A 4.0 grade point average was not enough to keep Billy Willson, freshman in architectural engineering, at Kansas State.
On Dec. 17, the first Saturday after finals week, Willson posted on Facebook that he had dropped out of college after finishing his first semester at K-State with a 4.0 GPA.
“It’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made,” Willson wrote in his post. “Not because I am adverse to learning, but actually the exact opposite.”
Willson said in an email interview he has always had big goals to become an entrepreneur, and after college he planned on working for an engineering firm before starting his own.
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He said there was no exact moment where he realized college was no longer for him.
“It was more of a choice I increasingly considered over the last three months,” Willson said. “It probably first began when I started questioning how old I would be when my engineering firm would actually become profitable. I estimated I would be at least 35 before then. That was one of the large factors in my decision, the amount of time it would take me to achieve my goals.”
“Many things happened at the same time that affected my decision, one of the other huge ones was finding videos on YouTube that literally teach you step by step to build an online business with little money,” Willson continued. “If there was any platform that swayed my decision, it was definitely YouTube. To see so many entrepreneurs with dreams like my own, achieve them at ages of 20, 22, 24 was really inspiring for me. Many of them also had extremely valid points of reasons not to go to college as well, especially if you want to become an entrepreneur.”
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The number one reason he decided to drop out, however, was because Willson said he was learning much more outside of school than he was in the classroom.
“I honestly have learned more in the past six months on my own than I have my entire school career,” Willson said. “That may seem like an exaggeration, but it truly is not. I’ve been able to learn an immense amount through entrepreneurial videos, podcasts, meeting entrepreneurs, reading, and especially through actively creating my own business. By far the best way I’ve learned is actively creating my business.”
Willson’s business is RaveWave, which specializes in accessories and clothing related to electronic dance music, raves, festivals and concerts.
Willson said time is his most valuable asset and is the only thing we have a limited amount of. Because of this, he said his biggest regret was the time he spent in class and on homework, as he can never get that time back.
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Willson continued to write in his post that college students are being scammed and not learning about what will actually benefit them after earning a college degree.
“Colleges are REQUIRING people to spend money taking general education courses to learn about the quadratic formula (and other shit they will never use) when they could be giving classes on MARRIAGE and HOW TO DO YOUR TAXES,” Willson wrote.
In an email interview, Willson said he was not aware that K-State offers classes such as family life and marriage. Despite that, Willson said he feels the K-State 8 general education plan needs to be removed.
“If you want general education courses still, then those marriage and tax courses would fit very nicely in their places as new required courses that will be much more beneficial for students,” Willson said. “To have students learning more history after 12 years of history in primary and secondary education makes absolutely no sense to me. And having students being forced to pay for a class like college algebra when they are in a major which will never use high-level math, is a complete waste of their money and time in my opinion.”
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As of 1 p.m. today, Willson’s post had received over 14,000 likes, 7,000 shares and 4,000 comments from people both in agreement and disagreement.
“I purposely made the post controversial because I knew it would help it spread so much farther,” Willson said. “I honestly would have liked to make it more professional, but unfortunately professional criticism doesn’t spread as well. My goal with getting it to go viral is to reach out to those students who feel like they don’t have a choice, and to encourage those in similar situations as me to reach their goals and feel comforted in the fact they have someone to relate to.”
In a clarification tweet on Twitter at 10:35 p.m. on Dec. 18, Willson wrote to make it clear that he does not have anything against K-State specifically, but the college system as a whole.
“There certainly are exception situations where college can be an amazing opportunity for a person, but I so feel this is overrated for a majority,” Willson wrote in the tweet. “I apologize for the vulgarity of my post, but I knew I couldn’t spread my message as strong without it. In the end, I just want each of you to follow your dreams and do whatever is best for YOU.”
The other side
An “audible eye roll” was the initial reaction of Sam Edwards, senior in mass communications, when he first saw screenshots of Willson’s post on Twitter and that led Edwards to write his own post in response to Willson.
“One thing I take seriously are the lyrics of the alma mater, ‘a spot I love full well,”’ Edwards said. “K-State has really given me the opportunity to grow and find myself and give me a safe space to do so. So my initial reaction of seeing him flipping off Higinbotham Gate, which is one of my favorite landmarks on campus, was just kind of a disappointment.”
