OPINION: The struggles of being both an entrepreneur and a student

So this is it, huh—the life of a college student? We wake up ten minutes before class with just enough time to decide if brushing your teeth is more important than taking a shower. Can I eat breakfast? Forget breakfast, I’m in a sprint to get to class! Ahh, throw in the fact that I have a 7 p.m. Entrepreneur Club meeting on top of midterms, and I have to meet with coders to plan our execution of how to create a more effective database system for a company. This is the life of a college entrepreneur; it forces a decision to be made between acting in the present and preparing for the future.

I am sure many have heard of the movie “The Social Network,” and even more log on Facebook, procrastinating when they should be writing a paper; however, do many people really understand the significance of college in an entrepreneur’s life? College students all over the world are creating positive change while helping to grow our nation’s economy. These students are putting their brains, bodies and innovation to the test, not to mention putting their own education on the line to excel in business endeavors.

College students working to follow the paths of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are no longer an anomaly, but now represent a majority. According to an article published on Forbes, college becomes non-essential to an entrepreneur who knows he or she has the IQ of Einstein and has discovered the “next big thing.” College loses its appeal to the business-minded individual who knows, in the back of his or her mind, having a degree does not necessarily guarantee more success than having an innovative idea.

Because of the nature of college life, these “misfits,” whose hopes and dreams stem from their creativity, are pressured to conform to societal norms. From skipping class to take a phone call with a venture capitalist, creating a better business prototype and prepping for the next sales pitch, entrepreneurial college students have the ambition to change the world and are fueled by the potential to produce their own fame and fortune.

At Mason, our motto is: “Where Innovation is Tradition.” We have the Center for Social Entrepreneurship which focuses on teaching college students about the research, practice and education required to solve the next generation’s world problems. College students have the societal pressures to conform to social norms such as graduating from college, earning a degree, and finding jobs in a standard environment or position. On other college campuses, various entrepreneur clubs are created to promote entrepreneurship and innovative thinking among higher education as an extra-curricular activity.

By offering these various entrepreneurial opportunities integrated into our higher education systems, we are never able to create a balance between an educational course and the true lifestyle of an entrepreneur  There is a constant fight to keep up with a set curriculum, to abstain from limiting the abilities of others, to coordinate with the campus and to try to preserve the true definition of entrepreneurship. It is often times difficult to gauge the objectives of the group and to find a balance between supporting ambitions and encouraging degree work. Whether the students’ goals are to learn definition and culture of entrepreneurship, how to create a business model, or even if the students want to network with others interested in possibly forming a start-up, the details of the club or course can be hard to unify/correlate without missing the chaotic, rigorous, and freedom of creating a startup company.

So shall we drop in on the next big thing or drop out of the degree? Should we take the risk and expect the reward? That decision is up to you.

Geeks are the new rock stars but college is a personal journey—a hopeful chance to seize the future one day. Each route may have its own challenges and obstacles, but the way I see it, college entrepreneurs are leaders inspiring others within this generation and the next to take risks, to dream big and to leave the world better than it was before. 

Opinions expressed in this column are solely the beliefs of the writer. 

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