All of college should be “one and done” like the NBA.

Talented young basketball players are required to spend one year in college before entering the NBA. The idea is to have some transition time from high school and improve their readiness for their adult professional life. This idea has surprising generalizability. It would be wise to consider applying it broadly across college pursuits, both athletics and academics.


The major benefits of going to college are having been accepted to a good college and getting a sample of an adult workload. Much lower down on the list is the actual material one learns. By going to college but not graduating, one still has to prove in two places, high school and during 1st year, that the student was capable of GSD. Proving yourself repeatedly is what increases society’s confidence in your abilities.


Only the best and brightest college students should do one year. In NBA, staying longer than one year increases the superstar’s chance of getting hurt, damaging one’s career. Likewise for other pursuits, staying longer than one year damages the uniqueness of the student. It instills textbook thinking, lessening the chance that student will make an original contribution to their field. Those who won’t make a career out of what they do in college can stay all four years.


Just like for future NBAers, the actual time spent in college can be one, two, or three years. The point is to leave when one is ready and not on some arbitrarily defined length of time such as the degree granting date.


I’m having trouble finding ANY academic discipline for which this idea wouldn’t apply. Despite what your intuition may say, it certainly applies to doctors and lawyers. I went to medical school and can confidently say that after two years when I entered the wards, I was a capable doctor for 90+% of the cases an internist would see. Yes, 90+% isn’t good enough, but the point is I wouldn’t need another 6 years as is currently required. I should be allowed to test out when I’m ready.


College is a money grab by the schools. For students, tuition climbs every year. For athletes, the schools fill the enormous and overpriced stands and sell jerseys using the student-athletes’ likenesses. Whereas the players themselves get suspended if they make even $50 from their name. Why would all college students spend four years earning 0 to (negative)$200,000? Why not actually earn money? Yes it’s not all about money, but you can still just Google what you don’t know and skip the $200,000 tax. YCombinator and other startup accelerators are already replacing the M.B.A., so why can’t my colleagues be 19 year-olds too?


About me:
Timothy R. Peterson
Postdoctoral Fellow, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard
Ph.D. Biology MIT
B.S. Biochemistry, UMich
http://timrpeterson.com