Emailing Strangers: A Superpower for Self-Directed Learning

There’s a lot you can learn by googling things, watching YouTube videos, reading books, and taking online classes. But what do you do when the things you want to learn are more personal, nuanced, and complex?

For example:

  • How does your favorite YouTuber/blogger/Instagrammer come up with their brilliant ideas?
  • How did someone land their awesome job in a highly competitive industry?
  • What’s the next step you should take in your quest to teach yourself _________?
  • What should you know before going to college to study _________?

There’s a world of useful knowledge locked up in people’s heads. Sometimes, all you need to unlock that knowledge is one well-crafted email.

In this course you’ll learn how to write a thoughtful, powerful, and convincing email to a stranger on the internet—and then you’ll hit send.

You won’t just do this once: you’ll send 3 total emails. The goal is to receive at least one positive response.

In these emails, you might ask questions (“How did you get started in this field?”), share something that you’ve created (“Would you give me feedback about this thing I created?”), or request an online meeting (“Could we chat on Zoom for 30 minutes?”). It all depends on what you’d genuinely like to learn.

While I cannot guarantee that you’ll receive a response—because this is real life, not a simulation!—I can guarantee that you’ll gain an important skill that will serve you throughout your life. This skill is especially helpful as a teenager and young adult, when busy adults are more likely to sympathize with you.

Through my work as a one-on-one coach for teenage homeschoolers, unschoolers, and other self-directed learners, I’ve taught the skill of emailing strangers for more than a decade. I also use frequently this skill in my life as an entrepreneur and author. I truly believe that it’s an essential skill for self-directed learners—as well as curious and ambitious people of all stripes—and I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned.

Course prerequisites and requirements:

  • This course is for self-directed teenagers who genuinely want to attend this course and do the work involved.
  • Students should only enroll if they already have a general idea of what they’d like to learn as a result of this course. For example: Do you want to figure out what it takes to enter a certain career path or study a certain subject? Want to understand some “tricks of the trade?” Want to figure out how someone goes from X to Y in life? (I cannot tell you what your interests and passions are—but I will help you turn them into reasonable questions.)
  • Students should have their own email account and basic writing skills. Proofreading and revision are part of the process, so don’t worry if you consider yourself a poor writer.
  • Students should possess basic internet search skills: the kind that would, for example, enable them to find a college professor’s email address.
  • This course will meet on Zoom and use Google Docs.

Notes for parents:
This course is for mature teenagers who are already comfortable with the idea of communicating with complete strangers online. I will provide guidance in the first class regarding how to select appropriate people to email and how to deal with any unwelcome or inappropriate responses. (In many years of guiding teenagers through this process, “stranger danger” has never been an issue—and I intend to keep it that way.)
This course was previously offered on Outschool, with universally positive reviews.

For an overview of what you’ll be doing, click here.

Blake Boles is the founder and director of Unschool Adventures and the author of Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?, The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College, and College Without High School. He hosts the Off-Trail Learning podcast and has delivered over 75 presentations for education conferences, alternative schools, and parent groups. Blake and his work have appeared on The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, BBC Travel, Psychology Today, Fox Business, TEDx, The Huffington Post, USA Today, NPR affiliate radio, and the blogs of Wired and The Wall Street Journal.

July 16 & 23, 10:30 am – 11:30 am
To register, click here.