not mean ;)
          • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

            by aurispector (530273) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @10:23AM (#33703058)

            Meh, that's just splitting hairs. How many IT people are getting outsourced to India? Vs. how many plumbers? Perhaps job security is less important these days than career security.

            The big issue here is entrepreneurship - having an idea and turning it into a successful business. People seriously underestimate the value of entrepreneurship. Formal education is, well, too formal to foster a can-do sense of entrepreneurship. It's too much about connecting the dots, painting by numbers, checking off the boxes, following a previously existing program structure. It's the difference between doing what someone else is telling you to do versus forging your own path.

            Starting and running a business, especially in a new field, requires an unusual amount of initiative and savvy. I can't think of any PhD program that's designed to foster entrepreneurship and initiative. You don't even need to be an innovator - it's about DRIVE. Gates never really innovated, at best he just used existing ideas, but he saw how things could be molded into a successful business.

            Smart people are more likely than stupid people to earn a degree, land a job, start a business, recognize an opportunity. But regardless of intelligence, if you just sit there waiting for opportunity to fall into your lap you're going to be waiting a long time.

            • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

              by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:05AM (#33703312) Journal

              But you are missing the most important ingredient....being a ruthless bastard. What do Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg have in common? Being ruthless bastards. Jobs screwed Woz out of money back when they were selling to Atari, and to this day has no problem dropping his lawyer army and those that piss him off, Gates played nice with both Jobs and IBM until he could get what he wanted from them then fucked them over with Windows, as well as ripping off Spyglass for IE, and of course Zuckerberg and his infamous "dumb fucks" screwing his friends privacy.

              So I'd say if you are really gonna shoot for being a Gates or Jobs you have to not only have a sense of entrepreneurship, but also being willing to fuck over your own momma to get ahead. It is being a truly ruthless bastard that makes the great ones, because as Jack Tramiel said "Business is war".

              • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

                by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @03:51PM (#33704968) Journal

                But you are missing the most important ingredient....being a ruthless bastard.

                I'm pretty sure that's not the most important ingredient. If that were the most important ingredient, I know a lot of people who would be rich right now. It only seems common in famous rich people because it's common in everybody. A lot of homeless people will steal a dollar from their mate, too.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by AJWM (19027)

                  It only seems common in famous rich people because it's common in everybody. A lot of homeless people will steal a dollar from their mate, too.

                  But statistically, higher IQ (we're talking better than Mensa level, not dime-a-dozen IQs of 120 or so) tends to correlate with higher ethical standards, more sense of "fair play". To become a Gates you need to be an anomaly that has both a high IQ and low ethical standards.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Meh, that's just splitting hairs. How many IT people are getting outsourced to India? Vs. how many plumbers? Perhaps job security is less important these days than career security.

              That is such utter crap. I've been hearing the same crap about how IT people are getting outsourced to India for the last 15 years. People who care or worry about being outsourced should ask themselves whether they have the skills (or inclination to get the skills) that make them irreplaceable or nearly irreplaceable. "Cookie cutter" programmers and tech support are replaceable. High-tech specialists are not. Your career security is your skills and in your ability and drive to stay ahead.

              I for one I'm ha

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Unlike IT jobs, that will invariably be outsourced overseas, skilled traders will always be in demand where ever you are. Locally, both plumbers and electricians want around $100/hour for smaller jobs. In twenty years time, there'll be less tradies and more demand. Guess which way their rates will be going? In 20 years, how many of today's programmers will still be considered employable for the few jobs not being done in China, India and Pakistan?

        • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Surt (22457) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:30AM (#33703464) Homepage Journal

          Plumbers and electricians struggle to find 40 hours of work per week where I live. I was curious about how their incomes compared to mine, and the last couple guys I worked with said they typically had about 25 billable hours of work in 50 hours on the job. The rest was driving from place to place and other forms of non-billable time. So $100/hr for actual work doesn't translate into the same salary as someone who is paid that rate for a 40/hr job.

          I used to get paid 65/hr as a software contractor. But I billed 60 hours a week. Care to guess who made more that year, me or the $100/hr plumber?

      • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by couchslug (175151) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:24AM (#33702686)

        The electrician has a portable skill that CAN'T BE OUTSOURCED, is convertible to similar skills with minimum training, and complements other trade skills.

        You can barter skills with other tradeshumans to enhance your living space, shop, or trade for vehicle work/parts. Plenty of opportunity to human network for side money.

