The College Education I wish I had

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m pretty disappointed with the majority of my college classes over the past few years. I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on creating a sample curriculum that I wish I had in college; after all, what’s the point in complaining without coming up with an alternative?

In high school I was home-schooled & attended a technical center in conjunction with taking college classes, so my past educational experience wasn’t “the norm.” I’ll be borrowing certain elements from my past, simply because they worked for me!

While I’ll be the first to admit that this curriculum is not for everyone (in fact, it’s only for a small set of self-learners); my purpose is to challenge assumptions and create a simple learning framework for a fraction of the cost of a college degree.

 

 The Pillars

There are certain aspects of college that are great for one’s development. Constant interaction, freedom from parents, and on-campus activities are just a few of the opportunities available. I’ve narrowed down a college education into three distinct pillars listed below:

Core

I classify “core” as the study of concepts tailored towards general learning. These are the classes that may not be directly related to one’s major, yet are “important” for the overall development of the student.

Application

In a typical college environment, “application” consists of labs, internships, and practical learning opportunities. This is where students learn the intangibles – the stuff that really matters at the workplace.

Personal Development

I view personal development as the activities that aren’t work related, yet still have enormous value. For example, networking, participating in on-campus events, and volunteering are a few of the activities that college students can participate in.

 

The Curriculum

The specifics of the curriculum are geared towards someone with a interest in marketing, yet desires to learn the technical aspects of programming, design, and business in general. Naturally this outline follows my own personal interests. If that isn’t you, feel free to disregard specific books/tools, yet please try to view the next paragraphs from a high-level perspective.

 

Requirements*

  1. Throughout the curriculum, the student is required to blog a few times/week on their own personal website. Personal branding is important, and blogging forces the student to develop effective writing habits at the same time.
  2. The student must have a mentor (or two). Ideally, the mentor is who the student aspires to be in 10+ years.
  3. The student must have a Twitter, Github, & LinkedIn profile (more personal branding).

 

Year 1

The first year is centered around developing good habits, and encouraging students to experiment and find certain areas they are passionate about. For me, it’s education, marketing, and user aquisition.

Core

  • Read 1 business book/week, and blog 2x about what you learned. I’ve created a Google spreadsheet with some book ideas, many of which I have read and recommend)
  • Read 1 book/month unrelated to area of study (philosophy, religion, psychology, cooking, fitness, etc)
  • Watch Mixergy videos & take notes. (There are so many hidden gems, the student should probably get a pro account)

Application

  • Work through Treehouse video tutorials. Follow the roadmap outlined in the course ($25/month). Begin working on something that scratches your own itch (app, website, business idea)
  • Enroll in Udacity (Intro to Computer Science is a good place to start)
  • Push Code to Github

Personal Development

  • Volunteer at least 4 hours/week. Life isn’t about making money – it’s important to balance it all.
  • Meetup with someone new every week. Yes, this is networking, but view this “task” as an opportunity to learn – focus on developing relationships, not contacts.
  • Do physical activities at least 3x/week. Keep your body healthy!

 

Year 2

In the second year, the student focuses on getting out of their comfort zone and interacting with others (potential customers, business partners, etc)

Core

  • Continue to read 1 business book/week, and blog 2x about what you learned.
  • Read 1 book/month unrelated to area of study. Blog 1x/week about key learnings.

Application

  • Get outside the building” and start talking to potential customers for a business idea.
  • Take another Udacity course (or Software Engineering for SaaS if interested in Rails app development)
  • Go door-to-door, and sell something ridiculous (Overpriced Children’s Dictionary for example). It’s important to deal with rejection, and iterate quickly to learn.
  • Push code to Github

Personal Development

  • Teach for at least 4 hours/week. Volunteer at a local school or after-school organization. The best way to learn is to teach.
  • Meetup with someone new every week.
  • Do physical activities at least 3x/week. 

 

Year 3

The goal of the third year is to learn the nuances of working inside a company structure (and with colleagues).

Core

  • Continue to read 1 business book/2 weeks, and blog 2x about what you learned.
  • Read 1 book/month unrelated to area of study. Blog 1x/week about key learnings.
  • Read the Kissmetrics Marketing Guides

Application

  • Find a job with an opportunity to learn and start working with others. If you can’t find a job, create one, or volunteer for a local company that needs some help.
  • Ramp up your learning with Codeschool & Peepcode.
  • Push code to Github
  • Write a white-paper on a subject of your choice.
  • Learn SEO from SEOMoz and Distilled

Personal Development

  • Teach for at least 4 hours/week. (If you’re looking for a challenge, teach senior citizens how to use technology)
  • Meetup with someone new every week.
  • Play a competitive sport (Soccer, basketball, softball, etc)

 

Year 4

The fourth year is focused on having fun, networking, and finding a job that you enjoy (or starting a company).

Core

  • Continue to read 1 business book/2 weeks, and blog 2x about what you learned.
  • Read 1 book/month unrelated to area of study. Blog 1x/week about key learnings.

Application

  • Travel (i.e – backpack Europe). Traveling leads to new experiences, which stimulates creativity.
  • While traveling, email/tweet companies for a tour. I’ve visited many startup offices simply by asking them if I could stop and visit.
  • Push code to Github

Personal Development

  • Live in the middle of nowhere for a week (in other words, disconnect from the world & technology)
  • Try to learn a language (Spanish, French, you get the point…)

 

I would love to hear your thoughts, feel free to talk to me on Twitter.

  • Andrew Nielsen

    I’m starting a book on this very subject. I’d love to have a couple of your experiences included with your permission. We share many of the same ideas and interests. I look forward to continue reading your stuff. Keep up the good work….I like your articles!