Noor Siddiqui receives Thiel Fellowship

Noor Siddiqui receives Thiel Fellowship

Senior Noor Siddiqui has taken some uncommon advice for her post-high school plans: “Don’t go to college.” In the fall of 2012, Noor will be packing up and moving out to California to pursue her dreams. However Siddiqui won’t be without help. This May, Noor found out that she had won a Thiel Fellowship. The Theil fellowship describes itself as an experience that brings together “some of the world’s most creative and motivated young people, and helps them bring their most ambitious ideas and projects to life.”

The program gives 20 students under the age of 20 a no strings attached grant of $100,000 to support entrepreneurs while they focus on their own ventures, develop their ideas, research, and pursue self-education with the help of a vast network of professionals in every field imaginable. Siddiqui said she felt that the program encouraged students to look beyond the expected avenue of college as the only method of education. “I was attracted to the Thiel Fellowship because it exuded urgency and fearlessness; that resonated with me” Siddiqui said.

The fellowship started gaining national coverage when statements by Fellowship founder and funding source Peter Thiel sparked debate over the value of a college education. Thiel spoke out on 60 minutes claiming “Too many people are conned into thinking that this credential [a four year degree] is the one thing you need to do better in life. They’re actually not any better off, they typically are worse off because they have amassed all this debt.”

To be clear, Thiel doesn’t advocate everyone skipping college but he warns, “People should think hard about why they’re going to college.” Thiel Foundation President Jonathan Cain added in a statement, “Our world is suffering from a lack of innovation, and you can’t build a world-changing company in between classes or while servicing six figures of debt.”

Siddiqui agrees that you can learn volumes from experience outside the classroom, “Whether you are an entrepreneur, at 17 or 27, you will need to learn a whole new skill set that college couldn’t teach you. I don’t see the fellowship as undermining college or formal education at all; rather I see it as providing an accelerated avenue for learning.”

When asked about her plans for what she will do with her free two years, Noor jumped right into describing the impact she wants to make. “The most underutilized resource isn’t a mineral hidden deep in the depths of the earth; the most underutilized resource is the human resource. I’m going to be working on ventures that activate the untapped capital in the bottom billion” Siddiqui Said. With her vision, Siddiqui carries high hopes for her time in San Francisco, “I see it as a life accelerator, I’m humbled by the opportunity to work with and learn from the titans in the Silicon Valley.”

As if that doesn’t sound like enough of a challenge, Noor will also be moving to San Francisco to live on her own for two years. To the upcoming challenge Noor admitted reservations, but carries this advice from George Bernard Shaw “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” Noor certainly is taking her own advice, starting with ignoring preconceived notions about college, and will be jumping right into kick starting her future next fall in California.