        You can be self-contained, with all your gear fitting in a truck or trailer.

        Electricians are like auto mechanics. They may not get rich, but I've not seen one starve.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mikael_j (106439)

          Actually, the electrician can be outsourced, just not offshored.

          This is happening in more and more fields, as a worker you and a whole bunch of others are employed by Company A which only pays you for the hours you work, the customer uses Company B which in turn has a contract with Company A for n man-hours of work available per week. The customer pays less, Company B doesn't pay as much per hour worked and Company A has a reason to exist. Of course, you as a worker for Company A are living without any job

        • by hedwards (940851)
          You're right it can't be outsourced, it could if not for the IBEW have to compete with imported talent. That's already a problem in the IT industry and nursing as well.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DesScorp (410532)

        As an electrician, one can make (under ideal circumstances) around $40/hr. As long ago as 1999 (not sure how true this is 10 years on) I heard that a *nix admin could make as much as $80/hr (under ideal circumstances).

        You can thank the Internet for that change. Before the net came, IT was a highly profitable field, where all that specialized knowledge could make you a lot of money. But now you can find some guy in India or the Philipines with similar knowledge, and since all IT runs on the Internet now, he'll do that work for you at a fraction of a cost. All of that helpful remote management software that SysAdmins thought was so great because it let them work from home? It also lets "Peggy" work from Bangalore or Manila

    • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kethinov (636034) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:27AM (#33702430) Homepage Journal

      When I get into discussions about this topic with (young) people and they think they can play the "Bill Gates" trump card (For some odd reason, they think I should admire the man since I'm "into computers"), this is exactly what I tell them. It's just plain common sense.

      You don't have to be a beat-the-odds tech celebrity to do well without a college education. When I interview people, their academic degrees play little to no role in my hiring decision. My primary considerations are their portfolio of work (professional or otherwise), how well they can demonstrate their skills during the interview, and how well I believe they would integrate with the team.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When I get into discussions about this topic with (young) people and they think they can play the "Bill Gates" trump card (For some odd reason, they think I should admire the man since I'm "into computers"), this is exactly what I tell them. It's just plain common sense.

        You don't have to be a beat-the-odds tech celebrity to do well without a college education. When I interview people, their academic degrees play little to no role in my hiring decision. My primary considerations are their portfolio of work (professional or otherwise), how well they can demonstrate their skills during the interview, and how well I believe they would integrate with the team.

        Problem is, they'd have to be lucky stumbling upon someone as you in an interview situation. Most companies require degrees when recruiting. Which also narrows down their opportunities to create a professional resume/portfolio of work, and proven team play ability, that would impress the people that are willing to look past missing degrees, a bit of a catch 22.

        • Re:Common sense (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Almost-Retired (637760) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:39AM (#33703510)

          Yes, I have run into that attitude in job interviews, and it sucks.

          But, I am one of those people who was a boy geek 4 decades before the name was invented. I have an 8th grade and a couple pieces of freshman in high school education, and at the time a rather severe food allergy that made attending and absorbing anything from school difficult at best. So at 14, I went out to fix tv's for a living. Then I found the food allergy and stopped drinking milk products for several years.

          School had taught me how to read phonetically, and I was pretty good at it and enjoyed it, gobbling up everything I could find on the electronics and physical subjects.

          Getting tired of consumer electronics, I switched to broadcasting in 1962 shortly after obtaining an FCC 1st Phone. Never slowing my reading, in 1972 I passed the C.E.T. exams, again without cracking a book specifically to study for it. The sign on my usually vacant (because I'm someplace else actually working) office door has usually said Chief Engineer since 1977.

          I retired in 2002 in my 67th year, or tried to, I still get odd jobs, from 18 years as the CE at a medium market station in West Virginia, I am blessed with having enough money to afford some hobbies and keep myself in things to do, although that is becoming limited because of type 2 diabetes, so the cold weather hunting and fishing sports are less enjoyable now, but I'm happy and I figure I've had a good ride as I look at my 76th birthday in about 10 days.

          Am I a millionaire?, hell no, but I do have money in the bank and I didn't have to screw a lot of people over to get here either, I simply gave them a job well done, keeping them making the money they willingly paid me some of.

          There is I believe, something to be said for honesty. I don't have any ulcers and I sleep as well as can be expected at my age.

