A College Dilemma

45 Replies

I've always loved real estate. I would stare at house plan books for hours on end as a child, before creating my own floor plans. I read nearly 50 business and real estate investing books throughout high school. Nearly all of the content I consumed on my own was about real estate. I even got in trouble at my high school hourly job multiple times because I would have headphones on listening to the BP podcast. For many years now I've wanted to become a commercial real estate investor. I just graduated high school, and my plan is to get a finance degree in college which will hopefully help me land a job in the commercial industry before investing on my own. I've taken over a year's worth of college classes, and it honestly feels extremely suffocating. I wake up everyday with an unexplainable urge/hunger to invest in commercial real estate, but I have to spend the entire day learning abstract skills which I will never use in life. I'm beginning to think that this plan is not the most efficient way to become an investor. I would love to get some advice from someone in this field. Is college truly the best path? It just feels like I'm racking up a massive amount of debt and waisting my time while I could actually be working. Thanks for reading!

In my opinion, college is a big scam. I say this after earning a BS "bull ****" degree, and an MS "more ****" degree in Human Resources, AND an MBA...can't think of one for this one. There are other ways to build wealth, and real estate is one of them. A degree won't help you at all, unless you use the degree to get a job that will put money in your account to make your first few purchases. Consider all your options before throwing all your money into an education that will never give you a return on your investment.

@Ben Bymaster So many options/ so many questions. Are you at a 4-year university? Is there a cheaper university? 2-year program? Are you paying for college or helping to pay? Or taking out money for everything? Are you looking to get your real estate license while going to school? If not, why not? Have you looked into part-time mentorships or internships? Getting a degree does cost a lot of money but you make tons and tons of connections and no one can ever take that knowledge and that degree away from you it's powerful in its own right is it the right for everyone maybe not but you really need to think hard about your choice now because it's much harder to go back to school when you're older than it is to get done when you're young. Not to mention college Years are some of the best years of people's life take advantage of it while you can.

@Ben Bymaster , @Ray Harrell speaketh the truth. Higher education in the U.S. is a scam.  It's nothing but a business spewing out college graduates with degrees they neither need or, for the most part, will use.  Save yourself a lot of time and money get yourself A CAM (Community Association Manager) license and a Realtor's license.  The CAM license will allow you to get an Assistant Property Manager's job to earn some money while you get your Realtor's license and build up your client list.  It's very difficult to make money when starting out as a new Realtor.  

@Ben Bymaster , college is the place to learn safely. What does that mean - it means that you can take all the classes you need to be a successful investor, manager, financial planner, ethics and legal reasoning etc with the only penalty being you get a grade less than desired and of course you are spending for college. In addition, you can form good relationships that can serve you later on in life as your peers also get successful.

You can learn all the things by jumping straight into becoming an investor, but the cost of not knowing something and learning can be costly. In my case, I decided to get an MBA and found that while pricey, it offered me all the basics I needed to know and the skills to learn more without letting the fear of the unknown impede my progress. I compare that to people I know that are successful in their jobs but just can't get over the fear of the unknown to become real estate investors.

There are well known people that did not go through college education to be successful, but there are also a large number of others that did not help themselves by lacking one. Ultimately that decision is a personal one and I hope you do the decision justice by looking at it from both sides.

Good luck.

The truth is, you don't have to choose, you can do both. I started investing while I was in college. I worked full time and went to school full time and started buying property. You need a place to live, and surely you can drum up some roommates, pick up a duplex and rent out the other side. You are in a perfect place to house hack. 

Yes, college is expensive, and it's more expensive than when I was going to school, but the truth is, a college degree will open doors for you that would never open otherwise. In order to invest at a level that will eventually sustain you, make you free, you need income. No one is going to loan $250k to a kid with no experience or income. If you graduate with a finance degree, you will be qualified for higher paying jobs, in general, than you would qualify for without that degree- correct? Those higher paying jobs equate to more mortgages with better terms. Those mortgages, over time, will create equity and leverage for you, which means more property. 

