Young entrepreneurs tend to be extremely passionate about their ideas. If you’re one of them, you probably have a burning desire to ditch college and start building your business right way. And why not? Richard Branson didn’t go to college, and the guy who founded Twitter didn’t even graduate. That said, before saying no to a degree, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of putting college ahead of business.
Getting a College Degree — The Positives
You know a lot about the business you want to start, but just out of high school, it’s hard to win the argument that you know everything there is to know about being in business. Entrepreneurs need to know a mountain of things to be successful. Here’s a short list:
- Human relations
- Financial management
- Business practices
- Critical thinking
As your business grows, you might even find yourself wining and dining clients with advanced degrees. Whether or not you’re able to engage them in meaningful conversation might make the difference between winning or losing their business.
You might think that you don’t need any more friends, but the social aspect of college alone is a major reason to consider it. You made friends with the kids in your old neighbourhood just because they were there, but you have more in common with college friends. You meet in classes and at activities you enjoy, and these friends tend to be for life. Combining forces with like-minded people makes you a more successful entrepreneur, and some people team up with college buddies and go into business for that reason.
Here’s another compelling reason to go to college: Few businesses let random people off the street try out working for them, but they have no problem giving those kinds of opportunities to college students. If you’re interested in starting a computer company, for example, some of Canada’s leading tech companies may welcome you in their doors to learn how they do things just because you’re a college student.
Putting Off Your Entrepreneurship Goals for College — The Negatives
Going to college has two big turnoffs: time and cost. If you already know what you want to do and have a little seed money to start a business, why pay for college? No matter the tax credits and fee reductions, you still have to pay some costs out of pocket. What’s more, if you’re a full-time student, you can only work part-time without having your grades suffer, and there are few things worse than being a poor student.
Your momentum and enthusiasm for your business might suffer along the long road to earning a degree, too. Distractions such as an overly active social life could completely throw you off track, and you may end up losing your entrepreneurship dreams along the way.
The Big Alternative
In the internet age, you can have the best of both worlds when it comes to getting a college degree, or taking college courses at the very least. Instead of packing up and going to live on a college campus, consider taking online courses.
Many of Canada’s leading universities, from University of Toronto to University of Alberta, offer degree programs where the coursework can be completed entirely online. You pay regular tuition to take courses, get grades and get a physical degree you can hang on a wall when you’re done. Some universities also offer their entire course catalogue online for free. For some of these, you might pay a small fee for a certificate once you finish a course.
These days, you can take courses at more places than universities. Online course vendors like Udemy and Code Academy make it possible for you to sign up for courses a la carte — you pay only for the things you want to know. Say you’re developing software. If you need to know a certain programming language, you can take online courses that teach you that language only.
If at First You Don’t Succeed
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting your business without a degree. If things don’t work out, that might be the perfect time to take a step back and go to college. Having failed at something gives you clearer insight into what you need to know to be successful.
Here’s a scenario you might relate to: Say you start a business but lose control of your accounting. Getting a business or accounting degree, especially if you have a head for the subject matter, can help you understand how to manage your money so your business stays in the black.
You don’t have to worry about losing your innovative edge just because you go to college. With so many higher education institutions across Canada and the world, you might choose one that specializes in your industry and offers grants for innovation. Some universities even have incubators for entrepreneurs, and you may find the perfect place to restart your business with the support you need to be successful the second time around.
You don’t have to trade your dream of owning a successful business for a degree, so consider keeping an open mind when it comes to college. With so many innovations in higher education, you can work learning into your daily routine whether or not you’re on a college campus.