          --
          Cheers, Gene
          "There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:
            soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order."
          -Ed Howdershelt (Author)
          Man's unique agony as a species consists in his perpetual conflict between
          the desire to stand out and the need to blend in.
                                          -- Sydney J. Harris

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by thegarbz (1787294)
        There should be more people like you. But one question, what do you do when hiring a graduate with no portfolio to speak of? Do you judge their suitability for the job by character alone and train them? Subquestion: are the people you are hiring the type of people who can be trained on the job?

        I ask because I know now that I've worked for a major international oil company for several years no one is ever going to be interested in what uni I went to or what my marks were, but they sure as hell were when I
      • by Misagon (1135)

        Yes, but you seem to be someone who has a clue, and in my experience, your kind of people are in minority among those who have the power to make hiring decisions.

        In many many cases, in both tiny and large corporations, hiring is done first by a HR department, outsourced to a headhunter, or by some boss who knows accounting very, but where neither type of person has any clue about what person they are supposed to hire except for the directions that were given to them.
        In my experience, it is not uncommon for

    • When I get into discussions about this topic with (young) people and they think they can play the "Bill Gates" trump card (For some odd reason, they think I should admire the man since I'm "into computers"), this is exactly what I tell them.

      With you spreading that kind of thinking around how will 'the chosen one' ever drop out of college and create SkyNet? Have you thought of that, huh??

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Rich parents helped Bill Gates more than college. Colour me unsurprised. If someone wants to be like Bill Gates and drop out and be successful, then they should first arrange to have billionaire parents.

      This can be somewhat difficult to do, since adoption is rather a buyers' market at that level...

    • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:18AM (#33702636) Journal
      The thing is, it's true that getting a degree is not the only route to getting somewhere, but it's a route to getting somewhere. So if you have a great business idea or a fantastic job opening available, by all means compare your options and judge accordingly. But don't do nothing and pretend to yourself that by not going to University you're automatically taking another route to success. All you're doing is giving up one route. You still need to find something else to do instead and unless you're Bill Gates or Richard Branson, maybe you wont.

      Know how to make money without a degree? Go do it. Sitting on your arse thinking a degree isn't vital to success so by not going to University you'll be a success? Bad logic.
    • I didn't spend a minute in college. I became a computer consultant right out of high school at 17, started my own consulting company at 20, sold it at 25 and started working for corporate America.

      Since then, I've risen to the highest ranks of IT (including CTO of a mid-sized publicly traded company).

      In my experience, smarts coupled with people skills and a strong work ethic will open just about any door for you regardless of degree or lack thereof. One of the biggest problems I see though are people g
    • Well, I would hardly compare myself to gates but I was on the 5 year plan in high school, didn't go to collage and I've been making 6 figures in this industry since my late 20s. Of course, I did some of the course material on my own, so not going to college wasn't in terms of "can't" but because I didn't want to - I took a few courses and the culture in collage is little better than that in high school, and in some cases worse and I just don't want to deal with it.

      The bottom line is that if you want to ma

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Actually the odds are even worse than you're making them out to be. Bill Gates would've never made it any kind of big had he not been able to tap his parents for a loan and contacts.
  • Cause and Effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lacoronus (1418813) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:23AM (#33702398)

    These dropouts dropped out because they were wildly successful. They didn't become wildly successful by dropping out.

    • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:28AM (#33702436)

      This is probably the best summary.

      If you've gone and already set up a company and are already quite profitable dropping out *at that point* to put more time and effort into making the business more successful can be fine.
      You learn most of the useful stuff in the first year or 2 of any CS degree anyway.

      Dropping out of college because "sure bill gates did ok" when you don't have any business or anything to build on isn't such a good idea.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by h4rm0ny (722443)

        You learn most of the useful stuff in the first year or 2 of any CS degree anyway.

        Interesting. For me. when I was at University I found the most useful stuff was in the last couple of years of my degree. The first year seemed to be easy stuff geared toward getting everybody up to the same position. Great for people who start a degree without a good foundation, but not so for those of us who spend the first year not having to think. Final year projects were where I really got some valuable experience and got to show off and work with a tutor on something a bit more challenging.

        • "For me. when I was at University I found the most useful stuff was in the last couple of years of my degree."

          It probably depends on your definition of "useful". Useful to know your trade and become a knowledgeful techie? Yeah, sure, your latter years are more valuable. Knowing enough about that "techie" stuff to become a bussinessman that hires techies? Probably you can save yourself the "petty details" from the advanced courses.

