One of the great things about living in New York City (as I tell anyone who will listen) is that everything is convenient and available. Feel like having an apple while on your way to the park? Walk into any deli or better yet, buy one from one of the many fruit vendors. You don’t have to drive to a grocery store and wait in line, which almost no one would do for a single piece of fruit.
Music, museums, films, parks? It’s all here. It is at most a subway ride away. Even nature is close at hand. 20 minutes on the Hudson River Line and you’re in the middle of the forest. 40 minutes on the D Train brings you to the beach. A 15 minute walk and you can watch the red-tailed hawks in Riverside Park hunt their prey.
More and more, access to any information is a bit like living in NYC. Everything is available at the click of a button. You no longer have to enroll in a college or university to be privy to courses once only available to a privileged few. Self-directed learning is very “on trend” and it is only a matter of time before companies and organizations realize that a diploma is no longer the gold standard of learning; in fact, it might be more affecting to see a portfolio from someone who didn’t attend traditional school or college but who instead went the self-directed route, pursuing their learning on their own through all the means available.
What is more impressive? Someone who has studied foreign affairs or someone who has traveled the world on a shoestring, volunteering and learning culture & politics first hand? Is it more impressive to have wealthy parents who foot the bill for four years or to take courses that interest you online for free while building your own internet business or writing your first book and using crowdsourcing to fund it? (Just as an example.)
Is it more impressive to have a degree in Finance or to have experience buying and selling real estate? Or maybe, again, starting a business with $100 and bringing that experience to the table?
I know what my answer would be.
As for academic courses, you can learn just about anything from renowned professors at sites like coursera.org or brush up on your math skills at the Kahn Academy. MIT offers a slough of free courses online, as does OpenCulture. Some of the Coursera classes provide college credits or certificates of completion.
Who’s to stop you from putting together your own “degree”? Who’s to stop you from going out and learning through experience? Who’s to stop you from doing both and making money along the way?