CAREER ADVANCEMENT / FEB. 28, 2014
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How to Educate Yourself When Not Enrolled in School

Formal education

Whether you’re a working professional, college drop-out, or someone who simply wants to learn new things, there are ways to ways to acquire knowledge and skills without going through formal education. Because of modern technology and new social innovations in the field of education, options for educating yourself have virally multiplied from what was available 50 years ago.

Today, information is being shared more than it ever has. This means that, as long as you have access to the right tools, and the determination, you can receive the knowledge any university could offer in your own home.

Disclaimer: suggestions vary according to academic subject. Science subjects, for example, require students to take formal classes and labs in order to receive certification to practice.

1. Take advantage of search.

If I could guide a university tour for the purpose of this article, I would make my first stop at today's most important modern-day university: the Internet. At this fine institution of endless resources, you may find answers to your most pressing questions, thanks to search. This means several things:

  • You can find and print university syllabuses, homework assignments, and class notes online. This way, you’ll see what is being formally taught and how you can mirror your self-taught education to it.
  • You can search what kinds of books professors are recommending to students in their classes. Check out brief summaries of these books online and, if you are interested in learning more, check those books out at the library or bookstore.
  • You can take free (yes, free!) classes via CourseraKhanAcademy, Class2Go, Codecademy (if you’re interested in programming), mitx, and Youtube. Some of these resources also have apps, meaning you can even learn on your toilet seat.

There are countless resources available on the Internet, and with the right search terms, you’ll find more than what you need.

2. Visit a library or bookstore.

Here, you can learn most anything you want – once you've found a cushy enough seat. I've read entire books at libraries and bookstores on all sorts of topics, from architecture to business to C++. Though your bum may hurt at the end of the day, your mind will be happily bouncing from the insides of your skull (due to a metaphorical intellectual explosion, of course). University learning, after all, consists a great deal of reading academic papers and books – all of which you can do on your own.

3. If you live within walking distance to a university, get permission from a professor to let you sit in on classes.

I realized how easy it was to do this during my time as a student at a large research university where most lectures held an average capacity of over 200. Though this strategy wouldn’t work too well for small discussion classrooms and seminars, sitting in on large lectures will give you the big picture of a topic and opportunity to listen to the professor’s important points.

Trust me, if you decide to do this, no one will ever find out that you don't have a university ID number.  

4. Last but certainly not least, organize your new, free resources into online bookmarks and folders, and/or into a physical binder.

Finding new resources is useless unless you can easily access them. If you’re not the type to fancy a physical binder, there are various digital tools available that will assist you in organizing your notes, like Evernote and Google Keep. Once you've accomplished this last step, congratulations! You now own an ever-growing database of learning material for (insert subject you are interested in here).

In conclusion, there are endless ways to educate yourself without being enrolled in school. In the end, it’s all about what method you prefer most, what works best for you, and how eager you are to learn a subject. With a good amount of effort, you may even be able to make a career out of your informal education. It's all up to you.

 

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