    • by dsginter (104154)

      These dropouts dropped out because they were wildly successful. They didn't become wildly successful by dropping out.

      Right. When I talk to people who are going down the Computer Science route, I tell them to stick with it and use the acquired skills to develop that next big thing.

      "If you graduate, then you have failed."

      Failed at making the next big thing. But, in doing so, have a wonderful plan b.

    • Re:Cause and Effect (Score:4, Interesting)

      by spasm (79260) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @02:09PM (#33704354) Homepage

      Amen. I dropped out of comp. sci. in 1989 because a side business I had modifying and making electronics for the handicapped started taking up enough of my time that I couldn't do both. Two years later, I was still barely scraping by, so I wound up the business and went back to university. 20 years later (ouch), I consider that two year stint running my own business to have been a crucial and valuable part of my education (even though I went on to get a PhD and now do completely unrelated research). If I'd burned my bridges in any way when I 'dropped out' of school, I would have been screwed. If you feel your business/idea are good enough, go for it, but always make a plan for what happens when the business doesn't pan out - statistically most first businesses don't.

  • by ZigiSamblak (745960) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:25AM (#33702400)
    There's only so many jobs for people with degrees. I dropped out of a multimedia design course over ten years ago. Then got into various jobs and ended up doing advanced technical support at a big company after 5 years of working there. A friend who had not dropped out after the first year and completed the degree could not find any steady employement in the designer field and ironically ended up doing lower paid technical support work through an outsourcing partner of the same company.

    In the past when less people went on to college a degree was more valuable and basically meant a well paid job for life, but the market has changed and many more people are getting degrees. It pays more to carefully consider your options, getting work experience may be better than years of study in many cases.
    • by Junta (36770) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:59AM (#33702556)

      Saturation has devalued the prospects of a degree, but not having a degree is in no way an advantage over having a degree. While a degree is further away from guaranteeing a job, not having a degree will guarantee that you cannot get certain jobs.

    • by iceperson (582205)
      You don't have to give up work experience to get a degree. I got an entry level position at a company that paid for my school. Took me longer to get the degree, but I did it and now when I see a job opening that requires a degree I don't have to cross it off my list.
    • by Kijori (897770)

      It's worth bearing in mind that the market is very different now compared to ten years ago. One result of so many people having degrees is that companies are able to take for granted that they can hire someone with a degree, which can make their selection process easier and save on training. The result is that it is more difficult to find a skilled job without a degree than it has been in the past.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285)
      A few quick points. First, on average there does appear to be a widening income disparity between those with less education and those with more, particularly a college degree. This may indicate the employers are willing to pay for a more educated workforce, even if the education has little to do with the job. My hypothesis is a college degree indicates an ability to problem solve and work without supervision.

      Second, getting a college degree to get a specific job is not necessarily the best thing to do.

  • College investment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zouden (232738) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:27AM (#33702422)

    college investment pays off only about half the time.

    Making it better than many other investments today.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:59AM (#33702562)
      I know, in the 21st century, everyone is supposed to be some sort of businessman, and we are supposed to seek returns on anything we spend money on. Really though, people (in theory) go to college to be educated, not just to get vocational training. If you want vocational training -- and there is nothing wrong with that -- then you should go to a trade school, get a 2 year degree, and wind up with the same job you would have had if you spent four years getting a bachelor's.

      The sooner the "college is an investment" crowd gets out of our universities, the better.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218)
        The problem is that people see college as "success" and a tech program as "failure". And I think we can lay the blame squarely on high school administration. For example, at my school if you wanted to do anything that would qualify as vocational training, you had to sacrifice upper level classes, in the mind of the high school admins, someone who would take advance chemistry, calculus or college English had no place learning a skill. And so it became associated with "oh, you can't do academics, here do this
  • Harsher Reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jaypifer (64463) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:32AM (#33702454)

    'The harsh reality,' warns Wadhwa, is that for every Zuckerberg, there are a thousand who drop out of college and fail,'

    The harsher reality is that there is another thousand that finishes college and still fails.

    • Define "fail" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:02AM (#33702572)
      Since when is "not being a billionaire" the definition of "failure?"
    • Harshest Reality (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:42AM (#33702800) Journal

      The harshest reality is that the jobs are leaving.

      The jobs of the CEO and his/her pals will be staying, of course.

