(File pix) Mark Zuckerberg (right) and his wife Priscilla Chan. EPA Photo

THERE’S a hard truth you need to know right now, and it cannot wait. We’ve all heard about college dropouts who went on to achieve great success.

You know their names; Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs are among some of the most successful people with worldwide influence. They dropped out of college to pursue their dreams.

People romanticise the notion of the successful college dropout. It’s hard to refute the numbers at the outset. Why pay hundreds of thousands for a four-year college education when you can save time and get to work right away?

Here’s the thing; all the knowledge and skills have to come from somewhere, if not college.

Let’s get this point out of the way first because it’s the hardest pill to swallow. If you are thinking of dropping out of college and pursuing your dreams of starting a multi-million dollar company on your own, pulling up your bootstraps all by yourself is going to take a lot of work. In the case of Zuckerberg and Gates, it’s easy to forget that they dropped out of Harvard University, an Ivy League university and one of the best and most recognised in the world.

University wasn’t providing them with enough to meet their needs for what they wanted to do. In short, they are outliers who excelled far beyond what a higher education environment could have provided them at the time. Gates had access to opportunities at the right time. Jobs dropped out of college because of financial constraints but still found his time at Reed College valuable for what he went on to do.

An education is still important; it needs to come from somewhere. Either you get really lucky or you’re already brilliant and surpass what college can offer you. Unless you’re really confident of your luck and level of knowledge, don’t dropout, stay in school.

In the Journal of High Ability Studies, Jonathan Wai from Duke University and Heiner Rindermann from the University of Technology in Chemnitz, Germany, published a paper titled What Goes Into High Educational and Occupational Achievement?

Education, Brains, Hard Work, Networks, and Other Factors. It illustrates the many factors, including hard work, that go into high educational and occupational achievement. A study of 11,745 successful individuals from the United States included federal judges, senators, Fortune 500 chief executive officers and Forbes’ The World’s Most Powerful People. It found that 94 per cent of them have attended college with nearly over half of them at elite schools.

Two things of note from the study can work with or against my motion to advocate for pursuing higher education. The first is that the data illustrate that there may be a correlation between a college diploma and financial success, which is a plus point for getting an education.

Sadly, the other point to note is the fact that these people had the means to pursue an education and it’s likely quite a significant number of them were born into wealth which makes opportunities more easily accessible to them than someone who has to work three part-time jobs to survive. But both of these points illustrate another counterpoint that shoves another hard-to-swallow pill — you’ve gotto get really lucky to make it if you didn’t start out wealthy, albeit wealth and connections as a starting point are already a pot of good luck.

I am not saying it’s not possible to make it in the world without a college diploma.

This is my message — if you forgo the college route, you will have to make up for that education.

And it will be just as hard a road as any other towards success.

The famous painter Bob Ross said: “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practise, you can do.”

And it’s said that it takes 10,000 hours to get good at something. I believe it takes far more.

And congratulations, if you do enrol in college but you’re still going to have to work hard.

Regardless of your route, you must study your field as deeply as you possibly can, and it will require lots of hard work.

Be ready for it. I know you can do it.

Everything done right requires hard work.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and there is so much that goes into any field. You go to a horse breeder to breed a good horse because you trust that he is an expert in the field and will deliver.

Whichever road you take, study hard. I believe in you.


Emillio Daniel is an adventurous English and Creative Writing graduate from The University of Iowa in the United States. Email him at

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