Everything comes with a cost and anything worth having is worth working for. Sounds like I am in the minority on this thread, but I think a degree is important. Sure, you can do well without one, but research shows you a MUCH more likely to be successful with one. Be patient, work hard, get your degree and start investing now at a small scale and watch your portfolio grow. Best of luck!

@Ben Bymaster Excellent point raised by @Corby Goade

College is very expensive in the US. This is why it is critical to pick a high-income generating field OR follow your passion but not get into student debt (can't have it both ways). 

College education is as close as you're going to get to guaranteed upward social mobility. A lack of college education makes it harder to develop your social capital. A lack of college education might have worked 20 years ago but you will go behind (not due to a lack of intellect) without a college education as a baseline. Also, college grads consistently out-earn their peers no matter what way you slice the data.

This doesn't mean one gets into $50-100K student debt. There are always in-state/cheaper options through which one can get a quality education. The idea is to be frugal, mitigate your debt exposure while developing the necessary social and intellectual capital to propel you forward in life. 

I definitely remember being in a similar spot as I started getting into RE/entrepreneurship in school. What I've learned is there's no reason you can't make progress on your Real Estate investing career while in college. Most people have more free time in college than almost any time in life- but most people choose to spend all of their free time drinking. You can either intern for investors during the summer or spend the time launching your own business with all of the free time. You can build a RE biz starting with limited time each day. Taking finance classes will give you better understanding of how the market operates & impacts real estate. What is the opportunity cost of being in school- If you are to leave school without a business already built where are you going to go? Get a full time job somewhere while your build your business? That will likely be more time intensive. If you have the cash position to go full time in business without a full time job maybe you give it a go but I know that is not the case for most people. Grade inflation & price inflation are real things and I believe there is a need for reform in the education system - that being said learning finance & getting the piece of paper still hold some value. There's no right or wrong answer- I would just keep in mind the business won't magically blow up the week you drop out - you'll probably need to find a job & ask yourself which path will you learn the most and have the most time to dedicate to your RE biz.

@Ben Bymaster I was the same way. I was an entrepreneur in college for entrepreneurship???? Running a successful business while learning from people who have never owned a business, how to be an entrpreneur. After about 3.5 years (was only going part time because of the biz) I came to the same realization as you and went to my advisor to see what associated degree I could quickly get to get out of there and not completely waste about $35k. Took one more semester (two classes, $7k) and got an associates in business studies that looks pretty on my wall I guess.

If you know you want to be in real estate, college is not needed or even advised IMO. You can find hundreds of commercial real estate companies that would hire you on for something. Even if it's just being a leasing agent at a MF community or something similar. You may have to move, it may take a while to find one. But, learning while getting paid > paying a ton of money for a useless piece of paper.

Again, I wouldn't say this if you weren't already feeling that way but in your case, college sounds like a waste. Some people need it, for everyone else - not so much, but universities, high school teachers, media, and parents will have you believe otherwise. 

Originally posted by @David Cruice :

@Ben Bymaster , @Ray Harrell speaketh the truth. Higher education in the U.S. is a scam.  It's nothing but a business spewing out college graduates with degrees they neither need or, for the most part, will use.  Save yourself a lot of time and money get yourself A CAM (Community Association Manager) license and a Realtor's license.  The CAM license will allow you to get an Assistant Property Manager's job to earn some money while you get your Realtor's license and build up your client list.  It's very difficult to make money when starting out as a new Realtor.  

I have a BS and MS in Engineering and I design Class III medical devices for a living.   Are you sure you want me to design medical devices without my "scam" degrees?    Because I  can tell you that I may not use that physics class every day, but I use my logical problem solving skills every hour.   And when I do need to analyze a failure, knowing Griffith's crack theory or how hydrogen embrittles polished metal comes in super handy.   They are also a convenient way to prove I am intelligent enough to learn new things like medical device regulations or commercial real estate sales practices.  My "scam" degrees earned me a wonderful living and more importantly they provided me with life skills I can use in any situation.  

