It’s easy for young entrepreneurs struggling to break through to blame college for their delayed success. After all, they wouldn’t have this problem had they not wasted years earning a useless piece of paper, right? They can become fully equipped to run their own business without it, right?
Jason Smith seems to think so, according to his “10 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Never Enroll in College.” Well, here I am to play devil’s advocate; let’s take a look at why college is still worth it for entrepreneurs.
The 10 Reasons Why College Is Good For Entrepreneurs
1. It will build your professional network and open doors for you
Networking is perhaps the most important benefit of college and a must-have for entrepreneurs. If your main competition for that new contract is someone who went to college with the potential client, who do you think has the edge? College will also teach you how to work with people from all walks of life, allowing you to be confident and personable no matter what the situation.
2. You will learn to think critically
College is a great learning opportunity in many ways – not the least of these is the fact that you will often question what you learn. This is a place for you to develop critical thinking skills. A truly well-rounded individual can clearly address any question and think about both sides of the argument. Finding your own answers and explanations in a collegiate setting will help you to deftly handle assessing a multitude of situations in the future.
3. You gain a fall back plan
Everyone wants to be the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, or Steve Jobs. They never finished college; why do you need to? Hate to break it to you, they’re the outliers. For every one Steve Jobs, there are thousands of entrepreneurs who were confident in their business, only to realize that they didn’t understand their market, their customer, their financials, etc. Those people had a few options: fail, or learn and succeed. Throughout college you probably failed a few times and if absolute worse comes to worse, you have a degree to go out and get a steady job to give you a safety net while you work on your business.
4. You earn credibility
Besides showing mastery in a subject, a degree shows that you were committed enough to spend 4+ years studying, and are thus a far more reliable individual than someone who spent their post-high school years in their basement. When your company bio proudly displays your picture, what credibility will stand out next to it? The next time you look at a successful venture, check and see if (and where) the owner went to college. You’ll notice most of them did.
5. The experience is irreplaceable
They say it’s the best four years of your life… well, it’s a great start. Without college, you miss out on the great times that your peers are having, the lessons they learn, and the experiences they have: living on your own, meeting friends, the Greek system, sleeping through an exam, joining an organization you never thought you would like and much more. Much is made of college’s academic benefits, but it’s truly an intriguing time in all other areas.
6. You will learn diverse subjects
College gets a bad rap for its “traditional” educational style. Traditions are still used for good reasons too. The seemingly useless courses will show you how to handle different subjects, no matter what you encounter in life. You may wonder why you have to take environmental science as an aspiring tech entrepreneur, but five years down the line when you are trying to establish greener energy to run your company this class might suddenly seem a lot more important. The traditional education experience creates a person prepared for many challenges in life.
7. You will develop and appreciate more individualism
All you need to do is watch College Game Day on any given weekend to see that there are no two people on a campus that are alike. College is an opportunity to become you. For most, it’s their first opportunity. College is (or, should be) based on you pursuing your passion for the first time. You pick your major. You pick your classes. Everything is up to YOU. This time of your life gives you the opportunity to explore what makes you tick, which may play a big part in the company culture you want to have within your startup.
8. Diversification is everywhere
Up until the end of high school, you’re surrounded with the same people. These people usually come from very similar socio-economic and demographic backgrounds. How boring! From the second you get to college, you meet a whole new potential market that may be completely different than you. You meet international students, inner-city kids, rednecks, redheads – everyone. Democrats? Meet Republicans. Republicans? Well… hopefully you’ll meet a few Democrats. But overall, guess what? Everyone lives differently. They all approach problems differently. It’s definitely beneficial to experience firsthand the global village that exists outside of our hometown. How will this help your company? Diversification will give you the chance to see what skills you need to look for when hiring your first employees, who your ideal clients will be, and how they think.
9. You will take on the challenge of risk-taking
In College, mom and dad are no longer there to watch you. Take advantage of that. Mix your red laundry with whites – who’s going to stop you? Join clubs you never thought about. Spelunking? There’s a club for that. Nonpartisan politics? There’s a club for that. College campuses pride themselves in having everything available. Almost every campus now has entrepreneurship clubs; why not run your idea by the members and advisors of the organization? There is your temporary Board of Advisors! Entrepreneurship is about taking (calculated) risks. College will teach you how. You build confidence in a relatively safe – not to mention less embarrassing and less costly – environment.
10. It’s okay to let loose
Traditionally, college is a transition point from adolescence to adulthood. In many ways, it’s an opportunity to “get it all out of your system.” Partying, late nights, all sorts of things – these are learning experiences. Once you leave college, it’s time to buckle down and be serious. College is good for getting a little bit of the party animal out of the way before you start your own business.
It may seem as though college is an unneeded expense, but believe you me; when you get out into the real world, you will be ten steps ahead at every turn. Beyond that, you will be happier having had the experience of those four years. Your degree is your friend. Without it, you’ll end up lost in a world in which college is becoming more and more necessary to have the skills to start your own business.
Author Bio: Dr. Greg Bier is a Professor of Management at the University of Missouri. He leads the newly formed Entrepreneurship Alliance at the University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business.
He is also a partner with Entrepreneur MO (www.mo.com). Follow Greg on Twitter at @gregbier.