You’re in college and you have big plans: To start your own business. While you’re in class, you’re daydreaming of your next Big Idea and thinking about the day you can give your full attention to your business.
At some point, you may even question being in college. Is it worth it? You may think, “Should I even be here?”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a four-year degree could cost an average of $60,000 — when you consider total tuition, fees, room and board.
This could make bidding academia adieu and starting your own business a tempting proposition. Dreams of being the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs — CEOs who famously left college before graduating to launch their own companies — may fill your mind. But is dropping out of college the right thing to do? Before you do anything rash, weigh the pros and cons of staying in school or dropping out carefully.
As student loan debt continues to rise, it may be tempting to ditch school, avoid debt and do your own thing. But there are some pros to being in school and getting a college education.
- Build an immediate network: When you’re in college, you have access to a large network, ranging from classmates and professors, to administrators and alumni. As a student, you can enhance your network to build your career prospects in the future, and get much-needed advice on starting your business.
- Access helpful resources: Your college may offer free planning space to meet with team members, or access to computers, software, 3D printers, video studios and other tech items that can help you work on your business. You can often get numerous student-specific price breaks with an .edu email address on items and services like software and train travel.
- Earn more: According to a Pew Research Center study, “Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn more annually — about $17,500 more — than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma.”
- Gain real-world experience: A college degree can help you gain post-graduation employment with an industry-leading company, where you can get valuable, hands-on experience that you can later use to successfully start a business.
On the other hand, if you’re really interested in starting a business now, there may be some cons to staying in school.
- Student loan debt: College can come at a hefty cost, and graduates everywhere are feeling the pinch. Currently, the class of 2015 has the dubious distinction of being the most indebted class ever, with graduates slated to pay back more than $35,000. Unfortunately, completing your degree may not guarantee a job or a high salary to pay back your student debt.
- Losing time to school: When you’re in school, you need to focus the majority of your time on your studies. Because of that, it’s tough to think about — let alone get started on — building a business.
- You don’t end up using your degree: There’s no doubt that a college education has value, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll work in your field or end up using your degree. According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 32 percent of college-educated workers never found a job related to their college major.
Dropping out of school isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. It can mean leaving school behind and charting unknown territory. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of doing so before deciding to drop out of college and start a business.
- Dedicated time and energy to your biz: Starting your own business can be a 24/7 job, which requires a lot of energy, so why not start while you’re young?
- Hands-on experience: By making (and learning from) mistakes, you’ll get real-world experience — instead of reading about it — either by starting a business or working at an internship or similar position.
- Cutting losses: If you’ve been taking out loans for college, you can stop before taking out more loans depending on how far along you are. If you’re in the last year of a four-year program, it won’t make much sense, but if you are only a year or two in, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in debt by changing your direction now, if you know that all you really want to do is start your own business.
- Lack of funding: If you lack a college degree and much work experience, it may be difficult to drum up funding for your new business venture. Though you may have avoided or lessened your student debt, you may take on a small business loan to support your dreams.
- Starting from scratch: Going out on your own and not having the built-in support network that college provides can mean completely starting from scratch and figuring out things as you go. This may mean making more mistakes upfront and having business growing pains as you learn the ropes.
- Debt to pay: If you didn’t get a full ride through college, you may have already taken out loans to begin attending school. Just because you stopped short of a degree doesn’t mean that you won’t still have to pay them back.
Staying in college or dropping out to start a business is a personal decision that should be made with a lot of thought and consideration. There are pros and cons for both, so it’s important to decide what is best for you and your future and look at the consequences of each.
For more tips on running a business, discover 5 must-dos for millennial entrepreneurs. If you want tips on getting out of the red, read 8 ways to manage student loan debt.