When you’re full of ideas and facing four years of college or university, it can be really hard to decide your path. Entrepreneurs are glamorised these days, success stories found left and right – but what about those who aren’t as fortunate?
Making the decision to stay in education versus venturing out yourself into the business world is tough So here are a few key questions to ask yourself before you make the leap in either direction.
What have you tried already?
First up, it pays to take stock. Have you already tried to start a business yourself? Because any experience on this front will help make an informed decision. Before you reach your decision crunch-time, it might be worth giving it a go, if this is what you see your future being.
Thinking about starting a business and actually starting a business are two very different things – get as much experience as you can before you decide to go for it and skip additional study.
Will you need a business or student loan?
The upfront costs of starting a business or undertaking study should be weighed against the potential long-term benefits. Degrees are costly these days (read more about this at Student Money Saver – 81% of student feel they overpay!), and you may feel that acquiring debt is not going to benefit you enough when weighed up against the value of the degree programme.
If you want a fall-back option, however, and to acquire some additional technical skills it can be very worthwhile to get a degree – compare the potential income of degrees here at Student Money Saver.
Consider how profitable each option is likely to be. After all, if entrepreneurship doesn’t immediately work out, a degree may assist in tiding you over in terms of income.
However, many businesses require starting capital – will you require a loan for your brilliant business idea? If so, consider how you will repay this and what you need to achieve to pay off your debt. Either way, debt may be involved, and weighing up the long term potential of these two options is important.
How connected are you?
Consider using tools such as MeetUp in your city to meet other entrepreneurs. The best way to learn about this path is to talk to people who are already in the know – they can offer some advice from their lived experience, to help inform you before you decide.
General Assembly also offer online and physical courses/workshops to share skills essential to start-ups, albeit with a much smaller price tag than a full university degree! With free networking nights often in their calendar, talking to those who have tried and either succeeded or failed can help a lot in your toss up between university and entrepreneurship.
How much do you actually know about your industry?
In other words, how thoroughly do you know the market in which you want your business to be? If you want to develop a mobile gaming app but don’t know anything about similar products, it’s time to get informed!
Would it help to get a tertiary qualification to legitimise your business credentials? Or do you just need a better understanding of what else is out there and how to compete? Either way, you need to address this question upfront: do you actually have experience or knowledge of the industry?
Once you are comfortable answering this question you are in a much better position to know whether you need more time to get to grips with things or if you’re ready to fly solo.
Do you have a support network?
One advantage of a tertiary study programme is that you get a little extra time in a structured support network. Teachers and fellow students are great sources of information and help as you venture out into the world.
Of course, if you have the excitement and the idea, it can be hard to imagine things will go wrong. But if they do, it’s important to know that you will have some support. Consider what your Plan B will be, and whether you will have support during the early days of struggle, as you work to get your business off the ground.
Utilise online and mobile resources, for instance this list of resources from Entrepreneur.com. Researching possible sources of support and tools to make your business a reality is vital – use everything you can to succeed!
What’s your underlying motivation?
Why do you really want to start your own business? Because glamour and money are hard won. If it’s instant fame that you’re trying to acquire, think again.
Entrepreneurship takes courage and enough grit to see you through hard times as well as good. Think carefully about where you see yourself in five or ten years’ time.
Are you passionate and driven enough?
Being an entrepreneur can be hugely rewarding – and with names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs having never acquired university degrees, it’s easy to get inspired to take the plunge yourself. But remember: for every success story is the flipside.
There are so many entrepreneurs whose names we do not know. The difference is not just skill, luck or the quality of their ideas – it’s also in the attitude. Are you going to be determined enough to see the idea through?
Are you ready to work in a disciplined, driven way? If you are, sitting through a university degree will feel like a total waste of time. Passion over all will be essential.
Overall, either option can mean success. But take the time to think carefully and honestly about you and your character, resources and skills. Make the best choice for you and live your dream!