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#4 Ways to Be a Smart Entrepreneur Without Going to College In 2017, student loan debt became the second highest consumer debt category worldwide, followed only by home mortgage debt

By Scott Petinga Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Consider this fact: There are 44 million graduates in the world struggling to pay back close to one-and-a-half trillion dollars in student debt. And it will take them an average of 21 years to do so. That's a lot of money and that's a lot of time.

For many, though, this is the new reality. In 2017, student loan debt became the second highest consumer debt category worldwide, followed only by home mortgage debt. Despite this, some 44% of college grads report working in jobs that have nothing to do with their degrees, and in fact, don't require a degree at all.

Increasingly, one has to ask oneself: Is a college degree really worth pursuing? For a person like me, the answer was no. Sorry mom.

I'm an entrepreneur, living debt-free and livingproof that, in today's economy, formal education is expensive and probably overrated. I currently run 13 businesses, everything from a line of men's underwear to an independent book publishing service.

The best way to start your careers is just get out in the world and start moving towards your vision. Start a business, become an entrepreneur. Take a course on street smarts and you'll learn more and graduate faster than someone pursuing a doctorate. And you'll save yourself all that student loan debt!

Many have asked me, how did I do it? How did I go on to launch 13 companies without any formal education?

Here are the four main ways I learned how to become a successful entrepreneur — without a college degree.

1) Go Out and Fail at something

Your best teacher will be a bad experience. It will show you things and teach you things much more vividly than any school text book ever will. You'll also learn lessons from your successes as well. But I think the best way to start is set out on a project and fail.

2) Be Reading Always

I wasn't one to read text books, but that doesn't mean I don't read. Every night, I poured over magazine articles, biographies and how-to websites that would give me insights into whatever particular business I was engaging in. The information is up-to-date, real and practical. I learned early on to be reading always.

3) Journal About Everyone You Meet

The people you meet as you go about setting-up a business all have valuable lessons to teach you. Listen to them. Ask them questions, and then, most importantly, write about them shortly after meeting them. Make a few notes about each relationship, what the person does particularly well. What their strengths and weaknesses are. This will help you develop the characteristics you'll want as a leader.

4) Make Your Own Study Group

Many students for study groups to help them manage the collegiate work load. As an entrepreneur, you can form your own "study group" by networking, socially, with like-minded individuals trying to create businesses of their own. Meet with these people once a week, trade notes, and learn about the challenges they are facing, while you share your own.

You don't need a college degree to be a successful entrepreneur, but that doesn't mean you get to stop learning. I may have left school, but I never stopped studying.

That's not to say college is a totally bad thing. In fact, for many graduates, a higher education can have great benefits. But there are just too many lessons in business that you will not find in a text book or classroom. So don't be afraid to start off your career without a formal education. You're still going to learn a lot… it just won't be on a college campus.

Scott Petinga

Superhero. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. Author. Cancer Thriver.

Scott Petinga is the chairman and CEO of The Scott Petinga Group, where he is a pioneer in the development of businesses that make a lasting impact on society. Petinga authored the new book No One Ever Drowned in Sweat (March, 2017). When he’s not busy saving the planet, he uses his acquired wisdom, knowledge and experience to help others make their mark on the world.

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