Many college students are beginning to question whether or not a college education is really worth the thousands of dollars — if not hundreds of thousands — they shell out every year. Although many parents squirm at the thought of their children dropping out or “stopping out” (taking a break from college for an extended period of time) of college, they might be surprised to learn that taking the leap into entrepreneurship may be more than just a smart decision.
As a recent college dropout, or “stopout,” myself, there are three things I feel you must realize and accomplish before you take the initial leap from a traditional education to “uncollege.” But once you accomplish these, taking the next step — jumping into entrepreneurship — is not as risky as you might think. You can prepare for the startup journey by accurately calculating the risks:
1. Know all the facts.
Movies like “The Social Network” have glorified entrepreneurship in such a way that people actually believe success in 72 hours is feasible. Unfortunately, it’s not. Being an entrepreneur means condensing all the blood, sweat, tears and stress of a normal person’s entire life into a very short four or five years. When you actually live that lifestyle, you realize it is not easy or glamorous — random pool parties, endless alcohol and Sean Parker are usually not involved.
2. Take an inventory of what you know and have.
Take a look at what skills you possess. Can you build a product yourself or are you a business guru? Do you have someone else on your team to cover your weak spots? Do you have the technology or resources necessary to actually begin to get something off the ground? Or do you have a plan (and the money) to attain all of those resources? There would be nothing worse than dropping out of college without knowing what goal you wish to achieve, some sense of how you’re going to achieve that goal, and all the right resources to start working toward it. Make sure you have all the necessary equipment in order to survive the entrepreneurial trek.
3. Weigh your options.
Look at the job ratings from your college. Do you have a good chance of actually being employed once you graduate? Do you honestly need a degree to succeed? If you’re planning on going into the medical field, I’ll answer this one for you – yes, you do need one. But if your degree is something that can be learned in the field by actually working for/on a real business, would you rather get the hands-on experience or use your parents’ (or your) entire life savings to earn a diploma? If your life goal is to become an entrepreneur, the money to be spend toward a diploma could probably be better spent on your livelihood while you get your company off its feet. Will you seriously be able to live on your own and survive off of more than ramen noodles? Think about your learning style as well as your chances of startup survival in the industry you choose to pursue.
If you feel confident that you have everything under control after calculating the risks, get ready. Although it may seem scary at first, if you have thought it out, it is not as risky as it seems.
While many companies don’t succeed, there are millions of people who do — after all, everything around you (your chair, computer, doorknob, etc.) is now in existence because of a successful entrepreneur.
So calculate the risk, take the leap and hold on tight!
Stacey Ferreira co-founded MySocialCloud, a technology startup that allows people to store their usernames and passwords for all their online websites for auto-login and share websites with friends easily, during her senior year of high school with her brother, Scott. When she was just 18, she raised a seed round of funding of just under $1 million from Sir Richard Branson and Jerry Murdock.