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Self Study or College, Which Is Better?
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Here is the question: can you study all the subjects that you are passionate about through self study (by using the internet and textbooks) and still learn more than someone who goes to college for the same purpose?

Consider both sides of the debate. Forking over $40,000 and 4 years of your life to college gives you something that you can hang on your wall, a certificate that both you and your employers can be sure off.

But what happens after you get your foot in through the door? Job descriptions change at such a rapid pace that what you learned after 4 years of college education may become obsolete in a heart beat!

What happens when your employer shifts your focus away from a task that you learned in college (like writing test cases) to a task for which you have no formal education like (analyzing and documenting business requirements)

Or what would you do when technology shifts emphasis from one platform like Mainframe Programming to another like Web Programming ... would one go back to college and spend another 2 to 4 years and $20K to $40K on another college degree like a Masters or a Doctoral Degree?

However you look at it, there are not too many options for learning or studying new information after college ... You may:

  • Self study or learn from scratch using textbooks and the internet ...

  • You may enroll for another College Degree ...

  • Or enroll in a training program.

In this post, I will only compare the pros and cons of self study compared to more college education.

How to self study or learn anything by yourself

Studying by yourself may work if you enjoy reading or if you are the kind of person that is not afraid of a challenge.

Self study is far cheaper than paying your way through college but at the same time it may require some form of external support or coaching just like a college education requires the external support of a university and college professors.

The first thing that you have to do is to create, get or buy a study / learning curriculum.

How To Study Using a Curriculum

The curriculum you get should be comprehensive and it should cover all the topics that you need to study in the right sequence or order.

In other words your self study curriculum should differentiate between beginner, intermediate or advanced level topics.

You can only create a curriculum after you have created a list of topics that you need to study or concepts that you need to master.

How To Create Study Lists of Textbooks and Internet Articles

Next research the study textbooks and internet articles that complement the topics or lessons listed in the curriculum.

Most of the topics listed on your curriculum will be covered by multiple textbooks or internet articles.

You are going to be doing a lot of personal study and you must get used to the idea of spending a lot of evening me on bookstores like Barnes & Noble or

However, do not expect that any one textbook, website or article will supply all the information you need.

When I was building my skills as an Information Technology consultant, I would visit Borders Bookstore at least once a week and spend up to $200 at any one single visit which means that I could spend up to thousands of dollars per year on study textbook alone!

How To Learn By Doing

Arrange for additional handson activities, quizzes or assignments that you can participate in to verify all that you have been learning.

Self study needs the presence of an online community which is a community of users, studying similar topics.

Your community is a forum or group that you can bounce questions against, answer the questions that they ask, discuss ideas with solve or troubleshoot problems with, exchange study lists (list of textbooks and articles), job interview questions, etc.

You will also need the help of coaches, group moderators or group sponsors who can help you answer the bigger questions or keep motivated just like a top performing, world class athlete needs a personal coach or trainer or help them get the best out of their abilities.

How To Get A Formal Education?

Alternatively, you may enroll for more formal education in college. Keep in mind that a college education may set you back by tens of thousands of dollars.

Evaluate your background

You also need to evaluate if you qualify, because getting the right prerequisites or educational profile for an advanced college degree like a masters or a doctorate may set you back a few months depending on whether you have the right background.

Do you have the right background or prerequisites

How will you manage the schedule?

Time is also something that you have to factor in. Before you finish 2 to 4 years getting a Masters or a Doctoral Degree, your job or your company may not be there and you may be left with an expensive education but without a job to match.

Scheduling may also be a pain. Some colleges may require that you attend classes during official working hours meaning that you have to choose between your job and your education or even have both suffer.

Also keep in mind, that Some colleges may be inaccessible to you because of their location or you will have to relocate before you can actually finish or complete the enrollment / degree requirements.

The best thing about a college degree is that you will have a certificate that you can hangup on your wall and say, I went to Princeton, Yale, Harvard or whatever school that is and you can feel really proud of your accomplishment!

How Does Self Study Compare To A College Education?

Here are some answers to this question ...

  1. A college education is important because it allows the employer an objective assessment of your capabilities and skills. For that reason, you need to have at least a bachelor's degree.

  2. Your first college degree will help you get your foot in through the door, but when it comes to keeping up to the demands of a fast paced, constantly changing workplace, you must learn how to advance your skills through self study

If you need more coaching, help or guidance with choosing self study or a formal education, let me know by posting your comment or feedback on this post and I will be glad to help you!


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