I think what you meant to say was SOME college degrees provide little in the way of transferable real life skills and SOME degrees cost way more than they provide in value.   If that is what you meant to say then I agree, there are some poor degrees out there and colleges that are peddling them.

As for the original poster here is my advice.   Apply (or try to apply) for jobs at commercial real estate companies (while you continue to go to school).   Brokers...leasing agencies....large syndicators...even family offices.    Anything that gets you in the industry.     If  they wont hire you because you dont have a degree then you have your answer (get the degree).   If they do hire you then you can get your education through on the job training.   But realize that a lack of a degree is going to slow down your career rise at least at 1st while you prove yourself.   

Good Luck  

That's a specialized degree, @John Nachtigall . Those are the exception (science, medicine, law, etc). But general business degrees and liberal arts degrees? Nah!!!

And most of the skills you describe (logical thinking, reasoning) one can obtain by just reading and practical experience.

Also, I didn't say degrees themselves were a scam. The entire higher educational system is a scam.

@John Nachtigall , I fully stand by what I said that "Higher education in the U.S. is a scam. It's nothing but a business spewing out college graduates with degrees they neither need or, for the most part, will use".  Most undergraduates spend an inordinate amount of time taking "electives" that they neither need or add any value to their major.  In addition, far too many graduates leave college owing tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in debt (a lot of that money spent on the meaningless electives that they had to take to graduate).  They also spend 4 years in college studying for skills in particular careers that they could be trained in under 2 years or less.  Most employers simply put "Undergraduate Degree Required" in a job description just because it looks good.  Again, most of these jobs don't require the applicants to have spent 4 years in school for what they're going to do on the job.  I'm just waiting for the day when I see an advertisement for a dishwasher that requires an undergraduate degree.  And, finally, I've lost count of the number of resumes I've reviewed where the applicant had a college degree in a subject that bore absolutely no resemblance or had any bearing on what jobs they worked after graduation.  So, do I think all college degrees are a scam?  No, I don't.  However, what I do think is a scam is that young people are being left thousands of dollars in debt, after having spent 4 years in college, for an education that could have been imparted in half that time, for jobs that really didn't require such a commitment in time and finances, and, for a degree that all too often that had no relation to their career path after graduation.  P.S.  I have a B.S. and an MBA, with the latter being from one of the top 3 business schools in the world.  

@Ben Bymaster I feel your pain. I took 8 years to finish my undergraduate degree in political science and after working 6 months in the industry and racking up some student loans I found out I hated it, so now I have a degree that's useless. I'd say if you have a very specific, highly technical job you want like a lawyer or doctor, then go to college. Since that's not the case, if I were you I'd get my real estate license and find a broker who specializes in that area to work for and learn the ropes. Or property manager of some commercial properties. There's definitely more than one path to go, I think the key is have a definite end in mind and map your way there backwards starting from the finish line. Basically have a plan.
@Ben Bymaster A lot of good info and advice on this thread. I pretty much agree with @Omar Khan . You can do both. I finished undergrad. I literally got my degree in May. Asked myself “what’s next” and started reading real estate books In August. 2 year later I’m a real estate investor, work a full time and part time job AND I’m a part time masters student. You can do it all but it takes IMMENSE time management skills and a great great team. For example I keep all my tasks for all the stuff listed above in my head. I don’t have a calendar. Most people can’t do that. Just one example.
I personally feel like the return on investment for general college degrees is a toss up. Yes you get the college experience and there are some useful courses that possibly could help you In your real estate ventures but myself and many others who have incurred large amounts of student loan debt in the process honestly have to question whether it was worth it. If you are going for a specialized field such as a doctor, lawyer, etc i would say go for it but to simply get a degree to do real estate seems a bit costly and not a wise use of time in the Information Age where most of the education you need for this is readily available for free or the cost of a book. Pursue your dreams whatever that may be and if college is truly one of them go for it but at the same time remember to do so through scholarships or any other ways to minimize your costs so that the money you are not spending on books, tuition, or kegs can go towards your real estate portfolio.

