To College or Not to College: What to do When $100,000 is on the Line

College is not always the best option for everyone. We often hear this, and for most people, it brings to mind someone who will do better learning a trade or skill. However, Taylor Wilson is an exception to this standard. At 18, he has already built a working reactor and plans to build nuclear fusion reactors. Here’s the kicker: he doesn’t plan on going to college and he’s received a $100,000 grant not to do so.
“I’ve got some technology that will really change the world, so college right now is not the best option for me,” Wilson said.
The grant Wilson received is called the Thiel Fellowship, created by Peter Thiel for individuals under 20 years old. Thiel is an investor in Silicon Valley who thinks that students shouldn’t be pursuing an expensive university education, but should instead be learning about and developing breakthrough technologies. Thiel seems to think that by encouraging students not to go to college he will inadvertently also be lowering the unemployment rate and amount of student debt that face many 20-somethings.

“You increasingly have people who are graduating from college, not being able to get good jobs, moving back home with their parents,” he said. “I think there’s a surprising openness to the idea that something’s gone badly wrong and needs to be fixed.”
So how does a Thiel fellow maintain his funding? Surprisingly, it seems pretty easy. The fellows must meet four times each year to discuss the projects they are working on and to listen to speakers. However, they are allowed to work on their own, seeking the advice of an assigned mentor when needed. There are no strings attached to the fellowship either.
It sounds like a pretty good deal, but not everyone who receives the scholarship succeeds. Take John Burnham, for example. Burnham ventured into several different business opportunities, all of which were unsuccessful. Now, he is out of funding and does not know exactly what he will do next.
“It’s been really eye-opening for me to realize that just because you have a big idea doesn’t mean that’s all it’s going to take to make something happen,” Burnham said.
So, is it better to take the more traditional route of going to college, or is it wiser to skip college and try to make it without a formal education? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
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5 Surprising Celebrity College Dropouts
America’s 10 Most Expensive Colleges

Source: The New York Times
Image via BusinessWeek