      A university degree won't make you less expendable to a corpocracy that wants the cheapest workers. Unless you are willing to cost the same to the employer at 35 as you did at 25 (and use your benefits as little), your days are numbered.

      Code Poet, Rockstar Programmer, Unit-Test Guru, Meme Zealot, Jedi Knight of the Latest Methodology, or (what is likeliest) red-tunicked member of the Roddenberry Landing Crew or Storm Trooper cannon-fodder, the real masters of this game are the Bean Counters.

      The corpocracy has docile subjects. It has seen that it can lay people off without having to report it (IBM -- for years), take huge local tax breaks (which your family and community paid for) and then ship jobs overseas, and claim to be "a good citizen" while loudly claiming there are "insufficient numbers of skilled workers".

      Of course, you can take the Blue Pill and go back to your pasting your face into pictures of Gates and Zuckerberg. (o:

  • The better bet (Score:2, Redundant)

    So according to the summary dropping out pays off 1 out of 1000 times (that sounds high to me) and staying in college pays off 1 in 2 times ? I think its clear which is the better bet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by number17 (952777)
      I would also like to see the comparison in lifestyles of the 999 that dropped out and failed to the 1 that stayed in college and failed. For some reason I think those definitions of failed aren't the same.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jogreen68 (1909374)
      It is a safety net which makes sense, really in the grande scale of things and extra year in college should make little difference, it is such a small proportion of our lives. I learnt more in my first year in the real world than the 4 I spent in higher education.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:36AM (#33702470)

    Between successful entrepreneurs and people who never went to university at all. For instance, I founded my own business when I was 19, now paying myself a decent wage off it 4 years later - and I would say most of the business owners I know didn't go to university. In fact, three of them, including my uncle (now a millionaire) are ex-cons...but maybe that indicates a different correlation...

    I understand that this may well not be the norm - but I have seen many separate studies that indicate both of the following statements to be true:

    a) University is a waste of money for most people who go
    b) Not going to university will seriously limit your earning potential

    I guess the truth is probably somewhere in the middle...

    • Young people don't be fooled by the Education Lobby! I too started by business when I was 19 and quitted my first degree due to lack of time to do both Degree and Business. Later I took my degree on a fast track. But it's a bad a idea, it's a wast of money and TIME (very valuable). I would be much richer today If I just skiped university altogether. University degrees are for stupid people who can't study on their own. What you need is to read books (according to your specific needs) on your own.
      • by vadim_t (324782)

        Thing is both you and the grandparent had some sort of plan, and the ability to get it done.

        The vast majority of people pointing to Gates of Zuckenberg don't. Gates didn't get where he is by just pointing to "Einstein did badly at school" and then sitting on his butt. He did work, and lots of it. He got into Harvard and left it to found MS, not because he wasn't able to finish it. He also had a lot of luck in having rich lawyers for parents, which I'm sure helped with getting him access to hardware, and pro

        • by mikael_j (106439)

          Then there was the sheer luck with DOS.

          And here is the real kicker.

          Most "self-made men" aren't nearly as self-made as people like to believe. Most of them got lucky more than once in their lives in order to get where they are. That's not to say luck in itself is all it's about, just that skill, perseverance and having an idea with potential isn't enough. Luck plays in, if you have an idea a little too soon the world may not be ready for it, and if you're a little too late then it might not be different enough from something else to grab everyone

    • by zolltron (863074) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:46AM (#33702830)

      University is a waste of money for most people who go

      I hate these sorts of claims because they are absolute nonsense. How can you know if my university degree was a waste of money for me? Do you know how much I value the things I learned (both in and out of the classroom) at the university? No, of course not, because you don't know me. It's like looking at someone you've never met and saying that they were stupid to go eat at some particular restaurant.

      Usually, these sort of studies assume that the only reason anyone would go to college is to improve their lifetime earning potential and then compare the average change in earning to the cost of the university. While this is an important consideration, it shouldn't be the prevailing one, and more importantly it shouldn't be translated into the only potential thing of value that might come out of a university education. We are all not mindless money generating machines that simply wish to take the quickest route to a buck. Some of us want to enjoy the journey too.

      I am a far better person for my university education. Even if it cost me money in the long run, I'm happy I went.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Oligonicella (659917)
        "I am a far better person for my university education."

        Except of course, for the English courses.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kai5263499 (751741)

        It's like looking at someone you've never met and saying that they were stupid to go eat at some particular restaurant.

