hen you graduate high school, the expectation is for you to start college immediately. Most are taught that to be an adult, you need to go to college. You've likely been told that it's the only option you have. Phrases like ‘You'll never get a job without a degree’ and ‘It's simply unprofessional' come to mind. What people don't know is that if you have the capability to follow your dreams, and you pursue them in a unique way, you can accomplish anything. 

Many people become super successful without ever attending college. Think of: celebrities, musicians, and artists. For the average person, it seems unattainable. But, it's more common than you think. When you are networking for a job, the thing that matters is what connections you have with people, not only where you got your diploma from. If your goals don’t align with a degree in the first place, it’s not smart to go to college to accumulate student loan debt. 

When you drop out of college or shift your career path, it's easy to get overwhelmed or lose hope. Everyone's definition of success is different so try to find what works best for you. Listen to yourself and your needs and wants, and don't do something unless you truly want to. Here are some tips on how to become successful without a college degree. 

Books like Atomic Habits by James Clear are influential to many. A comprehensive guide to change your habits by a minimum of 1% every day, it makes self-improvement appear less daunting. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Read Self Help Books 

It might sound cliché, but self-help books have changed my life. It's an easy way to get advice directly from people who have become successful because of their many talents. Or, they introduce a new way of living that might shift your horizons entirely. They offer so much hope, often focusing on ‘good’ habits in a society that preys on our ‘bad’ ones. They are books that really make you think about yourself, and how to improve small aspects in your day-to-day life. Self help books almost force you to reflect on things you might not have thought about before, and over time, you start to see the results of that change. 

Books like The Four Agreements and Atomic Habits emphasize changing the way you look at your failures. Realize that your failures aren’t a reflection of who you are, but where you can improve. By focusing on yourself, you’re able to also attend to your goals. Thinking about your failures as a lesson learned can propel you toward the right direction. Most people want to forget about our mistakes rather than rehash what happened. By not being too hard on yourself, you can review your mistakes in a healthy way and as a mere roadblock to your goals. By releasing forms of instant gratification and embracing our faults, you can be well on the road to become successful, no matter your background. 

Learn From Others’ Success Stories 

Everyone has heard of big names in the business, entertainment, and tech worlds who have made it big without getting their college diplomas. Think of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg (even though I don’t like him), Steve Jobs, Alicia Keys, Quincy Jones and the list goes on. By listening to their stories and trying to apply them to your own skills and life, you might be able to reach for the moon. Not everyone is going to achieve overnight superstardom. That might not be on your agenda, anyway. Don’t compare your situation to others and be kind to yourself, because everyone’s circumstances are different. 

Most of these people took some sort of risk before making it big. Some moved to a whole new city without any plan whatsoever. Some had plans but they didn’t work out. You have to be flexible and willing to think up a plan to succeed. If you fail, it's hard to see how your situation can prove. But by surrounding yourself with a good support system, no matter if they are family or not, you'll be able to achieve the life you want to live.

Not only is journaling good for planning, but it's beneficial for improving your mental health. When you're not making a plan in your journal, try to write down some of your personal thoughts and reflections. Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Make Up A Plan 

Writing down your goals and a plan of action will be extremely helpful in pursuing success. Create a moodboard, or keep a journal with your thoughts and reflections about your goals. Even if your goal is simply to move out of your hometown and to start over, making up a plan is your best course of action. Make lists, create connections, find a roommate, scour the internet for jobs, doing anything and you’ll achieve your goals eventually. 

Different situations can affect how hopeful you are when drawing up your plan but I suggest making multiple plans. Make your dream plan first. The plan that might seem far-fetched but would be ultimately what you want. Then, make another plan that could be more easily obtainable, but still requires a bit of a reach or it might be a little scary to pursue. Even just getting out your plan and putting it down somewhere will make it easier for you to envision it happening. Get it out of your brain and into the world because you won't regret at least trying to visualize your life.

30% of Americans have a financial plan that includes savings, and more than two-thirds of Americans have less than $1,000 saved up. Penny pinching is difficult when you don’t have support or your home life, lack of high pay, or other personal situations make it difficult to save. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Save Up if You Can 

It can be difficult to set aside funds in your budget, and many Americans struggle with saving money due to their circumstances. However, a lot of people have side gigs to get themselves through rough patches in life. Think of picking up a second job or monetizing one of your side hobbies to create some extra income. If you have the ability to save up, you should start sooner rather than later. When unexpected costs swarm your wallet, you'll be thankful for the extra cash. But if you're planning on moving somewhere and then saving up for a down payment on an apartment or car, it can make a huge difference.

Try to implement your savings plan with the rest of your dream plan. If you're someone who doesn't receive much financial support, your dream plan can be hindered by the lack of assets. It can be hard to envision a life that you can't afford but I believe in pushing yourself to see the impossible. Not that your dreams are impossible, but it might feel that way given whatever circumstances you're currently in. It's a lot of work to get to your goals, but ultimately it can be worth it.

Be Willing to Put in the Work 

As I've mentioned before, it's not an easy task to become successful. Sometimes you'll need to sacrifice little things that otherwise would have made you happy to work toward the future. I'm not saying to never have fun or to neglect your relationships and personal health, but it's not easy. The capitalistic society in which we live will always value capital gains over people. If you're like me, an artist who is attempting to make their way in the world, it can feel really intimidating. A lot of people dismiss art and creative pursuits as a pipe dream. To that I say they could be right. But you'll never know unless you try, because otherwise you're going to live your life full of regret. You may lose things along the way, you might hit a point where you are quite literally at rock bottom, but you have to keep going.

Be realistic, but also hopeful. There will always be people who want to tell you how and what to do, and you should just take it with a grain of salt. Some people receive a college degree and can't get a job anyway, so try to break the stigma that you need to go to college to become successful. A piece of paper isn't going to grant you more freedom all the time, so by finding what works for you, it’ll make you more successful than forcing yourself to do something you don't want to. 

Oct 28, 2021