Saturday, January 19, 2013

What About College?

I’ve been asked some variation on “are you going to college?” more times than I can count, and I don’t generally give a more elaborate answer than “no.” Occasionally, when pressed, I say that what I want to be doing (cooking!) doesn’t require a degree. Or that I’m doing more interesting things (to me) than going to school. But when I was asked that question online recently, I finally wrote a response that explains in more detail why I’m not going to university*, and that response has been re-worked into this post. You can also find this article posted over at Cooperative Catalyst.

So, am I ever going to go to university?

I don’t like to say never, because lots of things change, but I definitely can’t see myself going to university full time or for a degree in the foreseeable future. I’m sort of vaguely considering just taking a class or two sometime in the next year, or maybe, possibly, going to culinary school at some point, but I haven’t really made any decisions on either of those possibilities yet.

Why don’t I want to go?

As for why I don’t plan on going to university full-time, I have many reasons. A list of bullet-point reasons, even.

  • There is nothing I want to be doing right now as a job or “career” or whatever that would require a degree, so the only reason (and this is a good reason to go to university for many people!) would be for pure enjoyment/learning purposes, which leads me to…
  • I’m not very into more academic subjects, as a rule. Most of the things I enjoy doing tend to be really tactile and immediate. I like cooking and gardening and having one-on-one conversations. Sure, I like reading about feminism and social justice and radical education. Hell, a major focus of my life for a few years was reading and talking and writing about unschooling! But I sort of feel that what I really want and need to be doing in my life right now is just that: doing, not studying.
  • I don’t enjoy learning-for-the-sake-of-learning (and having said that I swear I can almost hear a horrified gasp from lots of people in my unschooling community). For me to enjoy and take in information or learn a skill well, it has to feel genuinely important and relevant in my life and/or the lives of the people close to me, my community, etc. I’m very happily reading through a large book on fermentation (Sandor Ellix Katz is awesome) because I want to be fermenting more foods and beverages. I’m going to pick up a really awesome looking book (The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer) on wild edibles soon, because I want to be foraging a lot more with my sister come spring. Social justice issues, radical politics, and radical sustainability are important because I want to be a good person, act in as kind and non-oppressive a way as possible, live in a genuinely sustainable way, etc. University has always seemed to me to be so incredibly removed from the rest of the world, and I really don’t want that, or think that that removal is generally a healthy thing.
  • I hate how inaccessible academia is. Both the price, though that is at least less of an issue where I am than many other places**, but also the very language and culture of universities and academia. Though I’ve seen and been bothered by this on multiple occasions, a specific instance that stands out to me was one time when I was at a talk, and this one dude just started bringing up objections and questions in the most ridiculously academic language you can imagine, and referencing books and authors I’d never heard of. As the conversation between the speaker (an academic herself) and the audience member continued, I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about. And I say this as someone who is generally read as well educated (by people unaware of my being an unschooler, since then of course folks start to think otherwise), a native English speaker, and someone usually considered skilled with words. It just hit me very profoundly that if this seemed inaccessible to me, how much more inaccessible is it to so very many other people? It just doesn’t sit right with me.
  • Also, when I think of being in classrooms for some four years or more, I feel like I’d be trapped. I’m literally mildly horrified at the idea. It does not sound appealing at all.

There are more personal reasons, and there are far more nuanced critiques of the institution of university to be found out there. But from my perspective, those things are a very good overview of why I have no plans or desire to go to university.

Really, there are so many more interesting (to me) things I want to be doing right now in my life, things that are relevant and exciting and hands-on. No classrooms needed.

*I say university not “college” because here in Quebec, college (also known as CEGEP) is a between high school and university thing, and is not synonymous with university.

**In Quebec the average tuition per year is $2,519 (source:


  1. hi!
    im a teenage homeschooler, and i've kind of been looking for some good blogs to read
    just wanted to say hi!


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hello, my name is Natalia Radic (this is my boyfriend's email address, I do not have a yahoo account). I am a junior studying journalism at Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism.