        Except, of course, if I know that you payed $100 for the same taco you knew full well you could get for $2 right down the street. Knowledge and personal development are not confined to universities, believe it or not they can be obtained elsewhere for a lot less money.

  • Plus parents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:36AM (#33702474)

    Gates is not a success from the gutter, his family was already loaded and well educated. Likewise with a lot of these successful "college dropouts". The reality is by being raised by well educated and financially sound people, you already have a big advantage, let alone when it comes to making early deals using the extended family network. Family networks work so well, you can be a military deserter and still become the president of a large and power country.

    • Trust fund baby (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:19AM (#33702652)
      Gates had a million dollar trust fund - he's a trust fund baby.

      Therefore, he could take obscene amounts of risk and never have to worry about ending up in the gutter or having bill collectors after him. And if you add in that his Dad is a high powered attorney ...

      Gates was a perfect storm of trust fund, brains, timing, and ambition.

      • Re:Trust fund baby (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @10:26AM (#33703072)

        And luck. Never forget luck.

        I am sad for all those people who live in a determinist universe where all that happens to you can be explained by hard work and ambition, modulated by the amount of money you started with.

        Fact, sometimes things happen to you, good and bad. Fact, these sometimes cannot be offset by any amount of brains and work.

        Which is why a civilised society recognises that and helps out those people that ran into an unexpected and impossible to plan for problem. Which is why also, the richer and more advanced society is, the more taxed should be extracted, because a more complex society means also that many more things can go awry, and need to be planned for collectively -- and because more taxes do not affect your lifestyle after you are rich enough.

        People saying "this is my money", "I refuse to pay for someone else lifestyle choice", "I provide for my family, why can't they?", are a problem, because they think that given the same circumstances another Bill Gates would happen. Therefore, they think that is they play their cards just right, they will become rich. And if they do become rich (this happens), they think it is purely due to them -- refusing even to acknowledge the importance of living in a society whose infrastructure allowed it. And if they become a significant minority, they will eventually destroy society.

  • No (Score:2, Interesting)

    If by "stay in school" they mean "stay in public school," then I'm going to have to decline their offer. Public schools are absolute trash. Too many useless classes (as in, something that some people may use, but others won't, due to their career choices) are mandatory, and they put far too much emphasis on worthless grades. It wouldn't be so bad if public schools merely granted you the resources needed to memorize information that will be important to you, provided a good teacher to help you when needed, a

    • I agree, and (don't take this the wrong way) i agree even from the perspective of someone from a country with a far superior public school system.
      The only useful things I learned in school were how to read, how to write, add, subtract, multiply, divide, and how to socialize (albiet poorly). Everything else was a complete waste of time and I could have learned it 100 times faster on my own if someone had just given me a bit of information on how to learn.
  • One factor I don't think is emphasized enough is the choice of major students select. With respect to Robertson's outlook, many liberal arts degrees are a waste of an investment. The odds of you landing a well-compensating job with one of those degrees is slim. On the other hand, if you pursue a technical degree the outlook is much brighter. Programmers, technicians, scientists, engineers, and other similar workers usually earn higher wages than what Robertson lists as his median.

    One additional subject I wo

  • Thank God (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696)
    Zuckerberg is a douchebag.
  • Ideals and reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:53AM (#33702540) Homepage

    Ideally, if you work hard, you will succeed. In reality, if you work hard, it will likely be for SOMEONE ELSE who will use your hard work for their success. This is why your boss drives a better car than you and has a bigger house while you do all the work.

    This is a simplistic picture but generally accurate.

    So what did we learn from this? If you want to "succeed" (whatever that means) then you have to be more like the people who are already succeeding. If you wish to study, then study those people and do what they have done. And if your conscience gets in your way, then you have two choices -- listen or don't listen. It's a decision you will have to live with either way.

    The things Bill Gates has done to the whole world are impressive by any definition. Some people would have a hard time doing that due to issues of conscience while others would have no problems at all. These others are classically identified as sociopaths. Statistics have born out that the most powerful people on the planet are sociopaths as they are willing to do what most people are not, for reasons of conscience. But fear not! There may be some hope for you.

    If you are one of those people who believe "if you are too stupid, ignorant or otherwise don't know what I know, then you deserve whatever happens to you" then you are already well on your way to being a sociopath. I know first hand, that there are a lot of people here on Slashdot who feel that way. (I'm sorry, but if you didn't know that truckload of explosives was heading your way while you were sleeping in your home, then you deserve whatever happens to you!)

