So you’re applying for a place at university or college, or you’ve got in. Congratulations! Higher education is a wonderful thing, and it will change you for the better. However, there’s an even more exciting, more vast and more productive university under all of our noses: the University of Self Improvement. I want to explain to you just how powerful it can be.

Did you ever stop to consider that most of the things you learn with a teacher could just as easily be read straight out of a book? It’s true! In fact, at university, the phrase ‘reading psychology’ is often used interchangeably with ‘studying psychology’ (or any other subject) simply because the course mostly involves reading. However, the problem is most people are always waiting for permission to open the books. They’re waiting for a teacher of some kind to say, ‘Now you’re ready to learn idea x.’ Obviously, this is misleading. In truth, you can learn just about anything as soon as you want to, and all you need is access to the learning materials.

There was a time when books were written and copied by hand. In pre-printing press days, I’m certain books would have cost a fortune and were the cherished possessions of wealthy people. Today, however, most books can be bought second hand from Amazon for less than a pound, hired from a library, or even downloaded for free from the internet. Never mind the veritable library-in-your-pocket that makes up your e-reader. Actually, it is hard to think of many books at all which can’t be bought, hired, or downloaded extremely cheaply. There has never been such excellent access to knowledge.

The blockage to education is not access to an institution, it is a blockage in each of our own minds. If you really care about learning advanced mathematics, or the history of art, or philosophy, then you can become a master of the subject. You just have to give yourself permission and go study it for yourself. At university, I was lucky enough to love my degree, but there were some modules which I found tedious and unimportant to my life. When you make the commitment to becoming a self-educator, you only have to enrol yourself on the courses which are fascinating to you.

In 2015, we have even more than books. If you want something tricky explained there is now more video footage than one person could possibly consume, available on YouTube and the like. A lot of top universities even post their lectures online. Didn’t make the grades to get in to Yale? Why not see their lectures here So many universities and experts are now publishing free content, and once again it is all just one mental hurdle away.

Universities and colleges are wonderful places. The social life can’t be beaten, and so many employers demand the qualifications they award. However, if you’re truly searching for knowledge, just knowledge, then it really is just a thought away. Perhaps you could even study another subject alongside your course. My advice is to take responsibility for your own education. Don’t wait for permission to learn something, go out there and take it. The possibilities are extraordinary.

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