Crash for Teens: 6 Steps to Launch Your Career with No Degree

Joel Bein
December 2020

You don’t need a degree, you need proof of work.

With US student loan debt close to $1,700,000,000,000 (!!), if you’re a soon to be high school grad, it might be wise to dodge college.

Yeah, you’ll be “different,” but that’s a good thing! Your life is ahead of you, so it may behoove you to skip debt, and build a tangible portfolio that shows your value!

You might say, “yeah a portfolio is good to show, but will anyone take me seriously without the degree??”


We have plenty of examples, like Crash users Silas and Joe, who bypassed college by proving their ability to create value.

Are they superhuman exceptions? Nope, they simply chose to engage their mind and creative potential. 🙂

They chose to put life in their own hands and forge their own path.

And I’m telling you, the young people who’ve done this are way freer, and way more fulfilled.

Still worried? That makes sense. It’s hard to break the mold and not do what your friends are doing. But let me lay out 6 steps to launch your career without a degree, to at least get you thinking. 😉

1) Relax. Take a breath.

Remember that you’re young. Well-intended parents, high school teachers, and guidance counselors may push you straight from high school to college, causing you to stress and rush into a major life decision (4-6 years, tons of debt).

But it’s really your life, and you have many years ahead of you.

So be intentional, and take a deep breathe. You’re about to finish 12 plus years of school (and listening to directions). It’s okay to pause, decompress, and take time to think.

It’s also okay to take a year off.

2) Take a year off

I think 99.99% of teens are better off not going to college. But I’m not anti-college per se. I’m pro-conscious living. But here’s one thing that few people do: wait a year.

Yes, it’s possible to do this. And if after slowing down and exploring your options, you still REALLY want to go to college, there’s no law stopping you from doing that.

Now what could you do in that year?

SO much!

3) Make a Plan to Build Projects

What will you do when the world is your oyster? Make money. Travel. Meet new people. Start a podcast.

Learn by doing!

But let’s make it concrete. You want to structure your 12 months so you aren’t wandering aimlessly. Plus, if you have a plan, it could be easier to pitch your parents on skipping college.

So, make a theme for each month, i.e.

Month 1: Hang with friends and decompress (high school is done!)
Month 2: Travel to 6 states and write a blog post on each
Month 3: Pitch part time jobs at a local business/store (email a Crash pitch to the manager about why you’d be great)
Month 4: Start a podcast on a topic and record 10 episodes with 10 guests. Promote it and build a subscriber base.
Month 5: Dabble in coding or design or a musical instrument (whatever interests you). Take a pictures/videos of your progress and post publicly 10 times.

And so on!

The point is, Learn Out Loud. Starting build a portfolio of constructive projects. You’ll learn, and set the foundation for a “real job” you’re “supposed to” have. 😀

Check out the Teenage Liberation Handbook for more tips.

4) Starting honing in on a role type

What’s awesome about this approach is you will gain self-knowledge. As you work a job and tackle creative projects, you will learn more about what really makes you tick.

As you learn, start looking ahead to the role type buckets like sales, marketing, software engineering, operations, and design. These are great entry points into a startup role at a tech company.

You can take the Crash Discover Quiz to learn more about what might be a good fit for you.

Once you have 1-2 roles in mind, start building skills! Take courses on Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, or Skillshare. Or reach out to people who are working those jobs right now and ask to interview them (maybe on a podcast)! They’d love to help an ambitious young person.

Check out this post from Lolita Allgyer for tips on skill building. 😀

5) Pursue college alternatives

With a role type in mind, there are also plenty of 3-12 month programs that will give high-leverage fuel as a young professional. Here are options:

👉 Enroll in a coding, design, data science, or sales bootcamp – there are hundreds out there!
👉 Pursue a tech apprenticeship via Apprenti or Praxis

Check out this post from Praxis for more details on non-college routes:

6) Pitch!

Here’s what’s awesome: by creating a body of work through projects, hobbies, interests, and skill building, you’re setting yourself up to launch into career orbit.

You can then pitch any opportunity on Crash. Tell your cool story in the pitch video, share why you love that company, make them a custom project, and sell them on your self-driven work ethic!

You can pitch for any role that will move you forward. An internship, an angel investor for a business you start, or a full out “real job” at a tech company.

Lots of companies, especially startups, don’t care about degrees. They care about results.

So send ’em something too good to ignore, and they’ll probably give you a shot!

Experience isn’t the only determining factor in the hiring process. I’d rather have someone who’s hungry to learn, isn’t afraid to ask questions, and absorbs knowledge like a sponge.

Nick Black, Founder and CEO at GoodUnited

Forge your path

Hundreds of teens have taken their own path, off the schooling conveyor belt. Why not you, too?

You can finish high school if you want. But then, take a year, and start creating without permission.

I think you’ll like the results, and the idea of college will become a distant idea.

Go author your own script!