When you look at famous college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, it might seem as if ditching the books and launching a business is the right thing to do. But if you’re considering dropping out, there are some things you need to know.
Making the Case for Dropping Out
While your parents’ generation gasped at the idea of someone dropping out of college to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, times have changed and it’s now actually quite common. And while it doesn’t work for everyone, there are more than a few who find tremendous success.
In addition to some of the aforementioned names, self-made billionaires like David Geffen, Micky Arison, Lex Wexner, Haim Saban, and John Paul DeJoria have all found success.
As you weigh the pros and cons of your decision, here are three good reasons to consider dropping out of college and chasing hard after entrepreneurship.
1. High Cost of School
The cost of a college degree is expensive, and rising by the day. According to one set of projections, the projected cost for a student attending a private university from 2017-2020 is right around $277,000. Unless you’re pumped up about having that sort of debt hanging over your head for decades to come, dropping out might be one of the best things you can do. If nothing else, you’ll feel a little lighter.
2. Juggling School and Work
If you’re working while in college – or perhaps already building out your own startup – the challenge of juggling school and work can be too much to handle. In fact, this is exactly what successful entrepreneur Sam Ovens realized when he was in school and working as an intern at Vodafone.
“I started getting frustrated, trying to balance everything,” Ovens recalls. “I stayed in that pain for four or five months. Then I decided to quit my job and my college and went full time with my business.”
It all worked out for Ovens, who became a millionaire by the age of 25 and is now considered one of the most prominent names in consulting.
3. A College Degree Isn’t a Guarantee
It’s easy to assume that a college degree is a golden ticket, when it’s actually pretty meaningless in many of today’s professional circles. With so many people getting college degrees, you almost have to get a second or third degree just to stand out.
This is a reality entrepreneur Patrick Bet-David realized when he was majoring in nutrition and discovered that his co-worker, who had just graduated with a fancy degree and landed an awesome new job, was making just $30,000 a year.
“My life as a college graduate with a degree in nutrition suddenly flashed before my eyes: I wasn’t going to become the Middle Eastern Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Bet-David recalls. “Instead, I was going to become a personal trainer and join my friend in a $30,000 annual salary. I was already making $40,000 in my sales position. Needless to say, I dropped out the next day.”
The Risks and Cons of Dropping Out
Dropping out of college doesn’t come without risks. For every Zuckerberg or Jobs, there are hundreds of others who have much less appealing experiences in their diploma-less careers. Here are a few of the risks:
1. Lack of Preparation for the Real World
Quite honestly, college isn’t always about the textbooks, the curriculum, or the piece of paper signed by the dean of the school. In many senses, the biggest benefit of college is the preparation it provides for the real world.
If you drop out of college, you’re missing out on a bunch of real-world learning experiences. You’ll soon wish you had these when you’re on your own with no safety nets or structure around you.
2. No Stable Income
As an entrepreneur, you have to become comfortable with the idea of not having a stable income – especially in the early days. Whereas all of your friends with college degrees and 9-to-5 jobs know exactly what they’re going to make each week, you’ll experience feast and famine – sometimes in the same month. That’s just the risk you take when you drop out!
3. High Failure Rate
Did you know that 75 percent of venture-backed startups fail? Or that the rate is even higher for startups with no VC support? That’s just the cold, hard truth. If you drop out of college expecting a cakewalk, you should know that the odds are against you – especially on your first business idea.
Make Your Own Decision
Ultimately, the decision is yours. That sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget that you, as a legal adult, have the freedom to choose if you want to attend college.
If you feel pressured to attend college because everyone in your family has and not getting a degree would blacklist you from your relatives, you can still say no. If Hollywood has brainwashed you into thinking all successful entrepreneurs have a defining dropout moment, you have the right to power through and prove that a college degree is helpful.
You are your own person and there is no secret formula to success as an entrepreneur. There are both benefits and risks associated with dropping out of college and you have to be willing to live with the consequences – good or bad.