Sensational media stories about millionaire drop-outs miss one thing: The vast majority of America's 30 million college dropouts are more likely than graduates to be unemployed, poor, and in default
An increasingly familiar and seductive story has been circulating about young people who, drawing inspiration from billionaire entrepreneurs and computer giants, consider dropping out of college a fast track to business success.
Names like Jobs, Gates, Dell, and others lend star power to the myth of the wildly successful college dropout. One recent New York Times homage to the phenomenon compared dropping out to "lighting out for the territories to strike gold," with one young executive describing it as "almost a badge of honor" among startup entrepreneurs. Like any myth, this story has a kernel of truth: There are exceptional individuals whose hard work, determination, and intelligence make up for the lack of a college degree. If they could do it, one might think, why can't everybody?
Such a question ignores the outlier status of these exceptional drop-out entrepreneurs and innovators.
Those who are able to achieve such success often rely on a set of skills already developed before they get to college. They know how to educate themselves, get a bank loan, and manage their time and their money. They may benefit from a network of family, friends and acquaintances who open doors and provide a safety net.