Should You Drop Out Of College For Building A Startup?
This question originally appeared on Quora: Should I drop out of college for my startup? Answer by Moisey Uretsky, Cofounder DigitalOcean, $40MM led by Andressen Horowitz and IA Ventures.
There are three reasons why I think attending college is important, and you have to do at least 2 out of the 3 to make college worth while.
1. Learn to think for yourself
This one may sound obvious when you are doing it, but before that, you’ve been instructed your entire life to get this homework done, take this course, “goto college”, many people find thinking for themselves in college and it’s a great place to really expand your mind. I was fortunate to attend one of the best high schools in the country so I learned this there.
2. Make Connections
Where it be friends, teachers, mentors, you will never again, if rarely, be surrounded by so many amazing people that all have a common purpose or culture. You should take advantage of this and network like crazy. It’s also great practice for being a startup cofounder as one of your main tasks from now until eternity will be hiring, and your ability to hire is usually very closely correlated to the size and value of your network.
3. Have fun!
Again, you will rarely find yourself surrounded by peers your own age. Go out, have a good time. Make sure you get your work done, but practice work life balance. Don’t let studies get in the way of making connections and enjoying yourself. There are of course exceptions. Like being pre-med or med school, or pretty much any graduate program, but that’s no longer college so I’ll exclude that.
Now for the kicker. Remember I said you need to do at least 2 out of 3 of these things to really make college worth your time.
In your case with only so few credits remaining you’ve probably already captured whatever value you would have of the above three so you aren’t getting much besides a paper that says you completed some courses. If you are going into technology I rarely look at what school you went to when reviewing resumes, unless it stands out as an IVY league school. But even so we have a homework assignment for each position which is a much better indicator of how someone will do at a job than either prior work history or college education.
Since founding several companies and going through a bunch of challenges what I’ve learned is the following:
1. Good Will Hunting Was Right
There’s not much you can’t learn by picking up a book. Sure you will miss the experiential part of knowledge, but more often then not if you aren’t in applied engineering or robotics, you aren’t really gaining hands on experience anyway. You can literally get an MBA worth of knowledge from about 20 books and skip out on $200k in school fees and get the rest of your knowledge from the real world.
Always have mentors. Always surround yourself with people that will challenge you, push you, give you insights, see around corners, been there done that, and give you great advice (which you can choose to follow or not). Especially when you are scaling a company this is critical. The mentors you have during your Seed stage may not be the same ones that you need when you reach Series A and beyond. Also meet people, seek them out, and learn from them.
There’s no greater teacher than experience and you need to learn to balance experiential knowledge with acquired knowledge from reading and other passive sources. To put this into context imagine you have never ridden a bicycle. You read every book there is that explains how to do it. Then you jump on and try to ride it. What do you think happens? No matter how much you read you will still probably fall. It’s finding the balance of seeking out the knowledge that’s out there but also understanding that part of the journey is the experience. In fact without the experience and a few failures, you may not even pickup on some of the insights because they just won’t resonate with you until you have a bit of experience under your belt.
Choose the path that’s right for you =]
I dropped out of school and haven’t regretted it at all.