Are College Degrees Worthwhile for Entrepreneurs?

If you are graduating high school, you may be weighing whether a college degree is a worthwhile effort if you intend upon being an entrepreneur. The best answer is that it really depends upon a number of factors that you have to weigh that are personal and individual to your unique situation.

What is the Value of a College Degree? –

We are quite aware today that over 40 percent of college graduates are underemployed. That indeed is a scary figure. Add to that the debt that students usually amassed in order to earn their degree. The difference is that you have decided to become an entrepreneur. You will need to forge your own way after college. You will not be dependent upon a job, if you can succeed as an entrepreneur. So, what are you going to get in exchange for the time, effort and money you expend on your degree?

Here are a few things an entrepreneur could get from their time spent earning a college degree:

A good grounding in business: If you opt for a business major, you will learn about all of the workings of business. Many programs will allow you to specialize in a certain aspect of business, such as marketing, finance or even entrepreneurship. The best will provide you college credits for being in an internship and seeing the inner workings of a business firsthand. You absolutely need these skills. For example, do you know how to successfully conduct a focus group of consumers and perform market data analytics with the results, like Spot Trender does?

Writing skills: You are going to need good writing and research skills in order to be a successful entrepreneur. College will definitely not let you down in giving you many opportunities to write and synthesize ideas to create something new. That is one of the most important skills of a good entrepreneur.

A working knowledge of other fields: You may be quite sure what type of business you want to begin right now. But, as you are exposed to other fields and ideas, you may very well change your mind about the industry of your business. It is far easier to get this knowledge in college than later when you will have more constraints on your time, such as raising a family.

Contacts: As you work through your degree program, you will gain contacts that may help you in future endeavors. If you stay in your own bubble, you may miss out on these.

Today’s Entry Level: If you don’t succeed as an entrepreneur but you received your college degree, you will have what, today, is the entry level diploma for many types of work. That even includes many types of work that did not require diplomas in the past, like secretarial work and insurance clerk jobs.

Do You Have the Ability and Desire to Finish a Degree Program? –

If you know you will not be able to work your way through a degree program, either due to lack of ability or lack of desire, then that is a really important factor. It still is not a deal-breaker, though.

Many people graduating from high school cannot read deeply enough to succeed with a college-level reading load. In college, you will have your books and very brief class meetings. Most of your time will be “hitting the books.” You need a lot of internal motivation in order to finish, and you will need the reading skills to succeed. If you begin now, you can work with a good reading tutor and drastically improve your reading skills.

If motivation is the issue, maybe you might prefer to find a college degree program that would have classes more tailored to your field of interest and to entrepreneurship. Then, you may find the motivation to work your way through because the coursework would be interesting and help improve the skills you need for your future.

Best of all would be a program that would require you to research and start your own business.

Are You Self-Funding Your Business? –

Another really good reason for an entrepreneur to have a college degree is if you are going to need venture capital or a small business loan in order to fund your startup. You have to realistically understand that venture capitalists are not going to be very interested in someone who has only shown enough stick-to-it-iveness in order to get through high school.

What About Student Debt Load? –

There are ways around student debt. If you have a good GPA and have taken a rigorous high school curriculum load, you need to apply for many different scholarships. For your bachelor’s degree, you may very well be able to fund it with grants

Otherwise, consider how you can reduce expenses. Are both you and mom and dad willing to let you live at home for four more years? That will save you a lot of money. Also, consider going to a state university, rather than a private one. Often, state universities cost less than private ones. You can save even more by beginning at a two-year college and then go on to a state university. Just make sure that all of your credits you earn are transferable. If you do choose a private university, make sure it is accredited.

Admittedly, this author believes that a graduating 18-year-old can benefit from the grounding and experience that a four-year degree can provide. It is not for everyone. Realize, though, that you may even change your mind entirely about wanting to be an entrepreneur!

About the Author
Rachel Brenner is a Professor of Jewish Studies. Her research focuses on Jewish Literature and has published dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters.
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