Go to College, Skip the Degree.

Zach Snyder
7 min readJan 20, 2019

One of the best decisions I made in life was going to college and not graduating.

I know this sounds crazy, but I went to college for 4 years and didn’t get a degree.

Like most graduating high-schoolers I was looking forward to college. In fact, I was extremely excited for college. I’m a musician, so throughout middle school and high school I was super involved in everything music. My plans were to go to college, get a degree in music education, and become a music teacher.

Not only did I have this plan by the end of 6th grade, but I went to my dream college and started in the music education program — all on scholarship.

It was exactly what I had wanted.

Weirdly enough — life changed for me.

See the freedom in college, compared to high school, is that you can take so many different classes that were never offered in high school. I could take a class to learn how to play guitar, or I could take a computer class, or I could take Japanese and learn Japanese.

None of these were offered at my high school. That’s what was so beautiful about college — there’s so much freedom.

In high school, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher and so I felt like a lot of classes we’re just a complete waste of time. In college, everything had a purpose (well mostly everything.)

Every class I decided to take was my decision. I wasn’t even restricted to just my degree program and so while I started as a music education major, I also quickly began a Japanese studies major.

I went on to take tons of classes that I enjoyed and was interested in and slowly but surely, I started finding that graduating on time was going to be very difficult.

At this point, I should point out — If you want to get into a career, the easiest way is to go to college, follow a specific degree program, and graduate.

It’s fairly simple.

But me, being an extreme overachiever and having a ton of interests — I need a challenge. I needed culture. I needed new and exciting things.

Being a double major in Music Education and Japanese Studies was challenging enough, but no — I wanted more.

I didn’t just take a bunch of classes, but I was in a lot of different extracurricular activities. I was in clubs, I was in music ensembles, and I also made YouTube videos.

That last one is kind of important — YouTube videos.

See in high school, I started YouTube. Just like music, it started as just a hobby, but slowly and surely, I started enjoying it more and more.

When I went to college, it was YouTube videos that had to be put on hold.

In my Junior Year it got to the point where I was so busy — that I didn’t enjoy anything. Those fun and interesting classes were just chores waiting to be done. I couldn’t make any of my YouTube videos or write any music. Those extra curricular activities and those clubs — I just stopped going to. I had to drop down from leadership positions. Life sucked.

Here I was taking in so many interesting and exciting things, that I couldn’t even share it with the world.

So by the end of my Junior Year, I made a decision that changed my life. I decided that I would not graduate college.

This was for many reasons:

  1. I have chronic migraines and it was getting harder for me to go to classes.
  2. I was a double major and it was going to be tough to get all of those classes in, while also being involved with everything that I was involved in.
  3. Burnout.

If anything, I was burned out by college. I had spent so much time trying to do everything, that I ended up not wanting to do anything.

I even put aside the actual things I wanted to do with my career.

See, I didn’t mention it earlier, but becoming a music teacher became a fallback plan. Like I’d do it and I’d even enjoy it, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.

I wanted to write video game music and make interesting and creative videos on YouTube. I wanted to write books one day or make my own game.

I wanted to create.


College was actually stopping me from creating. Was it my own fault — absolutely. I tried to do too much at one time.

Do I regret it?

Nope. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

As soon as I decided that I wouldn’t graduate, things started to change for me.

At this moment I didn’t spend time doing things that I didn’t want to. (Well for the most part.)

I still did any kind of responsibilities that I had signed up for outside of classes. My fraternity was a priority. Playing trumpet in a couple of musical ensembles was a priority. Working my different jobs on campus was a priority. Going to classes (lol) well - no longer a priority.

Unless those classes were fun to go to.

My senior year was completely dedicated to making the most out of my college experience and making sure that I had a future doing what I wanted to do.

I no longer wanted to be a teacher. So instead of going to classes, I spent that extra time freelancing as a video editor.

I started making money, so that I could rent a place with some roommates after college was over.

I spent a lot of time with friends — people that I knew I wasn’t going to see for a very long time.

And I made a ton of YouTube videos.

College turned into a means to an end. I thought I needed a degree to succeed.

I was wrong.

Instead of using college as a way to get a job, I decided to use it as an escape from the real world. Not in a bad way, like some people do. I didn’t spend all my time partying. I didn’t spend all my time just chilling.

I used my time wisely, so that I could do what I wanted to do for my career.

But this is just my personal story: how can this benefit you?

If you want to be a teacher, or a lawyer, or a doctor, then obviously you need to graduate college.

But if you want to be a musician, or a filmmaker, or a content creator, or anything in the creative fields, then you don’t need a college degree.

Some people would say — “don’t go to college if you want to be a creative entrepreneur.”

But I say — go to college.

If you can do it without student loans, if you can do it on scholarship, then college is a world of opportunities.

Don’t skip all of your classes, but don’t make class a priority. Pass your classes so that you can go on to the next semester and spend your extra free time doing that creative passion of yours so that you can get a leg up in the real world.

If you want to be a creator you need to create.

Unfortunately, college as a creative person can suck the creativity out of you. As you’re focused on passing tests, turning in homework, and doing group projects, you’re not making the very thing that you want to be making.

Guess what?

A college degree won’t help you get a job as a filmmaker. What will help you get a job as a filmmaker is making films.

Don’t go in debt to go to college for four years and not graduate, but if you can go without paying a whole lot of money, then you’ll be able to do something that a lot of people won’t be able to do.

If you’re a musician you have an entire group of people to play music with. If you’re a filmmaker you have an entire group of people that you could ask to be in your movie. If you learn to freelance, while you’re in college, then you can get a work-study job at the library and technically make $20 or more an hour by doing that freelance work during your job.

I worked in the library and the chapel for my university for two years and I did more YouTube related and freelance related stuff during those jobs, than the actual jobs.

And I was good at my job.

I did everything I was supposed to (and more), but because it’s a work-study job I was given the opportunity to spend more time “studying” than working the actual job.

College is more than just a way to get a degree.

You can go out there and take classes that you’re interested in. Become a part of organizations you never would have had the chance to become a part of. Meet so many interesting and awesome people. Network.

When you’re not worrying about classes, you have so much free time that you can spend being a creator.

You don’t really have to worry about paying bills. You have a place to sleep and places to get food. It’s the perfect place for creators.

If I could start college all over again, I would utilize it as an incubator for my creative projects. I would do the bare minimum in classes, just so that I could spend more time creating.

At the end of the day — I would still go to school, but skip the degree.



Zach Snyder

📽️ Host of Your Everyday Nerd 📼 Freelance Video Editor 🎺 Musician Email: ZachSnyderProductions@gmail.com