Go To College or Start a Business? The pros & cons


You’ve completed middle school, are about to graduate high school, and college is the next logical step, right? But is college really all it’s cracked up to be? And if you know you want to start your own business, do you need to go to college first?

A college degree is not necessary to start some businesses. However, the experience and education you gain can increase your chances of success. Additionally, you may be able to do both at the same time.

Continue reading below as we explore the pros and cons of both decisions and some reasons why starting a business while in college may be the best of both worlds.

Proud-new-business-owner

The Pros and Cons of College

The choice to go to college is a personal one that will depend on many situational factors. However, there are some generic advantages and disadvantages of college education, and we will look at both below.

Pros

  • You could make more money with a college education. In fact, some studies say that the average college graduate will make an average of $500,000 more than those who choose not to pursue a college education. However, this depends on the level of education you complete and the type of industry that you plan to work in.
  • You’ll have more opportunities available to you. A quick look on any job site will show that while some jobs will accept experience, many are looking for applicants with at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Having a degree will open doors to a much larger pool of job opportunities. Additionally, it has become increasingly difficult to find a job that requires just a high school diploma, and even the jobs that don’t require college degrees are looking for some type of trade certification (which typically comes from a community college).
  • Jobs that need degrees often have better benefits and retirement plans. You can often get a minimum wage job with a high school diploma, but good luck finding a minimum wage job that offers benefits. In fact, many employers get around to having to supply benefits at all by keeping their employees just below full-time hours.
  • You’ll gain skills and education that will help you in any future job or career. Aside from education, which is always beneficial, being in college will help you build soft skills like leadership skills, time management skills, and work ethic. Many of these skills will become invaluable if you plan to start your own business someday.
  • Your classmates will become your peers in the field and thus college allows for networking. This is especially true if you’re taking more targeted classes since your peers will someday be coworkers whom you can call on.

Cons

  • If you don’t have college funds or scholarships, you might end up owing a lot of student loans. Depending on where you live and what school you attend, a four-year education could cost you anywhere from $45,000 to $200,000, and that’s before calculating the cost of living. Even if you do make $500,000 more over the course of your entire life, much of that will be spent to repay student loans.
  • You might graduate only to feel unprepared when you enter the field. Though more targeted degree programs prepare you for real-world experience (such as nursing), most general degrees require you to take a variety of classes that have no relation to the field you wish to pursue. For example, taking biology classes when you know you want to work in an information technology field.
  • Getting a bachelor’s degree may take longer than four years if you return to school later in life or if you are working full time. Often, degree programs are designed with recent high school graduates in mind, and students find that they need to take four or five classes each semester to graduate on time. Having other responsibilities will make attending college full-time exceedingly difficult, and you might extend your graduation date by a few years. Why does this matter? Because it could cost you more overall. Half-time students will not receive as much financial aid and will have to take out more loans throughout their educational careers.
  • You might end up with a degree you never use. Most people know someone who went to college right out of high school and obtained a degree that they are not using now. When one is eighteen, they rarely know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, so it might be a promising idea to take some time between high school and college to figure out what you are passionate about.
  • It is possible to succeed without a college degree. Despite what your parents might tell you, it is sometimes possible to find a fantastic job without ever having set foot in a college classroom. This is often true for people who start their own businesses.

Reasons To Go to College Before Starting a Business?

So, we have looked at both the pros and cons of college itself, but what if you want to start a business? Should you go to college first?

Again, it all depends on your situation and what type of business it is that you plan to start. Could you start making candles and selling them without a college education? Sure! Would you know how to go about scaling your business and finding marketing techniques that work best for you? That might be tricky without some type of education or experience. Below, we will look at both the pros and cons of attending college before starting your own business and when each one makes more sense.

Pros of Going to College First

  • You gain targeted education and knowledge. Going to college makes sense when you plan to enter a field that has aspects with which you are not familiar. For example, you might have a great idea for a product but no idea how to patent the product, pitch the product to investors or market the product. This is when a degree in business would come in handy.
  • You build the skills to succeed. College helps to foster the growth of many soft skills, such as time management skills, leadership skills, and organizational skills. These attributes will help you in every step of your business career. If you struggle to stay organized or are always late, you might benefit from going to college before starting your own business.
  • People might take you more seriously if you have a degree. It might not be fair, but people often like to see a college education on a resume. Additionally, if you are looking for investors, you might have a better chance if you can show that you know what you are talking about. However, this can sometimes be replaced with experience, because twenty years of experience often trumps two years of college.
  • College allows you to meet mentors and create future networks. Many instructors and experts in their field and their brains are overflowing with the information that you need to become successful. Making connections with both instructors and peers (who will eventually become coworkers) can help you immensely in the future.
  • Some fields require a degree to become certified. There are some fields in which you must become certified before you can venture out on your own. For example, you cannot start your own mental health practice without first being licensed. Additionally, many business subdivisions require certification and licensures as well. Sometimes even if a license is not needed, clients want to know you have it. Going to college may be the only way to obtain these licenses, and not having them could hinder you from gaining clients.

Cons of Going to College First

  • You might be able to gain the experience you need more quickly and for less money through a certificate or trade course. For example, if you wanted to start a local IT business; you might be able to complete a certification course in under a year, which would cost much less than a four-year degree. Plus, you are getting targeted education in just the areas you need to know versus taking a bunch of classes that you will never use the information from.
  • You see an opportunity that might not last. There are times when you see a need in the local market but waiting to complete your education would mean missing the opportunity. In this type of scenario, it might be a better idea to start the foundation of your business while also going to school.
  • College debt could interfere with the amount of money available to put into the business. If you have current student loans, you might not be able to get a business loan. Additionally, if you are spending your money on college classes, you will not have the funds you need to invest in your business, and this could cause you to lose investors.
  • There is nothing more you could learn from a college course because you have experience. If you have worked in a field for 20 or 30 years and are thinking about starting your own business (for example, in carpentry), there may not be anything that a college education would teach you that you do not already know. In this case, it would be a waste of money to go to college first.

Conclusion

Teaching-at-the-white-board

Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect one-size-fits-all answer to this question because it depends on so many personal factors. Factors such as:

  • Your current education levels
  • The type of business you are thinking about starting
  • Your experience and knowledge in that field
  • The state that you live in, and the licenses/certifications needed in that field
  • Your financial situation
  • Your personal circumstances
  • College/certification training in your area

However, by analyzing the pros and cons of each choice, you should be able to decide which choice would make more sense for you in your situation.

Going to college first makes sense if you are thinking about starting a business in a field that can be tricky to navigate without a degree. Additionally, if you want to scale the business beyond the local or smaller online markets, a business degree can be helpful. It is also a good idea to attend college first if you struggle with organizational or time management skills as the structure of the college environment with help you bolster these skills.

On the other hand, there are times when it makes more sense to invest the money in your business instead of in a college education. This is especially true if you already have a lot of experience, or if the opportunity is time-sensitive.

Another option that can often be the best of both worlds is to start your business while you are in college. This can be beneficial because you can use your instructors as mentors and network via classmates. Additionally, it allows you to begin building the foundation of your business (which can sometimes take a few years) while earning your degree.

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John Cunningham

John is a writer, classic car and whiskey lover, men's shopping enthusiast and self appointed DIY expert. His greatest passion is repairing in the workshop, making old classics look and run like new again!

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