College for entrepreneurs is an oxymoron. Maybe that is a bit dramatic, but to say it is necessary is completely misguided.
Like voting, you do it because everyone says it’s the right thing to do. Maybe you believe voting is the right thing to do too (no problem with that!), but if you want to enact real change, you’d have a much bigger impact staying home and creating compelling content to share with the masses on social media about why they should vote for your candidate.
Instead of 1 vote, you certainly could sway many times that.
This is how college is. Learning isn’t bad (obviously), but it is the over-learning and “rounded” approach that degree programs take that is inefficient when you are foregoing the opportunity to learn things that are more applicable to your business.
Don’t forget, the goal of college is to earn money.
This is also true for the colleges themselves. They are a business, and a booming one. There isn’t any reason for these institutions to tell you to focus 4 years of your life elsewhere.
Your parents probably grew up thinking college was the “bee’s knees,” and they aren’t likely to say otherwise. In their defense, it used to be. It isn’t now.
There are so many free or low cost alternative ways to learn the important stuff. You can pay pennies on the dollar to learn things that actually make you money. Why pay more, way more, to spend time learning shit you don’t need at the expense of the things you do?
If you weren’t an aspiring entrepreneur, my tune may change. College does have its purpose for some types, just not for you and me.
My College Experience
Now after all of this bad mouthing of college, let me explain my personal experience and the irony of my strong aversion to formal schooling.
When I enrolled in college in 2007, I didn’t know what I know now. I didn’t understand how realistic online entrepreneurship was and how much better of a life it could build for me and my future family.
So, I spent 7 years in college. Do you notice “Dr.” in front of my name? No. The 7 years I spent in college were grossly inefficient and much more about majoring in partying and playing pickup games of football and basketball than learning skills I’d use to make money later in my adult life.
I finished with an associates degree in art (which is basically the college version of a participation trophy) and a bachelor’s degree in economics (which I got to bury the associates degree).
I spent thousands of hours and dollars on learning crap, much of which I didn’t need to know, so I wanted something in return dammit!
After I realized the degrees almost propelled me into a life of mediocrity by making me a very hireable candidate for shitty jobs that paid just enough to suppress my other ambitions, but not enough to satisfy me, I jumped head first into entrepreneurship.
I realized I would have done so many things differently if I had to do it again.
First, I wouldn’t have gone.
For the sake of this post though, I will be writing to those of you who are already committed to finishing (if you are a junior, just finish I say…I guess).
What I Would Have Done Differently (Besides NOT Going at All)
I know the feeling of being “in too deep.” You have already invested a ton of time, money, and energy into your degree, and you want to finish. It may be a sense of pride or something else. I get it. It is inefficient (in economics, this is the “don’t cry over spilled milk” analogy), but we aren’t perfectly rational creatures.
Some of you, like me, will want to finish college. So, here is what you should do to make the most of college when you want to be an entrepreneur.
1. Network with High-performing, Ambitious People.
I made a lot of lifelong friends in college, many of whom now have great jobs. I’m glad I know these people, but I wish I had also made more connections with people who could help me with my businesses now.
Lesson #1: Make a lot of different connections. Have fun, but also make valuable, lasting friendships. That is something entrepreneurs can take with them from college.
2. Worry Less about Grades and Focus More on Your Business.
College for me was a chance to repair a bruised ego from high school, where I underachieved. I was home-schooled up until 9th grade (big, Catholic, sheltered family), and I was ill-prepared for the college prep school I was placed in. I had thought I was very smart (according to my mom), but that never culminated on paper. I was a middle of the row student–3.00, but not much more.
Note: My parents were both high achievers in college. My dad went to Princeton on a full ride scholarship and my mom graduated with an RN from Ohio State University. They expected I’d do well too. They didn’t pressure me, but I felt I was letting them down.
So, in college, while getting my bachelors in economics, my grades were nearly perfect. I was working full time as well in a factory as a management trainee so I was living and breathing work and school-work. I did well, but it meant absolutely nothing. Zilch. Ego was pumped, but value? Nada.
Lesson#2: If you know you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t stress about getting all A’s. C’s get degrees! Trying to get A’s is inefficient. It’s ironic that I majored in economics but didn’t learn about the application of considering opportunity costs until I graduated.
Note: There are a couple of courses I recommend you aim for A’s in. I will discuss them in point 5 and 6.
3. Practice Mastering Time Management.
I will say this, college helped me here a lot. I could have learned this if I was in a school for mimes or something, so I don’t really credit the college with this, but hey, I’ll take it.
Lesson#3: Focus on efficiency and time management. Don’t get through college on brute force. Focus on doing the least possible to achieve your desired outcomes. That to me is impressive. You don’t need to prove your work ethic to yourself, do you? Didn’t we decide college wasn’t ideal for us entrepreneurs? Or was that just me? You’re still reading, so I think we agree a little bit. 🙂
4. Develop a Love for Reading.
Most people don’t know how to read. This leads to a mindset of, “I hate reading. I don’t need it.” Reading non-fiction business books, reports, and case studies has accelerated my growth in business. Sure, you have to go out and take action, but reading about the experiences and ideas of others helped reduce the curve and gave me a serious edge.
Lesson#4: Do all your reading assignments. See if your college offers a speed reading course, and if they do, take it. The bonus here is this: reading all assigned materials makes it so much easier to do well. College tests are based around the basic assumption that most people don’t read all they are supposed to or don’t read well enough to answer questions about it. Guess what? College teachers don’t look good if all their students flunk the class. Do the reading, make things easier for yourself, and bring that skill with you.
5. Master the Basic Computer Courses.
This was one thing I did well, but would have done even better if I could do it again.
Do you know the advantage you have over others if you can make Excel sing and dance? If you can make spreadsheets to predict and plan business growth, you can kill it. How about PowerPoint for you marketers? Do you know how much easier it is to pitch an idea if you can make your PowerPoint presentations look like they were made by an artist/business wonder child? How about Microsoft Word? Photoshop? WordPress? These things are offered in school and should count toward your major to an extent.
Lesson#5: Take as many computer courses as you can and master them.
6. Take More Persuasive Writing Classes.
Ditch the “Classics of the 18th century” bullshit and take more writing classes. Everyone writes. This never goes away. So, learn it while you are already paying for it anyway.
Lesson #6: Most majors require some sort of English credits. Don’t waste them on fiction, poetry, or other bullshit if you’re serious about using your time wisely and becoming a more prepared entrepreneur.
7. Learn to Leave your Comfort Zone. (Public Speaking)
I have always dreaded public speaking. I am a social butterfly, but when I have the full attention of people I barely know, I go into the cocoon.
As an entrepreneur, public speaking engagements set you apart as an expert and allow you to hack the growth of your brand. I avoided these situations, so now, I am learning to suck it up on the fly after following behind world-class, motivational, confident speakers when I could have worked out all of the kinks while following other inexperienced speakers who had no bearing on my business (and who probably were browsing the internet during the speeches anyway.)
Lesson #7: Don’t run from courses that require presentations and public speaking. I promise you, they will help you grow as an entrepreneur.
BONUS TIP: If you must go to college, for the love of God, save money whenever you can. College is NOT a good investment for anyone anymore, especially entrepreneurs. So go out and apply for every single scholarship available, suck it up, and take classes at sister campuses if they are cheaper. Don’t live in dorms if you don’t have to, don’t leave the state if you don’t have to. We are made to think where we go to college matters so much and how much it costs means nothing. Where you go is not as big of a deal. How much it costs is a huge deal. How about when you are ready to take out that loan to launch your business? Does $50,000+ debt help or hurt your chances of affording this (or even getting the loan at all)?