Last week I got an email from Chris Hearse, of studentbusinesses.com (acquired by Kauffman Foundation), asking my take on “what students and universities could do to prepare for a world in business.”
US News’ Take On Benefits of College
In his “Is College Worth It?” post, Blog Manager Scott Carmichael quotes U.S. News on three ways entrepreneurial-minded students can benefit from college (I can’t find the original source quote, and Scott doesn’t link to it):
1) Study entrepreneurship while developing an outside niche.
Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program at Stanford University, says that while successful company builders have a natural inclination to be entrepreneurs, sometimes it takes education to bring that inclination to full bloom. “There are people who are natural athletes,” Seelig says. “There are people who are natural musicians. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to teach them those skills.”
2) Expose yourself to as many different courses and experiences as possible.
What if you don’t go to a school that lets you study entrepreneurship directly? Seelig says she would advise trying to get as exposed to lots of different disciplines. Having broad knowledge can make it easier to identify opportunities as an entrepreneur. Hello, liberal arts education.
3) Consider even more education.
Depending on your field of interest, going on to graduate school can help a lot. Litan says that the stakes are now higher for tech startups because the world of technology has grown so much more complicated and expansive. “If Bill Gates were asked if when he was 19 years old, could he create Google, he’d probably say no,” says Litan, whose organization recently published a study that looked at founders of tech startups. It found that 31 percent of them had master’s degrees and 10 percent had Ph.D.’s. In addition, the study found that having an M.B.A. meant that a tech entrepreneur on average founded a startup 13 years before others.
My Take On College for Entrepreneurs
I have a different take on it. It’s the wrong question. Education is good for you, long term, for living your life. You should study what you want to study, not what will get you the best job; and if you’re interested in business, then study business.
I hate the idea that we evaluate educational choices based on the income that results.
Separate education from job training. They are different things.
If you like studying business, great; do it. And the best way to study business is to study startups and small business, which is what we call entrepreneurship. That’s my opinion.
But what really helps is any education that helps you learn to think, read, listen, and analyze.