TL;DR: “Effective Dropouts” is meant to be a casual fun excuse for reminding people that dropping out of a degree can be a good decision, as a counter to all the existing pressure for degrees being the default/only/obvious way. The rest of the post is mostly a joke.
We strive to have the values of Effective Altruism plus the inverse of the values of universities.
Who can join
Anyone who drops out of a degree.
But, having the inverse of university values, we are not strict about our criteria. For example, one of our founders, Yonatan, didn’t drop out of a degree, but he can join anyway. He’s also writing these lines right now by the way.
What can joining provide?
You can, if you want, join as a co-author of this post and change it however you want. Universities would tell you what to do. We would just open a new “organization” if we don’t like what you did with ours.
Ah, and also moral support, and if things go really well, we might have stickers.
Do we know anything about university?
Yeah, one of the co-founders, Vorathep, is Head of Coaching at Effective Thesis and used to have his own coaching company targeted at university students. Vorathep is a PhD student right now, but thinks dropping out can happen at any level, so don't lose hope!
What about the other cofounder(s)?
Yonatan visited his friend in university for one day to see what all the fuss is about, after which he convinced his friend to quit. This was a pretty productive day overall, and Yonatan wonders if this means he should actually start going regularly.
Gavin is a weird choice for a co-founder because he has 4 degrees, but this too is aligned with our values.
Jonny dropped out of his law degree and regards it as one of the best decisions he's ever made. He's now a programmer and strong proponent of not doing things just because your parents think they're a good idea.
Do we think everyone should drop out?
We’ll be politically correct and say “only some people”.
Saying “here is the path everyone should go” is against our values. We encourage people to consider their own specific situation, and maybe tell us more about it.
Are we giving a balanced view of both sides?
No, but unlike universities, we are not pretending to give a balanced view, so we think it’s more fair.
What do we recommend doing instead of university?
Well, if you’re going to university in order to get accepted to some company, X, then as a naive suggestion, try getting accepted to X right now. Maybe it will just work? Unless you plan, for example, on working in a nuclear power plant, in which case please get the appropriate training first, whatever they say it is, university or otherwise. Or actually, apply and if you don’t get accepted, ask for feedback on what to learn, why not?
Homer getting some on-the-job training. Might not be ideal for this specific line of work.
What about all the useful courses there are in university?
Looking at the useful courses is what we call “glass half full thinking”. We try encouraging “glass half empty thinking”. What about all the un-useful courses?
Or more to the point, can you do the useful courses online?
But university will help open more doors, no?
Yeah, it will help in a non-zero amount, but we think this is the wrong question.
We like asking “will it help more than the alternative”.
Did you consider any alternative?
As a naive example, “doing a Udemy course will get me a job in X time, and doing a degree will get me a job in Y time”.
We call this “thinking outside the box”, where in this case the box is university.
We also think about this from the Effective Altruism values. We prefer not asking “will this donation help anything”.
we prefer asking “will it help more than the alternative”.
Yep, I just made that into a title because I wanted to.
But university teaches the basics, no?
University teaches things that they brand as “the basics”. It’s a marketing trick that went too well, I have no idea who thought of it, but I want to hire them.
So what are
the basics the things to know?
Here’s a useful rule of thumb: If you want to be good at X, do something as close as possible to X, and get feedback.
Is the thing you want to do similar to what you’re doing in university?
We would tell you the answer to this, but “appeal to [our] authority” would be against our values, so maybe ask someone who is doing the thing you want to do, plus maybe has a degree?
Call to action
- Share your story in the comments. What did you learn? Where do you work? What would you advise your younger self?
- Ask questions, are you trying to make a career decision? Would you like people to comment publicly and for others to correct advice that seems wrong? In universities this advice is done behind closed doors, so we thought we’d do it differently
- Help us design a logo so that we can print stickers
- Suggest more ways we can live by our values, undermine our authority, and cause chaos