scott young

Why proving what you can do is better than improving your qualifications

Scott Young is taking a 4-year MIT course in Computer Science. But he’s taking it in just one year. And for less than $2000.

Scott says the future of learning will be personal, rather than steeped in official qualifications. The Internet already provides learning for everyone, which is exactly how Scott is taking the MIT course himself, at his own (faster) pace.

Many top universities provide lectures and course content free online. And now startups like Udacity, Coursera, and Khan Academy have come along to provide even more academic classes for free. You can learn at no cost in the comfort of your own home, room, library, garden…whatever!

Scott won’t receive a formal degree award from MIT when he completes his class, but he doesn’t mind:

“Our society incorrectly equates knowledge with accreditation. Getting a piece of paper is great, and for many lines of work, it’s completely necessary. But the equation is made so strongly that people forget the two things are different.
“I have nothing against college. University was an amazing and worthwhile experience for me, and it could be for you as well. All I hope is that by showing an alternative, people who feel the current system doesn’t work for them can find another path.”

You have a chance to find your own route, whatever your current situation is.

Once you take this route, the key is to prove your worth in ways that don’t rely solely on the degree you’ve been awarded. Traditional methods of bettering yourself for career and job purposes rely heavily on improving your qualifications.

But that’s because many people are used to those methods. It’s ‘normal’. It’s ‘what everyone does’.

And, of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Taking your own route can be so valuable. For a start, you automatically stand out. Hopefully for all the right reasons!

Formal routes are sometimes necessary for legal purposes or compliance reasons. Not everything can be bypassed without another thought. And that’s fine. Make it part of your route and do your own thing where you can.

Like Scott, I also have a lot of time for university. I’m sure you guessed that. The name of this blog is a clue… And if you need further proof, I’m called @universityboy on Twitter. I’m not about to give up on the wonders of university.

With all this in mind, what is more valuable: experience or a degree?

This question was asked over at The Student Room. My take is that both experience and degree are useful for different reasons and in different circumstances. A direct comparison is unhelpful.

One person gave a good explanation to the comparison problem:

“…it’s like saying which is more valuable, lungs or a stomach.”

Think of your experience and your degree as a set of situations about YOU. Translate these situations into what you’ve managed to get out of them. Sell yourself, not your grades. Talk about a range of experiences with purpose, so you can include what happened at university alongside everything else.

When you take this view, remember these two things:

  1. Tailor your approach each time you reach out to others – Why? Because perspective changes. Both yours and theirs. Consider things like this: Why are you reaching out to them? What are they looking for? How can you help them? What are the variables in this situation?
  2. Embrace failure – Why? Because no matter how much you prove what you can do, the context is taken out of your hands every time you interact with someone else. There are numerous stories of now famous authors who struggled to find a publisher. They had to submit their first book to many different publishers before one of them said ‘yes’. Imagine if all those authors had given up after the first try.

Jane Artess is director of research for the Higher Education Careers Services Unit. Speaking in the Guardian, she said:

“…one student’s stretch is another student’s yawn; one employer’s view of what constitutes talent may be written off as simply average by another.”

Put simply, no specific route is guaranteed. That’s why your own route is valid and why you must be careful before comparing things that don’t need a comparison.

Your route should include a mixture of traditional methods and unique ones. Find what works for you and not what seemed to work for someone else. Do take their advice and find clues, but don’t bother emulating the same successes, because it’s already been done.

You may or may not have aced a whole bunch of exams and studied to within an inch of your life. What does it truly make you? Shape your qualifications around your own narrative and unlock the story of you.

It’s not the grades that stand out, it’s the individual.

photo by

photo by

What ‘Preparation’ Really Is

In loads of posts for this blog, I say that you should prepare for stuff. Prepare for the year, prepare for lectures, prepare for seminars, prepare for essays, prepare for exams. Prepare, prepare, PREPARE!

You might think that preparation is pointless. After all, you don’t get formal recognition for it.

Well, that’s not quite true.

Preparation isn’t a dress rehearsal before the real thing. Think of it more as a scaffold toward better formal recognition. To prepare is to start. And it’s not just any old start; it’s starting big.

Shape ideas in your mind as early as you can, have the end in mind, ask yourself what you want to get out of the project, get an overview of the subject, develop an awareness of what’s going on…

When you put the time in from the outset, you’re in a better position to finish. And, as Scott Young says, starting isn’t useful without finishing.

We’re very good at filling time. There’s always something to do. That’s why it’s so easy to get into the mindset that you’ll start — or finish — tomorrow. Always tomorrow. When it’s too late, there is no time to prepare.

photo by D Sharon Pruitt

photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Preparation has no fixed strategy. Make it useful to you. You could:

  • Outline an idea with estimated timescales and outcomes;
  • Build up a skeleton understanding or scaffold framework of a concept/subject;
  • View what you need to get from A to B (that is, from start to finish);
  • Get the right tools in place to allow an effective and efficient transition.

