Some of today’s smartest students aren’t even “students.”
Inspired by the likes of Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs, students are now dropping out of school early to pursue careers. But, these aren’t the students who struggle academically or can’t make ends meet financially. These are Ivy League students at the top of their respective classes, according to The New York Times.
This is a new – and unusual – trend in education. To students, the choice is simple: take a chance, drop out, learn more, earn income and possibly advance their careers faster. Do you really need to go to college to learn French?
Mostly science and technology fields are leading this trend and offering students positions that are much different than internships. Most college students perform internships while in college. However, very few create solar panels or build computer software. And that’s just what these students are doing.
Peter Thiel – a 44-year-old billionaire, best described as an eccentric freethinker – started this initiative a few years ago. When Thiel started recruiting and hiring younger students, his terms were pretty simple. He offered $50,000 annual salary for two years under one condition: you promise not to go to college, unless he approves the class. That much money could buy you many years of ACT tutoring or any other outside academic assistance you might want.
Sounds great, right? But, getting a Thiel Fellowship is actually more difficult than getting into Harvard. The program only takes about 20 students each year, and you have to pass through 15-20 layers of reviewers. In its short history, the program has only accepted 44 fellows, most of which came straight from high school or were home schooled.
The Thiel Fellowship attracts unique students, ones who have a propensity for learning with an aversion to education. It’s openly anti-education…and that’s an understatement. It dismisses all value of education, claiming students only learn by doing. They may have a point that students learn better by skipping school and jumping right into fields, but not everyone is convinced.
Some educators think this is a costly experiment. Sure, the next great innovations could come from this class, as kids create computer software, gaming software, and engineer energy sources. But, what if they don’t? If they fail, are they unemployed, do they go back to school, what are their options?
The Thiel Program is still far too new to actually measure success. Some students may be able to go back to college and earn a traditional degree. But, they might not want to. And the Ivy League schools they passed on might be more interested in a student straight out of high school than one 4-5 years later.
But, these young people have access to all the resources, assistance and money they need for their projects. Still, it’s a bunch of young brilliant minds with profitable ideas and big dreams. It’s a gamble. It gives them a chance, perhaps the best change they’ll ever have, but that’s all it gives.
A college degree from an elite school gives more than a chance; it gives as close to a promise as one can get.