Another ‘Great Pretender’…
28-year-old Guillaume Dumas is a strong critic of the higher education system. In an attempt to make a political statement about how universities exclude people who cannot afford them, he spent four long years as a wandering scholar. He hopped campuses across North America, attending lectures and seminars for free, as an unregistered student. And although he didn’t receive a degree at the end, Dumas has used his education to start a successful online dating business in Montreal.
He applied to LaSalle College in Montreal and got in. And although he started college like any other 18-year-old, he soon got restless and was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. He liked psychology, physics and philosophy, so he couldn’t decide on a major. He was spending $4,000 a year on his education, which he felt was a colossal waste. So he dropped out of LaSalle and started attending a few classes at the nearby McGill University. “It was so easy to look at the course listing and them show up for a class,” he recalled. “I thought, why couldn’t I do this at other schools?”
Dumas then saved some money and used it to travel to the U.S., where he attended classes at Yale, Brown, Berkeley and Stanford. He worked part-time in coffee shops to support himself and spent the remaining time showing up at whatever classes caught his fancy. He also wanted to experience the social life at various schools. “I’m a pretty social guy, so I was invited to parties,” he said. “People just thought I was another student, so I just sort of went incognito.”
Dumas, who is a great fan of impersonator Frank Abagnale, Jr. (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can), said he got a kick out of walking into any campus and blending with the students there. It became a kind of game for him to see how far he could take the ruse.
“I freely acknowledge that this is not for everyone,” he said. There are careers for which a professional degree is mandatory, he pointed out. At the same time, he says there are professions like entrepreneurs, freelancers, and tech workers, where the work you produce is far more important than where your degree is from, or whether you have one at all.
“There are so many famous dropouts in the tech world – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg,” he said. “It seems crazy that even people who plan to become entrepreneurs or developers still obsess about where they will get their degree.”