“College is the only option if you want a real job, a real career, if you want to make something of yourself,” said every parent in the US since forever. For anyone growing up in this country, it’s become a truism passed down from generation to generation. Sure, a generation or so ago, there were solid blue collar jobs that could lead to good life, but a “college job” was the brass ring.

And we are also made to believe that the more prestigious the school, the better job options you will have in the future. Well, I have news for you; it’s not true, or at least not as true as it once was.

My Story

I was the responsible child. I listened to my parents and society and went to a traditional four-year college (after first attending a Junior college to save money) where I graduated with a degree in Liberal & Civic Studies with a minor in Montessori. I wanted to become a teacher, motivator, someone to change the world for good.

Of course to afford college I took out student loans, leaving me $37,000 in debt even before I graduated (and, by the way, I know millions of students graduate with far more debt).

I was one of the lucky ones, or at least I thought so at the time. I found a job as an Account Relationship Manager at a small, family-owned business where I helped more than ten brokers with their clients. I wrote reports, answered phone calls and emails from clients, ran a weekly firm-wide meeting, trained new hires, and electronically archived documents.

While at first I was excited for the opportunity and enjoyed learning on the job, as time went on I was becoming less and less interested in my job. What had I gotten myself into?

While I was still with the company I made friends with the IT person who taught me about the machines in the server room and how our email security worked; and it fascinated me. He inspired me to leave my job and to look for something that more suited my intellect and drive.

(Next page: The non-traditional components that worked better)

3 non-traditional components that worked for my career

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to work, but I knew I wanted an entry level tech support position. During my search, my roommate told me to check out a new tech school in San Francisco.

1. Learn by Doing

A two year program that trains the next generation of full stack engineers. I loved the idea that you could train by doing, and network with and learn from volunteer mentors in the technology industry.

2. Shorter Time

I also loved the fact that it was a two year school. But, still being in debt, how could I possibly consider going back to school? I couldn’t continue to acquire more debt. My mother had also been down this road. Following her divorce she decided to go back to school to become a school teacher, and in the process found herself $134,000 in debt!

3. No Debt

But when I looked into Holberton School, named after the famous computer programmer Betty Holberton, I learned that they offer a debt-free payment method. Rather than paying anything upfront like I had for my previous collegiate experience, I would pay only 17 percent of the income made at my internship (which most students start after just a year) and then at my job–for three years. A chance to go back to school debt free? Two years (and most often just one) and I could be making six figures? I could live well, doing what I love AND pay off my remaining $22,000 of debt. Hell, I could help pay off my mother’s debt! So I applied (and by the way, the application process is actually the start of the education process. You have to build your own web site).

In January 2017, I began my new journey of becoming a software engineer and I can not be happier, motivated, and challenged. I am currently on track to begin my internship in this  fall. I am ready to hit the ground running and am so happy I made the decision to change my story, make myself a real career, make something of myself, without the unnecessary debt of going back to college.

Stay tuned, for an update to learn more about how my world has changed for the better.

About the Author:

Kristen Loyd is a Year 1 Full Stack Software Engineering student attending Holberton School in San Francisco, CA. She enjoys the creative limitations programming can impose and looks forward to joining the growing and challenging Technology Industry.

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