As a mass communications student, Edwards said he values the First Amendment right Willson is allowed to use, but that it was done out of disrespect and in an unprofessional matter that could have been avoided.
“He has every right to say what he wants to say and every right to do what he wants to do, but it’s just kind of a shame he had to do so in such a big way,” Edwards said. “He clearly does not have the same passions and respect for K-State that a lot of people do and that’s totally his right, but for someone who walks through the gates, it’s just really disappointing. Love your First Amendment right. It’s your right to do so. Burn all the flags, flip off all the buildings, but think before you post.”
It is not just a love of the limestone buildings and purple pride that make Edwards proud to be earning a degree from K-State, but what his degree will stand for when he walks across the commencement stage.
“My degree to me means I will have spent four years honing my passions,” Edwards said. “It means I’ve worked hard and grown as a person. Through my degree, I’ve learned that helping people is ultimately what will make me go to bed happy at night. Through my degree, I’ve learned attention to detail means the world. And through my degree, I also learned that no matter what you can make a positive outcome out of a bad situation.”
“So my degree means a lot,” Edwards continued. “It just means I put in the time, I put in the effort, and at the end of the day I learned a lot more than what any of my classes originally set out to teach me.”
Finding value in every class
In response to what Willson said in his original post, Edwards said he has seen merit out of every class he has taken, and for that reason, college is not a scam.
“I refuse to believe classes are pointless,” Edwards said. “There’s such a wide variety of classes you can take. So if you don’t want to take psychology, don’t. There are so many classes that fill each requirement. Even I took Kansas geography and now I know where small towns are in Kansas and that there is life outside of eastern Kansas. I can talk all about limestone, I licked a rock in one of my classes. So I’m not going to discredit any of the classes I took and say it won’t ever be useful in the future. I think that is such a narrow-minded view and pessimistic.”
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Even licking a rock, Edwards said in his Facebook post, has merit.
“I licked a freaking rock,” Edwards wrote. “Licked it. Full tongue on sediment action. You know why I don’t think it’s useless? Because the real world is full of unpredictables. I might have a client someday who is in the oil business. You know what I would be thankful for? THAT FREAKING CLASS THAT I HAD TO LICK A FREAKING ROCK IN.”
In Edward’s Facebook post, he continued to respond to the lack of knowledge Willson said he received in areas such as marriage or taxes.
“You know what classes I took,” Edwards wrote. “CLASSES ABOUT FREAKING MARRIAGE (Heyyyy Kelly Welch [assistant professor in family studies and human services], how you doing?) You know what other classes I took? Golf, Wine Tasting, like 7.5 American Ethnic Studies classes … Maybe someday I will have a rough patch in my marriage, who know who I will think of? DR. WELCH TELLING ME HOTEL SEX IS THE BEST KIND OF SEX.”
“Maybe someday I will be asked to go golfing at some really pompous golf club,” Edwards continued. “AND YOU KNOW WHO IS GONNA BE IN SOME REALLY CUTE K-STATE PURPLE GOLF PANTS, USING THE RIGHT CLUB, AND BEING ABLE TO IDENTIFY THAT I AM CURRENTLY DRINKING A DRY WHITE WITH HINTS OF BAKED APPLE AND CHERRY? ME.”
Edwards said it may have been petty for him to make such a post, but he will do what it takes to defend a well-rounded college education.
Edwards’ post had received over 700 likes, 200 shares and 50 comments as of 1 p.m. today.
“I’m petty,” Edwards said. “I’m one petty kid. But I was just really frustrated to be honest. I’m a very protective person to the things I’m loyal to and I was just peeved. I think the reason why I wanted to post it besides to just be petty and sarcastic was to show people there is another side to the story and there are a lot of K-State students that probably felt a bit attacked if they are anything like me.”
While Edwards was unsure of the response his post would get, he said he hoped it would show prospective college students that there is another side to Willson’s story and there are students who do love their college education.
“I understand college isn’t for everyone, but if you do find a way to get there, make the most of it,” Edwards said. “I think (Willson has) a very fiscal way to look at the world. College, you can grow a lot or not grow at all; it’s the bed you make. It’s all up to you. I chose to make the most out of my four years and grow and push myself out of my comfort zone and really grow as a person and help the community around me grow as well.”