Hacking Your Education

I enrolled in Hendrix College, an elite private liberal arts college, with high hopes. Any idealism I had about university was quickly squashed. For the most part, people weren’t there to learn; they were there to party for four years and, if they rolled into class without a hangover, to learn

Or, instead of taking on debt, consider going to a university in Finland, where all higher education is free, even for international students.

Unschoolers differed from homeschoolers in several distinct ways. They didn’t replicate school at home. To learn geometry they didn’t just sit down with worksheets—instead, they made a quilt. They didn’t take standardized tests and receive arbitrary grades. Instead, they learned to write self-evaluations.

I knew we weren’t the smartest or the best. I had this suspicion that we were the cowards of our class—the brownnosers, the grade mongers, the play-by-the-rulers, the approval seekers. We had hustled for As, submitted to the system, and were too spineless to rock the boat. I was surrounded by a ghetto of my peers even more isolated than I was in high school.

Unschooling is an educational philosophy that values learning over schooling. It’s just one part of the broader hackademic movement in which people value accomplishments over grades. Over and over again the hackademics I interviewed for this book emphasized that their grades don’t matter. What matters far more is what you do in the real world. As one put it, “You need to stop giving a shit about grades and start building things.”

Consider these questions a moment: Would you date yourself? Would you be in your own band? Would you trust yourself? Would you hire yourself? Would you invite yourself to your party? Would you recommend yourself?

an extremely difficult test that was originally written for eighth graders. The students praised for their effort worked diligently on the test. The students praised for intelligence gave up easily. They knew they were making mistakes, and they didn’t want to face the reality of failure.

3. Identify three areas where you consider yourself untalented and commit to giving them another try. Think you’re too skinny to swim? Try it again. This time, don’t decide to fail before you even try.

Don’t ask yourself why you should try something new, ask yourself why you shouldn’t.

Here’s how to get started: 1. If you don’t already have a blog, create one. You can create a blog for free using Blogger (www.blogspot.com) or WordPress (www.wordpress.com). 2. Deciding what to write about can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t be. Love dogs? Write about dogs. Are you gluten free? Write about your experiences. Interested in media? Write about the inaccuracies you see on television. The exact topic of what you write about is irrelevant; it just needs to be something that is truly interesting to you because you’re going to be writing about it a lot. And, if you write about it well, you’ll be surprised at the connections and opportunities you’ll make. 3. Find an editing buddy with whom you can exchange writing. Let her give you feedback and vice versa. She should be able to help catch typos in your blog posts. Unedited blog posts just look unprofessional. 4. Set writing goals for yourself. At least five hundred words per day is a good start. Set a goal of publishing your writing two to three times per week. 5. Publish your writing to your blog and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Ask your friends for feedback. 6. For specific advice on how to become a better writer, see www .uncollege.org/writing. We’ve compiled a list of the best online resources to help you learn to write clearly and effectively.

having Burger King threaten to sue him because he created a website that automatically generated sandwich coupon codes.

“If you want to find a mentor,” Laura said to me, “you’ve got to email the leading lights in the field that you’re interested in. Don’t bother working your way up from the bottom. Go straight to the top. People will respond. Unless you take that first step, no one is going to hand you an opportunity.”

(www.52cups .tumblr.com).

Megan couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if she made it a habit to meet new people.

1. Invite someone you don’t know very well to have coffee. During your conversation, explain that you’re taking one person to coffee every week for a year. Ask him whom else you should meet.

2. Invite three to eight friends over for one hour to learn a new skill. If you’re feeling audacious, make the learning group public at E-180 (www.e-180.com) or Skillshare (www.skillshare.com).

If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library. —FRANK ZAPPA