Young Upstarts

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Education Vs Real Life Experience – Which One Is The Right Path For A Budding Entrepreneur?

Two options with blank road signs

Most parents push their offspring into further education in the belief that a college degree is the best way to ensure a bright future. The statistics would appear to back this up. In 2015, the Economic Policy Institute reported that college graduates earned around 56% more than those without a college degree. Degree educated workers are also more likely to score better job opportunities, especially in markets where there is a glut of candidates for every opening.

In a world where a college education has become the norm, employers are now filtering out candidates based on their educational attainment. It is a quick way to reduce a stack of 500 resumes to around half that number. Yet many successful entrepreneurs dropped out of college and still made it big.

Famous Entrepreneurs Who Quit School.

Mark Zuckerberg famously quit college to work on Facebook and he is now one of the richest and most successful tech entrepreneurs in the world. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both quit college too. Another successful entrepreneur, Gurbaksh Chahal, left school at 16 to start his first business – ClickAgents. Eighteen months later he sold it to ValueClick for $40 million.

When you look at success stories like these, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the time and expense of gaining a college education. So, is a degree really necessary if you want to become an entrepreneur?

Ask your parents and they will tell you that a college education is the only route worth taking. In some respects, they are absolutely right, as there are a few career routes where a college degree is essential. These include medicine, law, and other specialist careers. In other cases, whilst a degree is often desirable, as long as you have a commitment to learning, some great ideas, or plenty of business acumen, there is no reason why you shouldn’t get out there and start your business.

When a College Degree is a Bad Choice.

Richard Branson didn’t go to college. He is profoundly dyslexic, so for him, academia held no great attraction. Luckily for him, he had the drive and ambition to build a business and make money. Today, Branson is worth millions and he has a range of successful enterprises operating under the Virgin umbrella.

If you are naturally academic and you are not 100% sure what path you want to take, sometimes it is better to go to college and continue the learning process. College is a time to make contacts, gain life experience, and flesh out the ideas you have buzzing around inside your head. But, if like Gurbaksh Chahal, your ideas have already taken shape and you know what you want to do, college is probably a waste of time.

Quitting school to start a business is a big risk. It paid off for the likes of Gurbaksh Chahal, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, but research data indicates most successful businesses are more likely to be run by highly educated people. However, you can compromise.

Online Education.

Instead of following a traditional route through college, follow your entrepreneurial dreams and go to college part-time. Online education has really taken off in the last few years. It is now easier than ever to pursue a degree or advanced degree via a reputable online university. Instead of taking classes at a bricks and mortar institution, you can run your business and study for an MBA in your spare time.

The world is changing. Formal learning is still relevant, but there are many instances where dropping out of college to start a business is a smart idea. If in doubt, take advice from numerous sources, but in the end, you have to follow your dreams.


This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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