    Personally, I decided long ago, I don't have what it takes to do what "successful" people do... or, as I see it, I have what stops me from doing what it takes. (I can't knowingly make people miserable and call it "just business" as many others seem to be able to do.) I have accepted it and I will just keep working every day, try to save some money and hope I die before I retire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by skyride (1436439)
      I read your comment thinking "what a dick", but then I reached the last paragraph, and I just feel sorry for you. By the sounds of it, you're so wrapped up in "being successful", that the fact you think you won't be just makes you miserable. The problem you have is that you directly equate "being successful" to "screwing people over". Its possible to do one without the other. I'm not of course saying you can become a multi-billionaire, but why would you want/need more money than you can possibly ever spend?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by erroneus (253617)

        Okay then, let's make a short list of counter-examples. What modern-day success exists today did so without screwing over a bunch of people in the process?

        What you are talking about in terms of running a small business is risky. It is risky because when Best Buy's Geek Squad, or any local large operator sees you as a threat, it won't be long before you are eliminated one way or another. Sometimes it's possible to operate "under the radar" but the fact that anyone would need to do so is clear indication t

        • by bfields (66644) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:32AM (#33703470) Homepage

          "What modern-day success exists today did so without screwing over a bunch of people in the process?"

          Most of the people I know?

          Unless you have some bizarre definition of success that doesn't include making a living, doing quality work, contributing to a community, raising healty children, doing things you enjoy, learning about things that interest you....

  • "... dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates did do alright for themselves ..."

    So from this limited sampling of two, we can conclude that dropouts do alright for themselves, but only by screwing everyone else over?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 26, 2010 @08:55AM (#33702548)

    The program I teach in usually has 100% of the graduates employed within six months of graduating. It takes three years. We're a community college so the tuition is quite low. Many of the students live at home with their parents, so they have cheap living expenses.

    The bottom line is that, for some college programs, the investment is pretty safe and pays off.

    Remember that the statistics for lifetime earnings take into account the History and English PhDs serving coffee at Starbucks. If you get a good job, your results are much better than average.

  • by Junta (36770) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:11AM (#33702612)

    First, I want to see *some* sort of check and balance on college expenses. Every examination of college prices over the past 30 years has shown horribly high growth relative to earning. Most things I read agree the problem was good intentions, making loans for education extremely safe, but has lead to colleges taking the blank checks, running up expenses through the roof, and the payback protections to lenders turning graduates practically into indentured servants, unable to escape that creditor no matter how little they have and even bankruptcy not being a way out. The answer is not insanely easy loans, there has got to be a better way.

    In terms of going with what's there, start with a community college. It's a total waste to piss away more money on the basics in the first two years of college. After a couple of years, go to a state college with a good co-op/intern program. Use the co-op program, do not simply take the classes and get out, get some professional experience on your resume and subsidize the extra cost of state college with your pay.

    Do *not* get too hung up on the prestige of one school versus another. At least when I look at resumes, professional experience matters most, low GPA can give me concerns, and which school figures prominently in the don't care area. One exception being I laugh at people with 'bachelor's' degrees from ripoff places like devry, phoenix, etc. I'd personally rather have someone without a degree than a sucker who fell for those places. However, I'm not allowed to entertain people without 4 year degrees by company policy, so unfortunately your chances of dropping out and making it within the rules of established company is nearly zero. All the examples of rich dropouts are those who were never 'hired' by anyone, but sold product and services directly to people who only look at the quality of the product and promise, not at their resume.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260)

      In terms of going with what's there, start with a community college. It's a total waste to piss away more money on the basics in the first two years of college. After a couple of years, go to a state college with a good co-op/intern program. Use the co-op program, do not simply take the classes and get out, get some professional experience on your resume and subsidize the extra cost of state college with your pay.

      Exactly. College is so often a poor investment simply because kids pour too much money into it. It's like whining that you lose money on your real estate investments when you pay 10 times what the property is worth.

      Going to an inexpensive school and working your way through school, paying the bills as you go in stead of racking up huge loans, will leave you not only with a degree and little or no debt, but it will also give you some valuable life experience and skills that your debt-ridden colleagues wi

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      First, I want to see *some* sort of check and balance on college expenses.

