5 Ways to Hack Your Education

"It's just that I don't think I'm getting very much real-world knowledge through my courses," he complained. He was studying an undergraduate business degree, while running a small business to support his university studies. And he was finding his university classes a bit lacking. "It's good information if I wanted to work in corporate I guess," he conceded, "but I don't want to work in corporate. I want to do my own thing." 

I recommended a leave of absence, and I'm pretty sure he'll end up dropping out of his bachelors degree. And I don't think this is a problem. If you know your goals, and it's not clear that university will support those goals, then university might not be the right place for you right now (I have very different advice for those in graduate school, you can read that here).

So what if, like this student, you don't feel like university is meeting your needs, but you still want to learn useful things? Maybe university feels too expensive, or the education isn't exactly what you're looking for, or maybe you have big things to do and university feels like it's going to take too long. Or maybe you've already done your university degree and you still feel like there's more you want to learn or practice? 

There are some very effective and helpful ways to get an education that don't involve university. Here are some highlights worth looking into:

1. Coursera and Udemy. Coursera offers free online MOOC courses offered through some of the world's best universities. Did I mention it's free? FREE. Udemy offers technical courses in almost any application you could find useful in the world of work today, many of them free as well. 

2. Koru . This innovative program focuses on providing a "business bootcamp" suite of skills for university graduates, including real-world project-based experience. The two-week programs jump start you into budding companies who need recent graduates. 

3. Code camps. Want to learn to code? Interested in learning other technical skills that might help you be an effective contributor to what the world needs? There are a TON of learn-to-code programs out there now, some with tuition, some for free, some just for women, some that offer a guaranteed job at the end of the course. Fast track your way to a computer engineering future through these short courses. See an amazingly comprehensive list here.

4. Entrepreneur accelerators. Have an idea for a business? Not sure where to start or how to move your tiny enterprise to a successful business future? Accelerator programs provide time and space and resources to focus on developing your entrepreneurship ideas while also providing supportive business education while you're at it. See some of the top accelerators here

5. Short courses. General Assembly offers short in-person courses and workshops on all kinds of topics that could be of interest to you, from blogging to finance and more. Professional associations in your area of interest also frequently offer workshops and short half-day or 1-day courses in topics that could be perfect for you. If you're concerned about cost, ask about whether there could be a discount for volunteering for the organization. 

Develop a Self-Study Plan, Get a Mentor 

There are lots of ways to learn. Books, apprenticeships, internships, courses online, workshops in person, auditing university courses, whatever you want to prepare for or learn, put together a study plan for yourself. Include the goal you want to achieve, and what you think you'll need to learn to get there. You can then design your own education to meet your needs, whether that includes university or not. Pitch your plan to a mentor who can help you get access to what you need to develop your skills, and you're on your way.