Why Skipping College Was One of the Smartest Decisions of My Life

"I didn't."

That's my answer when someone asks me where I went to college. Thirty years after I made that fateful decision, the words still stick in my throat sometimes.

Why didn't I -- a naturally bright, unnaturally well-read kid in my high school's "advanced" stream -- go to university (as we call "college" up here in Canada) and get a BA?

For one thing, it was the Reagan era. Every night on the news (not to mention talk shows and comedy programs), we were assured that Ronald Reagan was about to  start World War 3. Roll your eyes if you like, but plenty of people older and supposedly smarter than I purported to believe that.

Next: Never mind that wailing Zuni doll from Trilogy of Terror, or any of the other scary stuff readers share at Kindertrauma.com. What horrified me on TV when I was a kid? The Paper Chase (1973). The middlebrow saga of a guy's struggle to get through law school -- hell, his struggle to get from one end of his vast Ivy League campus to the next without being late for his next class and getting insulted by John Houseman at his withering best (or is that worst?) -- genuinely terrified me.

Probably because -- reason #3 -- no one in my family had gone to college. In fact, I was the first one to finish high school. Filling out applications, applying for grants, moving into a dorm -- you might as well have been talking about a voyage to the moon.

OK, so those reasons sound pretty stupid. But not going to university was one of the smartest decisions of my life.

Instead, I graduated from a two-year media program at a community college, armed with an award-winning writing and production portfolio. In an era of double-digit unemployment and interest rates, I got my first "real" job at a Toronto communications firm pretty easily, and paid off my relatively puny student loans in short order (unlike some of my friends, who got BAs -- then declared bankruptcy). I'd say 90% of the jobs I've ever held have been in my field.

When it comes to college, Aaron Clarey and I agree about a lot. He blogs as "Captain Capitalism" and just wrote the book Worthless: The Young Person's Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major.