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12 Great Ways How to be Successful Without College


You don’t always need a degree to get ahead. Wondering how to be successful without college? Thankfully, there are many ways to make it big. Here are some tips.

College can be an amazing experience and completing a degree can feel like the proudest moment of a person’s life. But the student experience isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t want to study full-time at a campus university, others don’t want to study at all. If you’re put off by the high fees that campus colleges ask for, or wondering how to have a good life without college, read on. The good news is that it’s still possible to be successful without a degree. Here are twelve great ways for how to be successful without college.

1. It’s never too early to start

Whether you’ve only just turned 18 and decided not to go to college, or you’ve hit 40 and realised it’s time for a change, it’s never too soon to start exploring new opportunities. For this, Google is your new best friend. Search for information on any new career you’re interested in — from learning a specific work-related skill, like coding, to reading up on how other non-graduates made it happen.

Even if you feel like you’re years away from being paid to do the thing you love — whether it’s being a business consultant or inventing a new app, you can benefit from starting now. Some businesses fly on their 23rd or 24th versions. You may not succeed the first time you take on a professional challenge. So start now and get the experience that will help you succeed when the time is right.

2. Consider careers that don’t need degrees

Wondering what the chances are of being successful without college? You will be happy to hear that many careers, like air-traffic controller, dental assistant, detective and even teacher offer the chance to train as you work, so you’re being paid to become an expert in the career you’ve chosen. Other professions don’t need degrees at all — think entrepreneur, start-up CEO, sports coach, stylist and many more.

Plus, even careers that were traditionally degree focused are now making themselves more accessible to other people: Publishing company Penguin Random House no longer requires a college degree for job applicants in the UK. The company hopes this will lead to a more diverse staff and, therefore, a more diverse book catalog.

“This is the starting point for our concerted action to make publishing far, far more inclusive than it has been to date,” Neil Morrison, the company’s human resources director, told the BBC. “We believe this is critical to our future — to publish the best books that appeal to readers everywhere, we need to have people from different backgrounds with different perspectives and a workforce that truly reflects today’s society.” Pursue one of these options and your decision not to go to college won’t be relevant anymore.

3. Learn how to sell and negotiate

Even at the highest level, many jobs in the commercial world revolve around a person’s ability to attract new business (selling) and negotiate better fees or payment for the products they are offering (negotiation). Even self-employed artists, musicians and entrepreneurs need to be brilliant at this game!

The good news is you don’t need a college degree to learn. You can start mastering these skills in the most simple ways — from listing unwanted clothes and old electronic goods on eBay, to setting up a pop-up shop at a vintage fair. And, if you need to re-sign a rental contract soon, whether it’s for your apartment, a car lease or an office space, use it as an opportunity to hone your negotiation skills by making an opening offer and seeing how the owner reacts.

Read up on the art of negotiation online and start putting your skills to the test soon. It’ll benefit you in every area of your career if you know how to negotiate a good deal in and out of the workplace.

4. Expand your network

Attend networking events in your city, join online webinars and hangouts, find key players on social media and follow them, but also interact with them. Become a well-known name on their social media feeds, use Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to build your own reputation. Before you know it you may be invited to conferences and social events, which are great places for you to increase your chances of success without college.

5. Find a mentor

If you find someone you really admire, ask them to be your mentor. They might only have time to meet once every three months for a coffee, but simply knowing they are looking out for you can motivate you to organise your time so you have new things to tell them when you do finally meet up. How to get them on board?

Offer them feedback on their latest venture for free — whether it’s an app or new product they need testing, or market research they need doing amongst people of your age group. Offer a skill-swap and you might find influential people want to work with — and help you.

6. Read

Many college courses require lots of reading. From textbooks to research papers to daily news from the professional world, you can do all this for free, without paying tuition fees or signing up to be part of a formal program. Get a library card and use your local municipal library to order the key books that you need to use, or search online.

A search of your specialist area of interest will throw up a reading list and there may even be second-hand books for sale in the bookstore on your local university campus, which you can visit without being a student.

Photo: Unsplash

7. Work hard

There’s no limit what you can achieve when you work hard. If you’re already in a job and it’s not boosting your career, try to reconfigure your responsibilities so it allows for more growth. Speak to your manager, explain you want to both earn money and develop a career at the same time. They may re-work your job title to keep you motivated. And if they don’t, look for a new role that allows more flexibility or growth.

If you can’t find satisfaction in your current role, don’t panic: take 30 minutes, 5 times per week and dedicate this time to self-development, whether that’s learning a new employable skill like touch-typing, learning a language, learning to code, or reworking your resume to make yourself seem more employable. Soon, this extra effort and hard work will pay off.

8. Leverage the power of the internet

From being a freelance writer or virtual PA, to becoming a social media influencer, many people are now making large amounts of money from working online, without any unique skills and certainly without college degrees. And many employers will invite you to online and real-life group training days and incentivize your work, so you have regular chances to meet other online colleagues, and reap rewards.

Source: Unsplash

9. Get a certification

An alternative to a degree program is a certificate program. Certificate programs are short-term training programs that often take less time than a degree – you can earn some certificates in as little time as a couple of months. They also tend to cost less money. Certificate programs can help you develop skills and experiences necessary for a particular job.

There are certificates for jobs in a variety of industries, including healthcare, administration, and IT, not to mention newer disciplines like social media management, SEO optimisation and copywriting, all of which are skills in demand in the modern, internet-based age.

10. On-the-job training

We all know someone that started from the bottom and worked their way up, like a hair stylist who started life washing hair for cash tips. The same applies in many business careers. Retail managers and consultants often began life on the shop floor; senior negotiators often started answering phones. Ask your current manager if there are any training courses you can sign up to, whilst still earning money from your current job. One or two evenings a week, or even one day per month, may be enough to help you learn new skills and gain new qualifications — both of which will push your salary up in time and give you a clearer sense of purpose.

11. Pursue your passion and become an expert in it

Do people listen to your restaurant and bar recommendations all the time? If so, think about starting a food blog to reach a wider audience. Are you obsessed with the Superbowl? Write about it daily on social media and become a respected voice in the conversation. Post a daily social media story on a topic linked to your passion and your follower count may increase; eventually you may be paid to run sponsored posts.

12. Try an online degree

If you have barriers to education, such as the time required to study, or the cost of a college degree, try an online degree program such as those offered by UoPeople, which allows you to study for a degree from home, tuition-free. Students learn in small online classes of approximately 25 students to make sure professors can focus on each student’s needs. Each UoPeople student is appointed a personal Program Advisor from the moment they begin their studies, who serves in that role until the student graduates.

The Program Advisor offers the student personalized support, answers any questions the student may have, discusses course selection, and encourages the student throughout their studies. This can all make the idea of studying for a degree more appealing, and more accessible — even if you never thought it would be possible for you.


It might feel risky not to get a college degree, but in 2019, there are many ways you can be very successful without college. And if ever you feel this isn’t enough, you can look into online degrees such as those offered by UoPeople, which may allow you to fill in your knowledge gap whilst still managing your own time and following your passions.