The Delicate Balancing Act: College (vs?) Startup

Pursuing a startup while being in college can be quite a tricky balance. At one end of the spectrum, there are many people who become so excited about their idea that they drop out prematurely, left with no company or college degree after a few months. On the other end, some people are afraid of the risks of starting a company and spend too much time focusing on grades and only give a half-hearted effort at pursuing their company.

Although doing both at once is a hard task, you should wait a while before you decide to dedicate your time fully to a company. In my opinion, it is best to always keep your options open.

Simply dropping out with the “idea” of starting a company can be a very dangerous path to take. Until you’ve built at least an alpha product and have some starting revenue with paying customers, you shouldn’t think of dropping out as a primary goal. Dropping out should only be a sort of last resort–when your company takes too much of your time and school work is hindering progress.

For college students, the longer breaks (winter and especially summer) provide a great opportunity to jumpstart your company and get an idea for what you could achieve. Sure, you may be taking a risk by focusing on your company instead of an internship, but it’s a lot better than sacrificing your grades during classes.

That being said, you shouldn’t simply drop startup work while classes are taking place. Even though it might mean cutting back on club activities or other social events, you must be willing to make that investment to continue working on your company. Additionally, for some majors (especially engineering/computer science), your GPA matters a lot less than actual skills/experience in the workplace.

When you have validated your idea and are ready to work full-time, I would advise against simply “dropping out." One great thing about colleges like UC Berkeley is that you can take a "leave of absence” that allows you to come back within the next few (usually anywhere from 3-5) years. This way, in the case that your startup doesn’t work out, you can very easily resume classes from exactly where you left off.

Lastly, I just want to end with a quick disclaimer: you will never truly realize the potential of your company until you drop everything else and make it your sole focus. Often times, your company may not be doing too well while you’re in school but if you know that doing it full-time will, you might just have to take a leap of faith and try it out.