While we certainly think college has a place, the fact is higher ed isn’t for everyone. If you consider college the means to starting your business, answering these questions can shed a new light on your decision.
1. Can you learn your field only in college? If your entrepreneurial dream involves something like opening a cutting-edge surgery center—where you’ll personally be doing some of the cutting—our crystal ball shows college in your future.
If, however, your passion lies in running and not necessarily participating in your business, you can learn more about business doing business than studying it in college. Unfortunately, you may have difficulty entering the workforce without a degree, as many non-degree holders will affirm.
2. Do you already have a product or service you’d like to bring to market? Waiting at least four years before bringing your idea to market could be its death knell. After all, why wait when PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel may give you $100,000 to start your business if you skip college?
If you join academia, keep monitoring your market to ensure no one is encroaching upon your big idea. In the event your idea has reached critical mass before you graduate, there’s no law forbidding you from starting a business while an undergrad. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg.
3. Do you like to learn? People who love learning should go to college, right? Not necessarily. You may enjoy the company of fellow knowledge-seekers—or be shocked at how often they blow off class—but you’ll be paying a hefty price for the same knowledge a library card and Amazon.com account can provide.
Small business owners have to learn something new every day. If you have the ambition and self-discipline to learn on your own, you may have the right stuff to start your business now.
4. Do you have capital available? For argument’s sake, let’s say you have $10,000 available for your future. That money could, realistically, cover one year of in-state tuition and fees at a public university, roughly 25 percent of your four-year cost minus room and board.
Or, that $10,000 could finance your business while you work another job to make ends meet (unless you’re profitable from the get go). Considering that seed money will be gone if you attend college, you have a fairly convincing case to start your business now. Of course, there’s no guarantee.
If your business fails, you’ve lost the money. Then again, you might drop out after one year of college. In either scenario, the 10 grand is gone. You have to ask yourself which is more valuable: a year spent trying to create a successful business, or the learning and experience gained from one of year of college.
There are plenty of other considerations as you decide contemplate college, but as the saying goes, “Experience is the best teacher.”
With an emphasis on problem-solving dating back to 1995, Business Owner’s Toolkit™ (www.toolkit.com) offers more than 5,000 pages of free cost-cutting tips, step-by-step checklists, real-life case studies, startup advice, and business templates to small business owners and entrepreneurs. The site also offers a monthly newsletter, up-to-date news topics, and Ask Alice!, a column that closely follows industry trends and provides trusted advice to inquiring site visitors.