Do You Have to Go to College to Be Rich?

Burning the Midnight Oil

Burning the Midnight Oil

Oddly, the answer is no.

I have to breathe and close my eyes, take my time before this means something to me.  I have always been made to believe, I have always thought, that education is very, very important.

As a matter of fact, a lot of poor parents put this on top of their agenda.  They can be overheard telling their children: “Your education is the only inheritance that we can give to you.”  The unspoken plea: please graduate and take us out of this pitiable, desolate, godforsaken place.  So they sell their only cow, the grains, their time, sometimes their souls, just so their children can go to school.

But there is Bill Gates.

While at Harvard, Bill Gates developed a programming language, BASIC, for the first microcomputer.  In his junior year, he was seduced to leave college for good by his childhood friend Paul Allen.  Together, they founded Microsoft.  Both had a dream: the personal computer as a valuable tool in every office desktop and every home.  His dreams – their dreams – sans college – came true (grander than they imagined).

In one of his essays in Time Magazine on the Wright Brothers (inventor of the airplane), he said of the brothers: Their example reminds us that genius doesn’t have a pedigree, and that you don’t discover new worlds by plying safe, conventional waters. With 10 years of hindsight, even Orville Wright admitted that “I look with amazement upon our audacity in attempting flights with a new and untried machine.”

The audacity – to choose a different path, to work like hell, to dream.

There is also Li Ka-shing (started out selling plastic flowers, now Hongkong’s richest person), Sheldon Adelson (cab driver’s son now casino-hotel mogul), Larry Ellison (of NetSuite), Roman Abramovich (orphan turned oil magnate) and Henry Ford and Steve Jobs and Ralph Lauren and Michael Dell.

You can read their amazing stories at

They are all billionaires – all dropouts – but richer than those who have PhD and Masteral degrees who work and labor under them.

How is that – why is that?

Is it merely luck?

I have worshipped on the altar of formal education.  I did it again and again and again, law school being the most recent (and honestly, I do not think it will be my last).  I have flowered under its tutelage, sprouted proud feathers when I had good grades, spent many a lonely night because of bad grades (or bad recitation), and enjoyed the company of like-minded (kindred) friends, most I kept for life.  How I celebrated when I was able to go out of those halls alive – but yet, I see myself coming back again and again.  It was an opium – and it had its own kind of charm.

But now I am starting to think: Is there is another way?

One friend confided to me that her son does not want to go to college.  He does not show any inclination towards it, had really low grades in high school, does not know what he wants, is not interested.

She is panicking.

If I did not know then what I know now, I probably would have panicked too.

Because maybe, those who do not want to go to school should not be looked at as if they sprouted a horn, or a tail, or thought about as failures.  Maybe they should be set free and given time to get to know themselves and what it is they really want.  Sixteen (or eighteen), really, is such a young age for a big decision (the “rest of their lives” really is a big decision).  Maybe the suggestion that before going to college, young teens be allowed to take time off to work, earn, save, or apprentice at some office doing something that they are interested in makes a lot of sense, more sense than what we have been led to believe (finish school and you will make it).  Maybe this way they will know what to pursue, or if they need to pursue it through (expensive) formal college education, or some other way.  In the long run, it will save time, it will save money, it will save themselves.

Look at Bill Gates and the others, they made it.

What was it Kiyosaki said?  Education is what you learn after you leave school.

Just food for thought.

Be rich,


Article by Issa. Art by D. Copyright 2009.
Email: [email protected]

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  1. Mrs. Money says:

    I agree with the fact that you don’t have to go to college to be rich. I also think you don’t have to go to college to be successful. Everyone defines success differently, and to me a stay at home mom who loves what she’s doing is just as successful as a CEO of a company who earns millions a year. I guess I’m kind of a hippie in that regard. 😉 I’d rather be happy and comfortable than rich and miserable. 🙂

  2. Issa says:

    @Mrs. Money I agree. Success should not be measured by how much education one got but what he did with that education (whether from school or from the school of hard knocks). Congratulations to you, and to all mothers who love doing what it is they are born to do 🙂

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