Have students been oversold on the promise of a college degree? Credit: Dave Herholz / Flickr Creative Commons
What’s it like getting $100,000 to drop out of school and pursue your own project?
“I think it’s becoming a little bit more normal for folks to leave school. Perhaps not permanently, but at least for a couple of years to pursue whatever they’re passionate about,” says , a partner at – a venture capital firm that invests in companies focused on extending life.
She's a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship, a fund started by PayPal co-founder to get young, smart people to leave school and pursue a project they're passionate about. Deming's project came from her interest in anti-aging research, which started when she volunteered in Dr. Cynthia Kenyon's research lab at the age of 12. She now talks to investors about funding companies developing therapies for age-related diseases.
Deming was home-schooled until she enrolled in college at 14 – presumably on the fast-track to success. One might assume that her friends and family were less than happy when she decided to leave MIT at 16. But, Deming says, “[there] was a lot of excitement and a lot of support, actually.”
Although she benefited from her fellowship, Deming cautions that dropping out isn’t for everyone. “Passion is one thing, but pure competency, being good at what you do, that’s very different. That’s difficult to find in undergrad.”
Meet the newest Thiel fellows: , and .