      I think this will be the next bubble to burst. A friend of mine is on the administrative staff at a local (smaller) college, and knows of the situation at others in the area, and she reports that they are out of money and they are living semester to semester on tuition checks. You don't usually see a college or university go bankrupt, but I think this will start happening more and more until tuition gets in line.

      Do *not* get too hung up on the prestige of one school versus another.

      There is something to be said for school brand. Some alumni are very clicky. I've met hiring man

  • I attended a 2-year technical school for a networking degree (plus another 1 yr. towards programming). Did it help? Hell yes, I learned a lot. Did the degree get me a job? Nope, but I came onboard with a technology company as in intern my last semester, and was hired full-time about 4 months later. I probably didn't need a degree for the job (but the school knowledge helps), but I sure wouldn't have been offered an internship with my employee either.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bill Gates is not a good example of the typical young person who drops out of college and strikes it rich. His family was upper middle class and had enough money to send him to a prestigious college prep school. You can bet that before he earned any money on his own, his computer interests were heavily subsidized by his family. He certainly got a head start in life that few of his generation never had. I'll bet that parental support was worth quite a few years of college.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @09:41AM (#33702780)

    Zoho also does not need any bachelor degree programmers. Zoho prefers to hire right out of high school.

    I think college degrees are only worthwhile for jobs that actually require the degree: doctors, nurses, lawyers, etc.

    I consider my own degrees (math, business, and comp. sci.) to be a complete waste of time, money, and effort.

    Here's the Zoho stroy:
    http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/07/01/208222/Zoho-Dont-Need-No-Stinking-PhD-Programmers?from=rss [slashdot.org]

  • by Misagon (1135) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @10:17AM (#33703008)

    I dropped out of college. Then after a short job, I found it quite getting a job that I thought that I was qualified for. Then a few years later, I went back to college to finish my degree in Computer Science.

    However, I did find that retaking courses at college was more difficult than the first time. Because the course schedule had changed, some courses I needed to take were at the same time as others, or changed to another semester. Therefore, I could not not complete my degree in the same amount of time than I would otherwise have done.

    After college, I found that the time gap was a big mark on my resume. I was dismissed as many times in the first iteration as when before I had gone back to college.

    There is also a lot of ageism. At least over here in Sweden, most recruiters want people who are ideally no older than 25, with a completed degree and exactly three years of experience, so that the company can put the guy to work directly, make work long hours, easily mold in the company's way of doing things ... and pay a lower wage.
    If you are over 30 and do not have much commercial work experience in the field, then you are practically no longer wanted. Even people over 40 with 15 years of work experience in IT are having problems finding work.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @12:36PM (#33703830) Homepage

    "Tech entrepreneur Michael Robertson approaches this question slightly differently; here's an analysis he made a few years ago, with the conclusion that the college investment pays off only about half the time."

    Robertson compares income for high school versus college graduates, and concludes that a better payoff would come from taking college tuition and investing in stocks (historical ~7% payoff versus 4% public college and 2% private). However, this overlooks things like the amount of effort put in to make that income.

    Take my case as an example: With my Master's degree I can teach college part time, make about the U.S. median income on 10 hours of work/week or so, live in New York, and devote most of my time to artistic pursuits. So my income doesn't look much higher, but it's because I've decided that I'm happy with a given level of income, and having satisfied that, don't need to work any more.

    Some data to flesh this out: Robertson concludes, over 40 years, graduates of high school make $1.2M, public college $1.8M [http://michaelrobertson.com/archive.php?minute_id=226]. U.S. Census bureau reports hours worked per day: graduate of high school 7.86, college 7.42 [http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0625.xls]. So median hourly salary is something like (assume 250 days worked per year) high school $15.30, college $24.11.

    U.S. median income is approximately $21,587/year [http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html]. How much do you have to work per year to make that level of income (assume 8 hour days, 5 days/week)? High school graduates 1,411 hours = 176 days = 35 weeks. College graduates 875 hours = 112 days = 22 weeks. The difference would be more stark if I had data on actual days worked per year (i.e., vacation time, etc.)

    I agree that income payoff is one factor that people should look at when considering college (along with things like self-fulfillment, reward of intellectual pursuits, networking potential, etc.) At some hyper-inflated level it definitely wouldn't be worth the risk, but I'm doubtful we're at that point yet. Perhaps more a important gauge is overall quality-of-life or satisfaction level (mine, for example, being exponentially higher than if I hadn't gone to college, even though my total income might actually be less).

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