To get an elite education, you might assume that you need to go to an elite, Ivory Tower school. However, in my experience taking classes at Dartmouth, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Columbia, Brown, and Wharton, nothing could be further from the truth.

The days of education being limited to the wealthy are long over. Not only because all the courses I took (which you can find on my profile) are available online, but because even these supposedly “elite” courses pale in comparison to even more accessible alternatives, like LinkedIn Learning. Taking over 100 LinkedIn Learning courses, almost was superior to courses I took when I was still enrolled in a private university – which cost over $60,000 per year and were much longer.

Prestige vs Learning

The difference is in the goal. If your goal is prestige, then actually learning doesn’t matter to you, and prestige is still limited to the wealthy. However, if your goal is learning, then everything you need can be found online and in books.

Sure, I learned a lot about topics like innovation, sustainability, energy, policy, and design at Ivy League courses, but there was never a single piece of knowledge I got that was restricted to only those Ivy Leagues.

To Truly Learn, Drop Your Ego

At the end of the day, I realized that all those courses existed out of ego, to fuel ego. Branding and logos were plastered everywhere, with academic speaking used to create the façade of greater intelligence, and protect a huge ego.

Certificates, degrees, titles, “X years of experience”—they all protect your ego, at the cost of true learning. Think about it: If you lost all your titles and pieces of paper, would you have lost any of the learning? Of course not, what you learned is now a part of you.

On the flip-side, if you put in a ton of effort into getting more titles and certifications, does that mean you automatically learned something?

What is Real Learning?

Real learning is not for anyone but yourself. It’s not something you have to prove with titles, and the goal is not prestige, but knowledge. Funny enough, people want prestige because they believe it will lend greater opportunity, but ask yourself this: Would you rather hire the highly knowledgeable person or the person with a lot of certifications?

I’ve been on both sides of the table: Hiring and trying to get hired. Mentioning that you “have a degree from University X” is a lot less impactful than saying “I can do X, Y, and Z. For example, with projects A, B, and C.”

The takeaway is this: Bringing real knowledge and real value to the table is a lot more important than bringing a title.