Better Than College

Tells Peak Press, 2012
6,000+ copies sold and 10,000+ PDF editions gifted as of 2022.

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Do you need college in order to be taken seriously and earn a real living? Conventional wisdom says yes. But true success relies upon self-knowledge and entrepreneurship: two qualities that you can obtain effectively and inexpensively without traditional college.

Better Than College provides the step-by-step guidance and inspiration necessary to design your own higher education. This book teaches you how to find community, stay on track, and get hired or start your own venture, all without a four-year degree. Curious college students will learn to think clearly about their motivations, plan a gap year, or navigate life after school. And Better Than College will show parents how self-directed learning can lead to a lifetime of achievement—no expensive institution required.

Originally crowdfunded by a $9,200 IndieGoGo campaign.


“Before you spend four years in college, devote four hours to hearing what Blake has to say.”

—Seth Godin, author of Stop Stealing Dreams

“A brilliant and important proposal. The unquestioned college path deserves to be challenged, and this is the right book to do it.”

—Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby,

“Higher education in America is on the brink of disruption. As prices rise and relevance declines, a chorus of voices is urging us to rethink college as we know it. And few of those voices are clearer or more compelling than Blake Boles. Better Than College is a clarion call for independent thinkers and self-directed young people to take control of their learning. Bypassing college may not be the right move for everyone, but reading this book will help anyone think anew about education and the future.”

—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

“The possibilities for success without college are rich and glorious—and potentially so confusing in their vastness as to be crippling. Blake Boles offers a clear and compelling roadmap: grounded in real-life examples and insightful analysis, lofted by a wide and exuberant sense of what life can become. Better Than College is perfectly tailored for its intended audience—youth on the threshold of adulthood. It will also, however, be a wonderful resource for adults who yearn to bring their work into alignment with their passions, and for families who want their children to grow toward successful and joyful careers.”

—Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook

“How did we get tricked into believing that success, fortune, and self-knowledge only come with a college degree? Better Than College explodes this myth and shows how any young adult can craft a powerful and affordable higher education—no institution required.”

—Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires

“Better Than College gives the tools, and just as important, the encouragement self-learners need to explore all their options.”

—Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U and The Edupunks’ Guide to a DIY Credential

“Blake Boles has scouted out information and ideas useful to more than just young adults. He has outlined options and filled in details for people of any age who want to see paths to learning and living outside of traditional schools. There is joy and hope in new directions, and Blake is an inspirational guide.”

—Sandra Dodd, author of The Big Book of Unschooling

“Blake convincingly argues that not everyone benefits from a traditional college education, and he presents a highly researched guide for pursuing self-directed education. This is a practical manual for motivated students on how to take your education into your own hands and thrive in the new world of work.”

—Ben Casnocha, coauthor of The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

“Unsure about college? Blake Boles has written a clear and wildly inspirational guide for those who long for a meaningful way to gain self-knowledge, acquire relevant experience and dive into full engagement. This isn’t a second-best proposition for young people ‘just not cut out for college’—it’s a bold blueprint for anyone looking to become focused, fired up and ready to define and follow their own successful path.”

—Maya Frost, author of The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition and Get a Truly International Education

“If you are ready to take control of your learning—and save a bundle of money at the same time—this book will provide you with compelling inspiration and practical information. You couldn’t choose a better guide to creating your own future.”

—Wendy Priesnitz, editor of Life Learning Magazine and author of Beyond School: Living As If School Doesn’t Exist

“It’s very easy for a young person today to walk straight from high school into college and emerge four years later, deep into their twenties, with almost no experience running their own lives, no practical knowledge or skills, and the belief that they have to be institutionally instructed to learn anything. And carrying a giant load of debt too! Are you sure that four-year degree is as valuable and indispensable as you hope it is? Now more than ever is the time to look closely at the possibilities, think hard and carefully, and not just fall into decisions. There are lots of reasons to go to college, and lots of reasons not to, and either way Better Than College is a tremendous place to start: the writing is straightforward, nondogmatic, and honest. If you’re planning to go (or return) to college (or not), read this book first!”

—Matt Hern, founder of the Purple Thistle Centre and author of Field Day and Everywhere All the Time

“Better Than College powerfully demonstrates our cultural misconception that a college degree is the only ticket to a higher education and a successful life.”

—Diane Flynn Keith, editor of

“More and more young adults are realizing that college has little to offer them other than wasted time and debt. Unfortunately, most of society doesn’t get it, because most of society has been conditioned to believe the lie that college is the only path to professional success and financial security. Blake Boles provides these young adults with a roadmap (and three questions that all young adults should ask themselves) that will help guide them toward more meaningful experiences, and the ammunition they need to deal with the naysayers.”

—Antonio Buehler, founder of Buehler Education

“During my 51 years’ and continuing work in education, I’ve read hundreds of books on education and found exactly three of them to be compelling, completely engaging, and highly inspirational. Better Than College is one of these three. If you have any thoughts about going to college—even if you’re committed to obtaining a college degree—read Better Than College; it will prompt deep thinking about your life direction.”

—Wes Beach, author of Forging Paths and director of Beach High School

This flowchart was created by Amanda Elliott, who emailed me out of the blue:

Before I read Better than College I was a step away from signing myself up for a debilitating debt-sentence for art school. (By the end, it probably would have totaled more than $80,000. Yikes!) I made this flowchart outlining the advice in the beginning of your book, and you can use it if you like. Thanks again. I am really indebted. Truly.