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Why Elon Musk dropped out of Stanford after only two days

February 15, 2022, 6:55 PM UTC

Elon Musk has gained a lot of popularity for his unconventional life and career choices. He famously named his newborn X Æ A-12, and sold more than 20,000 flamethrowers despite warnings from various politicians. 

Among his many outlandish career moves is one that dates back to 1995 when he dropped out of Stanford after only two days at the prestigious institution. 

After earning two bachelor’s degrees, one of which was from the University of Pennsylvania, Musk entered a Stanford Ph.D. program in physics at the age of 24. Two days later, however, he changed his mind and called it quits.

The reason? He believed the internet had more potential to impact the world than his research in physics. He wanted to capitalize on the internet boom and so he did, going on to launch his first company, Zip2, and selling it for over $300 million four years later. 

Musk had always been an extraordinary kid, well ahead of his time and his age. He had taught himself how to code at the age of 9 and published his first game at 12. At 17, he took a university-level computer programming aptitude test which examiners made him retake because they had never seen such a high score, his mother shared in a tweet

He’d go on to revolutionize electric vehicles with Tesla, and make history with SpaceX. He also has a brain-chip startup called Neuralink, which he claims will give superhuman abilities to normal people, and heal everything from mental illness to paralysis.

Although it’s clear that Musk is unique in many ways, his decision to quit school is not. Tech billionaire college dropouts include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Dell

Colleges tend to follow a rigid structure, mostly teaching what has already been done, instead of exploring the future. Maybe this is why many self-starters like Musk struggle to stay within the confines of the formal education system, dare to innovate on their own, and end up earning billionaire status by doing so.  

With so many case studies of entrepreneurs making it big in the age of tech and crypto, and the incremental rise of college tuition and student debt, there’s one question that comes to mind: Is the risk of forgoing a degree a smart move for the average Joe, or do only wunderkinds like Elon Musk emerge stronger after dropping out?

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