    I have always been interested in the concept of unschooling and would like to explore the topic for a class assignment. I am looking for any unschoolers that are open to sharing their experiences with me for the purposes of my article. I pass no judgement and will handle your personal and private information with sensitivity.

    My objective is to inform readers about unschooling and refute any negative stereotypes, especially those portrayed in the well-known Good Morning America segment that passed bias to viewers.

    If you'd like to be interviewed, my phone number is 440)665-4145 or you may email me at

    Thank you.

  4. Hi Idzie! I m pleased to see that you know what you want-and that you are clear enough in your head to refuse the obvious path if it doesn't suit you at present. My 17 year old is off to uni this fall- because that is where she wants to be.My 15 year old says 'no uni for me. I want to be an actor." My 14 year old wants to 'get on with it' and plans to travel asap. The thing is to follow the path with heart.

  5. Yes thank you thank you thank you! Why is "what about college" the question people keep asking. College today seems like the only goal people have for their children.It comes second to happiness which I believe should be every parents dream for their children. Whatever happiness means... I was put through school for 12 years, and I have decided to unschool myself for college. I created a blog dedicated to the things I'm doing for my educational college age. I'd be happy if you checked it out.

    1. College used to be equated with happiness, I think. When it was free or very cheap, people could afford to just be in the moment and be a knowledge sponge for a few years. Things are very different now, and it's a pressure cooker of performance and debt. :-(

  6. Izie - so nice to meet you! I think that you are very prudent to carefully weigh the ROI on a college education and you are not alone; you are actually in very good company. Just recently watched a 2 day "Personal MBA" class on creativeLIVE with Josh Kaufman, who also opted not to go to graduate school. Reading + Mentors + ACTION is an amazing formula to create a life you love and contribute to the greater community. ps. the creativeLIVE classes are free is you watch them live. pps. would be better if your donate button opened a new page on a seperate tab or window - it was a bit if effort back to your blog.

  7. Learning is like swimming - you don't need to swim to live but it sure comes in handy if you need to swim to save your life. I have been brought up by educated parents - a medical doctor and a university teacher. I have also gone through the education system in several countries: the Czech Republic, France, the USA and Canada. In my opinion, I have benefited from each education system and would not do it any other way. J'ai également passé toute ma carrière comme traducteur de l'anglais au français. Je vous invite à jeter un coup d'oeil sur mon blogue:
    Please do visit my blog to find out what places education took me to.

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  9. Hello! I am a mother of three who aren't even old enough for a typical public school yet, but I cant help but wonder what will happen if they decide to go to college. We live in Indiana in the U.S. near a lot of universities, and when I look on their websites for information about how homeschool students go about applying and what information they need to apply for the university, it says even homeschoolers must provide transcripts, their coursework and grades. Obviously an unschooler does not have these things, so I'm not sure how they would go about applying if they didn't have all the information they needed. Does that mean they couldn't go to college without a transcript with all the information of their schooling in it?? Do you even know the answer to these questions? Lol! I'm desperate for more information.

  10. Very interesting and timely post. My 16.5y.o., unschooled son is passionate about a field that doesn't require a college degree. He has taken community college classes, and sees this route (2 year degree leading to a 4 year degree) as off-track for his goals. I'm coming around to his point of view. Agree about the inaccessibility of academia. It wasn't like that in the 80s when I went to college.

  11. I find that information is more available than ever, but it's just not generally approved by the masses. What I mean is that you can learn accounting via YouTube videos but most employers and even some colleges won't recognize that you've learned anything. I do worry as a homeschooling mom about college. I want them to dual enrollment if there are courses that interested them. Right now I don't unschool. It's pretty flexible, but I have a set list of things we go over before I let them do whatever they like. I'm curious about how the foundation of education is taught through unschooling. Things like reading and math. How do unschoolers have accountability and ensure retention? I like the idea, but the details are a bit fuzzy to me. Hence why I'm here. Haha