In the board-game The Game of Life, the first choice you have to make is whether to Start College or Start a Career. For an entrepreneur in the real world, this choice is a difficult one to make. There are many advantages to having a degree in today’s competitive economy. But at the same time, those with self-depended drive might think college is a waste of their time and money. Many famous entrepreneurs such as Andrew Carnegie, James Cameron, Steve Madden, Bill Gates, and Walt Disney achieved billion dollar success even though they dropped out of school. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur considering whether you should bother with college or not, here are some of the major points to consider:

The Case for Starting College

  1. Learning the Fundamentals: Sunil Kumar, dean of the Booth School of Business at Chicago, says that “business school can teach [entrepreneurs] the fundamentals and the business language that their potential investors speak.”
  2. Efficiency: Thomas Robertson, dean of the Wharton School at Pennsylvania, argues that “learning as you go” is inefficient. Business schools can quickly bring you up to speed in finance, marketing, and sources of capital- giving you an advantage in the global marketplace.
  3. Opportunity: entrepreneur and writer Vivek Madhwa points out that the college drop-out success stories of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are rare exceptions. For most college dropouts seeking to become entrepreneurs, “the companies they start will be far less successful than those started by degree-holders.”
  4. Networking: Adam Toren, an entrepreneur who did not attend university, concedes that networking opportunities are better for those in college who are surrounded by like-minded individuals for an extended period of time.
  5. Credibility: Toren also points out that a college degree gives you more credibility when dealing with bankers and investors.

The Case for Starting a Career

  1. Save Money: business school is expensive and many college graduates end up thousands of dollars in debt. Adam Toren says, “A college degree is by no means a guarantee of success as an employee or entrepreneur. To make it as an entrepreneur, you need drive, determination and a true passion for what you’re doing. With those qualities, just about anyone with the money it takes to attend college and four years to work on a business could make amazing things happen.”
  2. Experience Speaks Louder Than a Degree: U.S. News writer Menachem Wecker points out that most entrepreneurs start their businesses when they are older and have had time to earn experience, money, and network connections. These are attributes that don’t come right out of college, but through a lifetime of experience. “Start the business first,” says business owner Tom Castelloe, “jump in the water and try to swim.”
  3. Be More Open-Minded: Henry Mintzberg, professor of management studies at McGill University, claims that MBA programs have lost touch with the business world, are too focused on research, and fall short ethically. He says people “should find a business or venture or activity that they really love and get immersed as deeply as possible before they try to create something.” That immersions goes further than the classroom.

The Choice is Yours

Whether to attend college or not is a personal choice. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to both sides. Many choose college to gain more life experience before venturing on their own while others have more vision that can be contained in a classroom. It really comes down to where you are in life, what resources you have, and how confident you are currently. University is not a fast-track to success, but what you have to decide is if it will give you some of the tools to create success for yourself.

So what do you think? Do entrepreneurs need a degree to be successful?



photo credit: MomMaven

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