Sorry @Omar Khan , college doesn't "guarantee" upward mobility any more than being entrepreneurial can. What college can guarantee is years and years of student debt. I have 3 degrees, two of them Masters level. If I had to do it again, I would NOT have pursued graduate level degrees. It's just not necessary for most career paths. Get your bachelor's degree, if you want, but beyond that, think really hard about it. University does give you an experience and exposure to teamwork and collaboration that is helpful in life. But can you do without it? Definitely!

Why not consider learning a trade? You could learn marketable skills that can put a roof over your head and food on your table. It wouldn't cost as much in time or money. Plus you could learn valuable skills that could translate well to real estate investing.

@Ben Bymaster in my opinion if you're majoring in a field such as finance the real value of college is in the networking.  I met so many brilliant people at college and I promise you some of them will become very wealthy.  A lot of them also come from very wealthy backgrounds.  Then there is also the enormous alumni network with a ton of wealthy alumni.  Can you start to connect those dots?

That being said I do think it depends on where you go to school.  If you're going to a small school that doesn't have a reputable business program you're not going to gain access to those networks.  The wealthiest parents tend to raise the best students, the best students go to the best schools, and the best schools develop the most successful graduates.

The coursework is mostly the same across different universities, and frankly it's BS.  I remember studying for exams using old tests from a different university and then seeing the exact same questions on my exam.  You don't need to pay thousands of dollars for a course and the professor's latest edition of the textbook to master the material.  You can easily do this by buying an older edition on Amazon, asking questions on sites like Biggerpockets, and building your own network.  

Suggesting looking at Real Estate Management degree (2 year JC) and a realtor license.  To become a commercial realtor, they want a CCIM and  often a MBA credentials. Getting a job as a receptionist etc with a name commercial brokerage see if you like it. You probably start showing lease ..... 

The rest is what you are cut out to be. Donald Trum. became a successful commercial business person. But he inherit his Dad's fortune. You know how to wheel and deal?  You need lots of dough $$$ and know politicians.....

@Ben Bymaster Wow! I wish I was that interested in this (or anything) at your age. Good work! This is tough question...here’s my 2 cents. - Get a 4-year colleague degree, it’s a check mark that wIll enable you to get a decent job that will allow you to save $$$ for REI, learn transferable business skills in the “real world”, and W-2 Income to get financIng. - Figure out how to House lack during colleague to start you REI dreams, duplex or SFH doesn’t matter just do it (wish I had this advise when I came out of high school...or before having kids and “standards” LOL). - Live on 30-50% of your income and invest the rest. Do not give in to lifestyle inflation as the better w-2 jobs come along, raises, and bonuses. Learn more about the FIRE movement for motivation on this. - don’t go into massive amounts of debt to get a degree; work your tail off to earn income to pay for your schooling, seek out financial aid, scholarships. Be a Resident Advisor if you don’t house hack to pay for room and board if you are going away from home. Unfortunately I believe that a college degree is a necessary evil for significantly improving your chances at being successful in life. Obviously this doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but you are more marketable.

I agree with Angela Smith. You can make good money as an electrician, plumber, HVAC person, etc. Plus you will learn what to look for when inspecting a property.

@Ben Bymaster College is more than just a degree to get a job. REI is a relationship business, and you run into a bunch of investors who have a business background with degrees. If you want to be around those that are at the top of their game then it’s worth the investment. I also wouldn’t invest with others who don’t value learning. I’m sure there are folks who are self made millionaires and REI, but they are rare. Plus what if your career doesn’t work out or you want to switch fields? A bachelors, is only 4 years, the opportunity cost for someone your age is low. I also don’t work with agents who just have high school degree. My 2 cents.

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