Steve Jobs is a co-founder of Apple, the world’s most valuable company, and well-known for his charisma and leadership, but also for being a bit of a jerk sometimes. Despite his difficult character, Steve Jobs remains one of the biggest revolutionaries and successful entrepreneurs of our time.
And, his impact on the world goes far beyond Apple:
- Steve Jobs co-founded Pixar, a studio with numerous highly-acclaimed films and 11 Oscars. Pixar was sold to Disney for $7.4 billion back in 2006.
- In addition to Apple, Steve Jobs started another computer company called NeXT Software which he sold for more than $400 million in 1997.
Given all of these successes, it may surprise some that his road to success was anything but straightforward. His story is a wild ride involving things like Buddhism retreats, fruitarian diets, and a non-standard educational path.
The latter is what I’ll be focusing on here, as I’ll be taking a deep dive into Steve Jobs’ educational background: whether he went to high school or college, and what Jobs has said about education in general.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
Did Steve Jobs go to high school?
Steve Jobs attended and finished Homestead High School in 1972 together with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Homestead was close to Jobs’ childhood home in California and offered every possibility for him to pursue his interest in electronics, thanks to a fully-stocked lab and a passionate electronics teacher named John McCollum.
However, even in his youth, Steve Jobs was notoriously rebellious towards authority and thus did not make the most of the possibilities offered by Homestead High School. Jobs and McCollum clashed often, and Jobs purposely showed disinterest toward McCollum and everything he taught. Jobs ended up dropping out of the electronics course.
The story above directly conflicts with that of Steve Wozniak. Wozniak attended the same electronics course and directly credits McCollum for nurturing his talent and love for electronics.
This only goes to show the differences between the two men who notoriously clashed during the early days of Apple. Jobs was the non-conformist rebel, whereas Wozniak was content with working within the system.
But, did Jobs’ formal educational story finish with his high school graduation, or did he also pursue college?
Did Steve Jobs go to college?
Steve Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, for one semester in 1972, taking humanities, psychology, and philosophy classes. He dropped out of Reed College after one semester and never graduated, later saying it was “one of the best decisions I ever made” in his famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech.
But, Jobs did not completely cut ties with Reed College after dropping out, and he kept auditing some of the classes that he found valuable.
For example, calligraphy classes at Reed College profoundly impacted young Steve Jobs. He has later gone on record saying that the calligraphy classes of Reed helped him design the first Macintosh, which Jobs called “the first computer with beautiful typography.” Steve also met Professor Jack Dudman, dean of students, while in Reed College, later saying he was one of his heroes in life.
In addition, it was at Reed where Jobs dove even deeper into his interest in Eastern philosophy. He was often found in the school library, where he spent hours studying various tomes on Buddhism and Hinduism.
So, while Jobs did not finish his college education, it is clear that university still played a part in what Apple and Steve Jobs were to become.
What has Steve Jobs said about college?
Although Steve Jobs did not graduate from college, his attitude towards education is more nuanced than one might think.
Here are some thoughts Jobs expressed about college education:
- Jobs didn’t believe in pursuing college only for a diploma. Instead, Jobs valued education aligned only with what one is passionate about, saying that after dropping out, he could finally start dropping in on those classes that seemed interesting to him.
- Jobs again referenced his decision to only audit classes he was interested in when saying, “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” Specifically, this refers to his calligraphy classes at Reed College. Jobs did not see the practical value in calligraphy, but he still pursued it, and only years later he found a use for these skills when designing the first Macintosh computer.
- Ultimately, Jobs recognized the value of going to college, saying in a 1991 convocation speech that his Reed College experiences “helped me in everything I’ve ever done, although I wouldn’t have guessed it at the time.“
In the end, I recommend taking away from Jobs’ story that you should only pursue an education that aligns with your interests and passions. College can be a great investment – but only if you are pursuing a degree that you are deeply interested in and taking classes that you have a personal connection with.