So you are faced with a choice between going to school or starting your life. What are the most effective alternatives to university? Ask yourself a few questions before you decide. Are you a school person to begin with? A professional procrastinator? Consider some of these alternatives to UWI or whatever campus you fancy before you make a final decision.
Travel the world
Take whatever cash you have and hop on a plane. Learn about other cultures. Backpacking around Europe or spending a year meditating in India are among the stereotypical images of wandering travelers. Even though this Trini is right now doing the backpack-around-Europe thing, try to move away from those well-traveled roads. Spend a few months in Moscow to learn about Russian culture. Live on an island in Southeast Asia, so you can see how that world compares to yours. Find a road untraveled and take it.
Start a business
Don’t worry about failing. Making mistakes is usually the best, sometimes the only, way to learn. Growth comes from trying, falling flat on your face and looking back to analyse and understand exactly why you fell flat on your face.
Steve Jobs, in a video interview from 1994, delineates the difference between the people who do things and the people who just dream about doing things. Listen to Jobs when he says, “You’ve got to act. You’ve got to be willing to fail. You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn.”
Get a job
Start making a bit of cash. Save most of it. Open a retirement fund as soon as you can and contribute at least 10 percent of your income, or, ideally, live frugally and save 50 percent of what you bring in. This can be one of the more lucrative alternatives to university.
Even if it is just a job waiting tables, do that for a few months and trail the managers as much as possible. See how they do their jobs and see if you want to do that. If not, learn as much as you can from the bosses that you have. Learn how to treat people with respect, especially those who are “below” you in the hierarchy.
Master a skill
Maybe you have always wanted to learn to draw. Or perfect your golf swing. Or get really good at cooking. Learn any skill that forces you to invest time, energy and willpower. You will be amazed at the gains you can make in a few months, but even more amazed at how much further you really need to go to master those skills.
Learning is a lifetime process. And it can happen anywhere, not just in school. Figure out how to make learning an essential part of your life and you will be more fulfilled than people who just bagged a bachelor’s degree to try to get hired.