Traditionally, you would graduate high school, attend college, and then launch your career. This commonly used pathway was due to the fact that most people have found value in higher education.
That’s not exactly the case these days. With the cost of tuition, combined with the accessibility of entrepreneurship, for some it has become more fashionable to skip higher education altogether.
It’s easy to see the appeal. Instead of wasting time and money on a degree, you can start your own business. And, the sooner you start a business, the sooner you can start earning money.
But, should you completely write-off higher education or place value in higher education? Before making this thought process a final decision, you should first weigh the pros and cons of higher education.
The Many Types of Higher Education
Before we get ahead of ourselves, there’s a misconception that higher education refers to only a college or university. The truth is that there are several different types of higher education options that illustrate the value in higher education.
Vocational or trade school: As opposed to earning a degree, you would receive a diploma or certificate in one-specific area. If you know what type of work you want to do, this is a perfect option since it prepares you for your career
Community college: Some community colleges also offer vocational programs. You can also earn an Associate’s Degree after two-years of study. If you plan on getting your Bachelor’s Degree or figuring out what exactly to study, this is an affordable option.
Institutes of Technology: If you’re interested in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, then this is a great option. Institutes of Technology offer a number of degree programs ranging from Associate’s and Bachelor’s. Some even offer advanced degrees like Masters and PhDs.
Art and Design Schools: If you want to study art, such as drawing, painting, graphic design, these schools allow you to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. Others are similar to trade schools in that they’re more career oriented.
Liberal arts colleges: These are smaller than universities. But, you can still receive a Bachelor’s Degree in a wide range of fields like social sciences, the humanities, visual arts, and hard sciences.
Private of public university: While universities allow you to receive a Bachelor’s Degrees in a number of disciplines, they also focus on generating research.
Online college: Today, most certificates, diplomas, and degrees offered at physical colleges can be obtained online. Online colleges are usually cheaper and provide a more flexible schedule.
The Value in Higher Education
Now that we’ve briefly gone over the different types of higher education options, let me make the case for the value in higher education.
1. Allows You to Determine What You Do and Don’t Want to Do
Regardless if you attend community college or a public university, during those first couple of years you take a wide-range of classes. For some that may be a waste when they know exactly what they want to do. But, if you’re still deciding, this allows you to figure out what you’re good and passionate about.
On the other hand, it also lets your determine what you don’t want to do with your life. For example, if you’re not digging the sciences, then you probably don’t want to start a science-based business.
2. Learning to Learn
While you learn all about your specific area of study, you’re also going to learn more than just facts. Higher education will help you gain insights into applying logic, researching data, and assessing the veracity information. Along the way, you’ll also pick up valuable skills and experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.
3. Entrepreneurship Education Is Becoming More Commonplace
More and more colleges are now offering programs dedicated solely to entrepreneurs. Besides learning lifelong entrepreneur skills, these programs also allow students to participate in mini-companies.
4. Can Leverage the Power of Your Alumni Association
Need advice as a young entrepreneur? Get in touch with your alumni association. Besides advice, alumni associations provide plenty of networking opportunities. You may even be able to secure funding through your alumni association.
5. Access to a Variety of Resources
It’s not uncommon for campuses to offer entrepreneurial students free resources, like incubators, accelerators, mentor programs, venture competitions, and even seed funding.
6. Gives You Time to Mature
Most of us experience emotional growth between the ages 18 and 22. So, you may not be ready to start a business until after you graduate. Instead of failing miserably, you could take this time to mature while learning a variety of knowledge, skills, and experiences.
The Case Against Higher Education
The case against a higher education is becoming less and less. It seemed like some entrepreneurs were almost bragging about this before. This is much less the case, now.
So, on the other hand of spectrum, higher education also comes with the following disadvantages.
1.You’ll Be in Debt
The average graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt—this up six percent from last year. That comes out to an average monthly payment of $351! That’s money that could be used to grow your business.
2. You May Not Gain New Skills
Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found in their book Academically Adrift that 45 percent of undergraduates attending 24 institutions showed no significant improvement in a range of skills. This included critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing during their first two years at college.
According the Newsweek, “The authors attributed the poor performance to the distractions of socializing or working and a collegiate culture that doesn’t prioritize undergraduate learning.”
3. You Can Socialize Elsewhere
Proponents of higher education state that it allows you to socialize with your peers, professors, and alumni. While there is truth to this, you can join professional clubs and organizations. These provide more real-world networking and learning experiences.
4. Less Hands on Experience
Entrepreneurs thrive from learning from their hands-on experiences. How can you do that while you’re sitting in a classroom?
5. You Can’t Learn Personality, Passion, Purpose in Higher Education
“Iconic change-makers like Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell didn’t earn business degrees. What do you need instead? Personality, passion and purpose,” argues Richard Branson.
Choosing Entrepreneurship or Higher Education
Still deciding between entrepreneurship and higher education? Answer these questions to guide you in the right direction.
Do you have the entrepreneurial spirit? Are you a self-motivated, risk taker? Do you enjoy being in charge and don’t mind making personal sacrifices? You just may be an entrepreneur.
Does your passion exceed your patience? If you can’t wait several years to get your business rolling, then do it. If not someone else might beat you to the punch.
Do you have any real-world experience? Let’s say you worked at a store throughout high school. During that time you may have developed customer service or managerial skills. You usually can’t learn those in school.
Have you tested your idea? If you validated you idea by getting sign ups, users, and sales, then you may be certain that you’ve solved a real-world problem.
How are your finances? Both higher education and starting a business are investments. Calculate your expenses, create a budget, and plan your timeline. It may make financial sense to attend college, work a job for a bit, and set aside money for your business over time.
Do you have a strong support system? Do you have friends, family, business partners, franchisors, or other entrepreneurs to rely on? If not, you may want to wait to start your business until after school. In fact, you may build your support system while in school.
Do you have a better option then higher education? If there’s somewhere else where you can learn faster and network with interesting people, then it may not make sense to invest in higher education.
Are you an entrepreneur? If so, have you found value in higher education?