Should young entrepreneurs skip college?
You are an ambitious, potential entrepreneur — young, confident and bursting to pounce on the risky business idea percolating within you. Yet you’re in a quandary — to go to college or skip it to pursue your lightbulb moment? Turning to today’s entrepreneurial icons, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Dropbox’s Arash Ferdowsi, may sway your decision to go to school considering their successful business launches — sans college degrees. Even venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, publicly encourages (and pays) select young, brilliant minds to drop out of college to follow their entrepreneurial ideas.
“College could be a deterrent, especially to a time-sensitive technology idea,” acknowledges University of Phoenix School of Business instructor Dr. Kevin Gazzara, DM. “But for the rest of the world, college is absolutely a necessity,” adds the senior partner at a management leadership consulting firm.
Specifically, business courses groom skill sets entrepreneurs ought to have if they want a sustainable competitive advantage within their respective industries, he notes. The Mark Zuckerbergs and Thiel monetary recipients of the world, he emphasizes, are “one in a million,” and any wise entrepreneurial spirit would see the value of not only college courses and the overall experience, but also the time it affords you to make mistakes. The kind of mistakes, Gazzara adds, you should look to avoid when running a business and certainly before you anger angel investors or, worse yet, go belly up business-wise.
“Doing business is about relationships, leadership and influence. College provides a safe environment to build these skills,” says Gazzara. This also means college gives you the opportunity to build “social capital,” professional relationships with instructors and colleagues whose expertise you can tap before you venture out into the business world, he says.
“College gives you the opportunity to be exposed to many different business perspectives, business models and other business elements; and your only downside is getting a bad grade.”
Moreover, he adds, business programs provide budding entrepreneurs with critical and creative thinking skills, the business theory and industry vocabulary to make good, informed business decisions. “Running a business [means] you need to be able to talk the language and have an understanding of the breadth of all aspects of business,” says Gazzara.
College offers this through the case studies and content taught in courses like accounting, finance, marketing, management, economics, information technology and human resources, among others, he adds. On the flip side, Gazzara notes, non-college bound entrepreneurs must learn this knowledge on the job and, again, possibly to their company’s overall financial detriment.
According to Gazzara, “If you are building this breadth of knowledge without a foundation of content, then you have put yourself at a bigger entrepreneurial risk: the risk for less success.”
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Dropbox is a registered trademark of Dropbox Inc.