These are just a few of the possibilities. No matter what your take is, your starting moves should represent the beginning of a journey as you consider why you’re undertaking it.

“‘Everything will be alright” is not the same as ‘everything will stay the same’.” – Seth Godin

EduLinks – 09 September 2011

Review: Learn More, Study Less

Scott Young gave me a peek at “Learn More, Study Less“, his new ebook and companion video course that does exactly what it says on the tin.  Today I’m reviewing the product.  I’ve got a short review and a long review.

Here’s the short review:
Learn More, Study Less helps you learn more and study less.  You’d like to do that, wouldn’t you?  If so, buy the course and start seeing the bigger picture.

Here’s the long review:
The best way to explain Learn More, Study Less is by calling it a complete learning system.  Rote memorisation of facts is tired and cumbersome.  Through this course, Scott explains how your learning can become expansive.  Problems aren’t one-dimensional; you’ll often find many answers to the same question.

Scott offers the course as either:
– A 228-page ebook, case studies & worksheets for $39 (about £25);
– A complete video course (around 6 hours) and a set of interviews in addition to the ebook, case studies & worksheets for $67 (about £42)

The book starts by helping you to remove those blinkers and take a good look around.  From this new viewpoint, all the links and connections between subjects become apparent.

Sound overwhelming?  It’s not.  The natural approaches explained in the book are a boon, not a pain.

Scott asks if there are certain subjects you just “get”.  The way you handle these subjects is likely different to those you have a block on, or those you find more difficult to learn from.  The book highlights what elements of learning are in play with the subjects you “get”, giving you scope to use them on other subjects.

In Part 1, a six-step approach is outlined in detail: Acquire, Understand, Explore, Debug, Apply & Test.  In addition, Scott describes the many types of information out there and how to process each type.

Part 2 describes important techniques for bringing the holistic learning strategy to life.  With speed reading, idea linking, mental and emotional images, practical uses to aid learning, and so on, there’s a wealth of goodies you’ll want to play with and master here.

The book gives no quick fixes.  What the book does so well is provide you with detailed explanations of how your everyday learning can become a permanent fix in itself. My own experience has helped me realise that putting in the initial work is far better than slapping on a quick fix at the end.  That’s why I hate cramming before tests and why I can’t stand writing coursework at the last minute.

Learn More, Study Less goes beyond passing tests.  And rightly so. A focus on testing only weakens ability to concentrate on the bigger picture.  The book calls on you to question why you *want* to learn anything.  When you can question the usefulness of what you’re learning, you’re better equipped to learn it.

Part 3 looks past holistic learning and looks at being a productive student and how to educate yourself by using what you’ve learned.  Part 4 contains a helpful summary and recap.

Scott throws in some real case studies and helpful worksheets as part of the package.  These allow you to focus even further on what’s required.  Like I said at the beginning of the review, this really is set up to be a complete and flexible learning system.

Positive Points:

  • I have used most of the techniques within this book at different stages in my life and I know how well they have served me.  This alone is enough for me to heartily recommend the product.
  • The book is easy to read and the writing clear and concise.  Complicated methods are described as simply as possible so you’re free to develop your technique effectively.
  • Scott’s video classes (in the $67 package) are great value for money and complement the book well.  The videos really help bring some of the points to life.
  • You’re not left scared and confused.  At no point are you made to feel out of your depth.  You do have to put the work in to make holistic learning work, but that’s a matter of choice, not a matter of ability.

Negative Points:

  • No references list.  A lot of the methods documented here have been known to work for many years.  Perhaps I’m being greedy, but I’d have liked to see where some of Scott’s ideas had originated from.
  • Price could put off some students. Costing the same as some academic textbooks, it may put you off. Yet seen as a complete course, it does represent good value for money.  Scott also provides a 60-day guarantee if you’re not happy.
  • You must be self-determined.  I’ve already said that the book isn’t about quick fixes.  Commitment is required.  Sadly, not everyone is looking for that.  Simply reading the book will not do.

In Closing:
At the back of Learn More, Study Less, Scott rightly says that “No technique, method or trick can replace motivation”.  This is key to learning well.  Anything less only works as a temporary mask.  And it won’t fool anybody.

Forget masks.  This course gives you the tools you need to up your game for good.

“Find your reason for learning.  Even if the reason is as simple as curiosity, find a reason to want to know.” – Scott Young

[Note: I am happy to be an affiliate for Scott’s course.  I only recommend products if I feel they provide good quality. This product certainly does that.]