Why Finish College?

When I dropped out of college the first time, everyone asked if I would be going back. "Definitely not," I remember telling a friend of my then-girlfriend. It was the heady dot-com days and college degrees were archaic relics of an outdated superstructure.

When I dropped out the second time, everyone asked if I was out for good. "I may return. It’s not something I can rule out," I told the Detroit Free Press.

Now that I’m back in school and my new business is doing well, the question I keep getting is "Why don’t you drop out?"


For the guy or girl with entrepreneurship in their blood, Intro to Oceans can be less compelling than Intro to Salesforce.com. But my return to college has taught me several important things about why it was the right move.

1.) A college degree is a necessary prerequisite to certain positions in society. If you ever aspire to leverage your success in business into a more public-facing role, i.e. a White House Fellow or a World Bank consultant, you will need a college degree.

2.) It’s a perception thing. My friend Ben (named changed), after having built a wildly successful IT consultancy, was courted to join a large technology company as VP of IT. He held off on accepting their offer until it became truly too good to refuse. But when the other VPs found out that he was not only making way more money than all of them, but also the only one lacking a college degree, a mutiny ensued and Ben had to leave. Weird, but true.

3.) It is humbling to learn. Young entrepreneurs tend to have egos, and there is no better remedy for a swollen ego than a spanking on your midterm. More significantly, your professers are experts in realms of engineering, sciences, humanities and the arts, and if you spend some time with them, you’ll learn about people and places to which business will never expose you.

4.) It gives you choice. Learning to learn is about learning to live with choices. The thought process with which a typical college student become endowed is one that encourages an exploratory and interested world view. You will begin to consider the liberal and the conservative, the safe and the risky, the yin and the yang. A good business person can take all sides of an argument under consideration before making the right decision.

5.) Perhaps most importantly, college is a time to learn from your peers. In the "real world", it is rare that you have the opportunity to engage in conversations about international trade balances and indentured servitude in pre-colonial America, all in the same afternoon. Being able to discuss such matters with your peers is a truly priceless experience.

Entrepreneurs indulge in the day-to-day wonders of the world. College is all about learning how and where to find these wonders. Stick with it and you’ll appreciate it in the long-run.

I’m curious what other college grads-cum-entrepreneurs have experienced. Was staying in college the right choice, or could you have done without your degree?

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