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You can be an entrepreneur without dropping out of college

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But what do I know?… I’m just a 19-year-old ‘kid’

I recently read an article by one of my good friends, George Beall, who decided to drop out of Wharton at UPenn to pursue various entrepreneurial ventures. As much as I laud his bold decision, I have to respectfully disagree with the need to drop out of college to run a company.

Perhaps this stems from the environment I grew up in, or maybe I’m too afraid to ever confront my mom with the notion of dropping out – or even taking a leave of absence for that matter. I have two very loving parents, who have always stressed the importance of good grades, and academic and personal growth. However, it wasn’t until I got to Cornell that I actually learned what this meant.

This past July, I was asked by a close friend and fellow Hotelie to join his startup, Maidbot, as a co-founder. Though personally I’m not the CEO, I do work very heavily on this project while also trying to lay the framework for a new software company. This amounts to between 20-40 hours of work a week. These opportunities have taught me the power of time management and sacrifice – a key characteristic
 of successful entrepreneurs.

Me and CEO, Micah Green, at the RECESS Field Trip pitch in LA this past January

Up until joining Maidbot, I was led to believe that the only way to succeed in the “real world” was by hustling to get the best summer internships available to undergrads while throwing yourself into as many extracurriculars as humanly possible. Deep down I knew I always wanted to be involved in building something from nothing, but entrepreneurship seemed like such an elusive concept. So, I excitedly agreed to join the team when asked, and so began the adventure.

I knew balancing classes, sleep, Greek life, friends, working out, and entrepreneurship would be somewhat of a challenge — though it’s one I think many college students should face. In the seven months since joining the team, I’ve had countless 5am nights, missed classes, forgotten meals and workouts, and 10pm naps. Still, the idea of dropping out has never crossed my mind. It could be because the nonstop work acts as eustress of sorts, or maybe I haven’t had enough coffee today to think clearly, but to me, a college campus is the best place to incubate a company. Schools provide ample resources, unlimited ideas, low risk, and social outlets for when the stress builds up.

All work and no play = stress

All work and no play = stress

When looking at all the resources a University campus provides, it’s hard to justify ever leaving. Schools provide free mentoring, accelerators, research labs, human capital, and every entrepreneur’s favorite, successful alumni. Personally, I try to use these resources to capitalize on every opportunity. Additionally, colleges surround brilliant students with hundreds and thousands of extraordinary young minds. In other words, it’s not hard to find peers who are willing to join an entrepreneurial venture. Perhaps this is because most college students don’t have fixed costs: the average college student doesn’t have a family to support, mortgages to pay, or a full-time career with stock options and benefits.

Basically, college gives you a four-year (or three for those over-achievers) blank slate to try and try and fail until finally, you may build something successful. Some will fail, some may succeed, but all will learn. Starting a company in college augments what is taught in the classrooms and provides amazing learning opportunities. Though it may be tough to find the time to balance personal and work life, I assure you it can be done. Search for that drive and keep hustling. Or if you choose not to take my advice, be like George and drop out — don’t worry, I won’t be offended.

This article also appears on TheTab and is published here with the permission of the author

Photo credit: pexels

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Written by Alex Levy

Alex Levy is Co-founder and the Vice President of Business Operations of Maidbot. In his "free time", he's a sophomore in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Alex enjoys snowboarding, landscape photography, tennis, guitar, and travel/exploration.

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