10 Ways College Will and Won’t Prepare You for Entrepreneurship

by / ⠀Startup Advice / April 25, 2011

business school

Because many entrepreneurs skipped college (Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Bill Gates), you may be wondering if college is the right choice for you.

Like most things in life, college is not perfect. However, while many entrepreneurs didn’t go to college, many still found their few years in college useful. As an entrepreneur and college graduate, I can easily say college is a great way to prepare for life as an entrepreneur.

First, my top 5 ways college WILL prepare you. Then, the 5 ways it won’t prepare you. And three bonus tips on getting the most out of college.

How College WILL Prepare You

1. The Basics

College will teach you the basics of business you will need to strive as an entrepreneur. For instance, when you have discussions with your team, you will need to know what ROI means, what the difference between a debit and credit is, and why you should become a corporation and not an LLC.

2. Learn to Learn

Great entrepreneurs have an uncanny ability to learn. College teaches us how to improve our learning. Spending most of your day reading, writing, and discussing helps refine your intellect and improve your thinking.

3. Networking

No entrepreneur ever accomplished anything on his own. There was always a team. In college, you are surrounded by people with similar interests. You will make some of your best friends in college. These friends and colleagues are the people who will help you accomplish your goals.

4. Discovery

Almost every entrepreneur is worldly and well rounded. They’ve been exposed to other countries, lifestyles, and people. College can help guide you through this discovery process. It exposes you to new books, new ways of thinking, and new people. You may journey to another country for study abroad or visit your auditorium to hear a speech from a Holocaust survivor.

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5. Time Management

Let’s not lie: it’s very difficult to manage time in college. You have school work, sports, clubs, events, work, and an intense social life. If you want to succeed, you need to learn how to properly manage your time. An entrepreneurs life is just as chaotic as life in college. You need to learn to be your own manager and manage your own time.

How College WON’T Prepare You

1. Emotional Readiness

Being an entrepreneur is an emotional roller coaster. Some days, you feel like you are conquering the world. Other days, you are ready to call it quits and give up. College may teach you the basics of accounting, but it won’t teach you how to deal with these emotions of being an entrepreneur.

2. Practical Knowledge

College is ALL theory. I’ve noticed that 75% of my college business classes don’t apply to real world business. You’d imagine that marketing 101 would teach you marketing techniques. Not at all.

3. How to Start

It takes courage to actually begin a business. Everyone can put together a business plan, but few can actually press go. Business schools leave all of this out. Instead of teaching us how to raise $12 million, why not teach us how to sell our first product?

4. Who Is the Professor

You’d expect someone teaching you how to use a computer to have experience using computers. It’s not that way in business school. Most of my professors had no practical experience in the business world. Many were trained academically.

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5. There Are No Grades in Real Life

College teaches you to follow a pattern: show up to class, do your homework, study, and you will get an A. In the real world, there are no patterns and there are no grades. Many first time entrepreneurs freak out when they realize this. I did for sure. I thought if I could find a book that said do this, then do that, you will succeed. There is no book like this. You have to create your own path.

How Do You get the Most out of College?

1. Learning Doesn’t Stop When Class Ends

Find any and all opportunities to learn. Go to the library and read, even if the books aren’t assigned. Attend speeches and presentations. Get involved with clubs. And don’t limit yourself to the business school. In college, I went to presentations by famous literary authors, saw plays, and visited art galleries.

2. Start a Business

If you want to start a business, why not start it in college? Just doing this will put you ahead of 99% of the entrepreneur majors. Like is commonly said, you can’t learn something without doing it. You will learn more by starting a business than school can teach you.

3. Get a Mentor

One day, you will meet a professor who you just click with. Everything he or she says resonates with you. When you find him or her, ask if he or she will mentor you.

As you see, there were some aspects of college that were a complete waste of time. At the same time, I realize that if I didn’t go to college, I would not have achieved any of my current success.

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For those entrepreneurs who went to college, do you agree with this list? What can you add?

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If you’d like to read more by Brandon Yanofsky, you can check out his blog on Small Business Marketing. He also runs a small business providing Salon Marketing.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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