When to Drop Out of School?

January 31, 2013

in Education, Starting Up

Everyone drops out of school at some point. Some drop out with more sunk costs than others, and we tend to glorify those (e.g. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg).

But all of us have to answer the question: “When should I stop attending school?” Do you go to college? Do you do a master’s degree? Do you do a PhD or a professional degree? Do you leave school now and plan to come back later? Which path will lead the the best outcome?

I attended a lot of school:  K-12, 4 years at BYU with a two-year inter-“mission” in Venezuela, and 4.5 years for a Georgia Tech PhD. While I’m very grateful for these years of schooling, I do not recommend so much schooling for everyone.

While at BYU, I tried my best to connect with other entrepreneurs:

  • I contemplated starting tutoring and window cleaning websites with friends. Dumb ideas that never went very far.
  • I tried to drum up a VHS to DVD family conversion business. I took out a classified ad in the local paper and didn’t get a single call.
  • I took entrepreneurship courses. They were filled with management students headed anywhere but startups.
  • I joined a startup. It was run by 3 PhD Chemist brothers. All the secret sauce was in the chemistry. There was no future for me to really make a mark.

So at the end of my undergrad, I had no real ideas and no prospects for starting a business. From my experience at the startup, I realized that I wanted to have the skills necessary to “own” more of the critical outcomes of the business.

At that point, my only real option was to continue into graduate school and continue searching for startup opportunities. Georgia Tech made all that possible (which I’ll write about later).

But my experience could have been different. If opportunities would have aligned sooner, it would have been wonderful to jump into building companies 5 years earlier.

How did you decide when to drop out of school?

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