For university students across the country, now is an exciting time where they are either graduating or watching their peers move on to complete their degrees.
But for some students, that day may have already been put off as they delay shaking hands with the dean and instead shake hands with venture capitalists and angel investors.
When I was an undergrad at Stanford University, I was one of those students. I stopped out for a year to build my first technology company. Though I eventually went back to finish my degree in parallel with growing the company slowly, those years spent in the real-world running a successful business gave me perspective and valuable skills that have carried me through today.
For those of you thinking about stopping out to pursue your entrepreneurial ambitions, here are my thoughts to consider before you make the jump.
The Case for Stopping Out
It might seem taboo to make the decision to put the pause on college, but in reality it will likely be harder to explain to your parents than it will be on your actual finances and education. If you stop out and raise money for your company, remember that you can usually reenroll in your university months or even years down the road. For me, getting outside experience in the real world provided actual context for my studies and I returned smarter and more engaged in schoolwork.
Peter Thiel's Fellowship program is a prime example of what's possible when you give eager students funding and mentorship. Entrepreneurial students are given an opportunity to take a full swing at their venture and in return, are placed on an educational fast track with little risk or downside. Whether it's through a program like this or something by your own design, there is a strong argument to be made that these opportunities are even more rare and hard won in comparison to the acceptance letter you originally received from your university -- don't let them pass you by.
The Case for Staying In
I think the biggest reason to stay in school is to experience college to its fullest. Whether it is participating in greek life, joining a club, or writing for the school newspaper, college offers you a plethora of opportunities to fuel your passion While there isn't much financial downside to coming back if a startup fails, you'll never capture the same experience of being in college with your peers. There is definitely something to be said about the value and uniqueness a college experience brings.
The college experience, as debt accruing as it may be, holds true value in my opinion. I met my best friend Ronnie who is the cofounder of my latest startup Porch.com when we moved into the same dorm room together. In addition to being a full time student, I also was extremely lucky to build a successful business before I eventually stopped out.