Choosing bitcoin over a bachelor’s degree

Without Bitcoin, Kyle Winstanley would be finishing his senior year at the University of Michigan.

The 22-year-old engineering student got the cryptocurrency bug in August when his classmate Spencer Porter added him to a Facebook cryptocurrency discussion group. Within a few weeks, the two were enthusiastic.

Winstanley says he’s always had an interest in markets – he taught himself how to trade stocks during his sophomore and sophomore years. And during a marketing internship this summer, 21-year-old Porter says he came across the blockchain-based secure messaging platform Obsidian and decided to invest in his ICO. They soon started networking with fellow college students on Facebook and sharing market analysis and forecasting.

“I’ve spent over 2,000 hours doing research, analysis, and data analysis in the last four months, and it’s really become a passion,” says Porter. “I wake up every morning and look forward to learning.”

Much to the horror of Porter’s roommates, the seniors turned Porter’s apartment into a Bitcoin trading room. In September, Winstanley began investing $ 200, while Porter added another $ 2,000 to the venture.

By December, the two had amassed about $ 15,000 – enough to convince Winstanley (and his parents) to drop out of school and start trading cryptocurrencies full-time.

“I don’t mind quitting school, and I’d love to graduate someday and come back and do it,” says Winstanley, who now has just one semester left to graduate. “But I couldn’t let this market happen again without paying my full attention.”

Winstanley and Porter represent a growing wave of college students who are swept away by the seemingly simple riches in cryptocurrencies and are now speculating with the tokens. Volatile Bitcoin, the blue chip among cryptocurrencies, rose 15-fold in 2017. While few students make the leap into full-time trading, buying crypto is almost as easy as sending money through Venmo, and many students are giving out cash in hopes of getting rich.

32 percent of millennials are likely to buy bitcoin in the next five years, according to an October survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Blockchain Capital. And roughly one in four millennials would rather own $ 1,000 in Bitcoin than $ 1,000 in stocks.

With a growing trend, many universities – from Stanford University to the University of California at Berkeley to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – are now offering bitcoin and cryptocurrency courses, and student-run bitcoin clubs are growing in popularity.

Porter says he’s cutting his course load and expanding his senior year to two semesters instead of graduating in the spring. Today he and Winstanley reach their goal with more capital. They raised nearly $ 70,000 – a mix of money from fall semester winnings and family money.

In the coming weeks, Winstanley’s Ann Arbor apartment will be converted into a trading hub, complete with a 10 x 10 foot projection screen and around 12 different monitors that will track trades on various crypto exchanges around the world.

“The window closes for those who have not yet intervened,” warns Porter, a double degree in digital media communication and cognitive science. “Wall Street and big money have started coming in. They move very, very quickly. “

At the University of Florida, students from the newly founded Gator Bitcoin Club meet regularly to inform each other about cryptocurrencies or to hear lectures from experts in the blockchain industry. They also find consolation in mutual trade.

Club member Felipe Faria, 20, says he started investing $ 200 in Bitcoin four years ago before going to school. Now the sophomore computer science student says he made nearly $ 7,000.

Reluctantly, he admits that he doesn’t have a part-time job – trading Bitcoin has become.

“I think the future is slowly moving away from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm trading towards 24-hour exchanges,” says Faria. “It’s definitely something I’ll be doing for a while.”

At Berkeley, students founded Blockchain at Berkeley, a nonprofit dedicated to education, research, and consulting for companies like Airbus and Qualcomm. When the organization started in 2014, it had fewer than 10 members, says Melissa Mokhtari, editor-in-chief for publications, a Berkeley senior citizen. Now they have around 100 student members and an external Slack branch with around 1,800 community members.

Since the fall of 2016, the group has designed and taught three blockchain courses on the Berkeley campus that credit students with an enrollment of around 120 each, says Mokhtari, 2018 class in applied math. The group also runs a popular online course for trading cryptocurrencies.

New York University professor David Yermack says his “Digital Currency, Blockchains, and the Future of Financial Services” course was one of the first cryptocurrency courses in the world when it began in 2014. The demand has increased so much that the course was relocated to a lecture hall with 350 seats in the next semester.

“There’s an incredible amount of curiosity at universities when you consider how quickly these things are gaining in value,” says Yermack. “There is the allure of ‘getting rich quick’. That stimulates the imagination of university students. “

Yermack, chairman of NYU Stern’s finance department, said the students are constantly asking for advice on investing. Although he never invested, Yermack said he recently found out that two of his four children had invested – his 13-year-old daughter in Bitcoin and his 18-year-old son in Litecoin.

Despite choosing not to invest, MIT MBA student Mark Weber says madness has taken over campus. Weber is project manager at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, where students conduct research on blockchain and cryptocurrency as well as run bootcamps and other educational programs.

The well-known economics professor Robert Pindyck asked his students in his industrial economics course last week what they wanted to cover in his last open lecture, says Weber. The overwhelming response from his more than 200 students? Bitcoin.

“Even in just two years and even in just three months, everyone will ask about it,” says Weber, born in 2018. “Everyone wants to talk about it.”

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