Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Billionaire Pays Kids to Drop Out of College and Pursue Projects

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel, otherwise known as the man who co-founded PayPal, has caused quite the controversy by awarding grants of $100,000 to promising youth hopefuls by encouraging them to drop out of college and pursue entrepreneurial projects. Thiel's College Drop out Plan is something he started because many bright young students with really great ideas and aspirations who may not fall into obvious categories, fail in college because, for whatever reason, these students haven't gotten the essential guidance they needed to identify their passions early on. Thiel finds it insulting that the trillions of dollars in student debt hasn't helped these kids find jobs, and he says some of the bright ones would be better off opting out of the whole university system altogether. You can see why Thiel is raising some blood pressures. This is an interesting conversation, but I believe we need to change the timeline when we start to encourage our youth to pursue individual projects. Thiel is bold to give these youth a kick start on their dreams, however, I don't believe that encouraging kids to drop out of college sends a good message. Couldn't he have award the money to begin a nationwide high school project program?

In isolated cases, I agree with Thiel-- some of these young minds are discouraged in a streamlined environment. Look at Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. College was not exactly doing it for them. And with $100,000 a youth with some drive can get going on a great idea without having to punch their time card in college. But I say- back up a little. On second thought, back up much more... to high school. There lies the answer. This is where incentive should be born.

Our student's unique qualities need to be honed much sooner. We have misguided youth with great grades and test scores who go to great colleges, yet they don't spend the time learning about themselves and seeing what makes them tick. Then they go to college still not knowing what career interests them, and they often major in areas that don't lead to jobs.

Identifying career interests must be born in high school-- then this whole mess of brilliant square pegs, floundering in college with student debt and broken spirits, can be avoided almost entirely.

If students are given the right kind of guidance- as in- a mentor or counselor who helps identify their area of interest early on, and the students start their projects freshman year in high school, they will take on the entrepreneurial spirit while advocating and marketing their ideas. By the time they reach college (and often times the project has helped them into the right college), they will be much more focused on their personal goals. They have already learned about themselves and decided what works best for them. They will be in the right major in college- one that fits their unique vision for the world. They may take on other projects or start businesses within their interests. This will, in turn, land them their first job. Already in full force, these young entrepreneurs will be so engaged in their career interests, that they will be more than ready for the real world after graduation. Some will go to grad school, and some will be already making money to pay off their college loans.

Our high school students have a challenge at their raw, influential age. They must be able to keep their chins level enough to be able to look straight into a mirror while their body jumps, swerves and ducks over and under a social and economical obstacle course of this turbulent time.

And they are the ones with the energy to do it.

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