(This post was originally published on Forbes).
I get stacks of resumes from recent graduates from many expensive universities. But when I review them, I really feel for these kids. They have done what they were told: they got good grades, they joined clubs and they graduated on time. But even with all that, what I see in front of me blurs together, and the sheets of paper simply end up in my desk drawer.
Getting good grades and completing your course work might be good enough to get an entry-level position at a job you’re not crazy about, but when did America become about “good enough”?
The American dream is still out there. We just need to start looking in a different place for it.
There are those (like PayPal founder Peter Thiel) who are no longer looking toward universities for America’s next brightest minds and are actually encouraging them to skip college by giving them $100,000 not to go. I’m not willing to go that far as there are still things to learn in school.
The potential to learn is there, but you won’t find it on any syllabus. What you need to do is stop thinking of college as extended high school and instead think of it as your first business incubator.
There are plenty of reasons why college is the ideal time to start a company or gain the skills to lead one in the future.
Never in your life will you have a more relaxing schedule with less pressure than in college. As you grow older, your responsibilities will multiply. In college, for the most part, you have to worry about yourself and, to some extent, your classes. A lot of kids fill their free time with binge drinking or video games.
Instead, why not spend your free time working on a project that could ultimately lead to a company or, at the very least, give you a differentiator after you graduate?
Access To Mentors
Besides having free time, you are also surrounded by unmatched resources. There are computing resources, meeting spaces and endless books, journals and labs. Ultimately though, the greatest resources are people. Universities are full of people who know things like professors you can talk to, TAs, grad students and, of course, alumni.
Within your university, you have experts across a variety of fields. Talk to them! Get their advice and bounce ideas off of them. Here’s the best part: even if your project doesn’t pan out, having a relationship with your professor will help you get better grades as well.
Access to Sample Customers
A lot of college students are lazy. Laziness isn’t necessary a bad thing and sometimes, it can lead to discovery. We started Dyn because we wanted to be able to access our papers on our dorm computers from the computer lab. Doing this enabled us a few extra minutes of sleep. Now we’re a 200+ person company.
In college, there will be countless problems to solve and if something is a problem for you, chances are that it’s a problem for the other 2,000 to 50,000 people at your school. That is a great test market to try out products and feature sets.
Time to Build
By starting in college, you’ll really be able to test your product because you won’t be in such a huge rush to be profitable. Since you’re so young and since college students function admirably while being broke, you’ll have time to cultivate a loyal user base, which you can ultimately leverage as you grow your company. This is a huge advantage as it will prevent you from being reactionary and reckless.
At Dyn, we were able to self-fund our enterprise operation because we had cultivated so many users over the years. It was a rare opportunity that was only possible because we started so young.
Starting a business and being your own boss is an incredibly rewarding pursuit and an exciting, risky adventure. These are all things many college students enjoy, so go ahead and give it a try.
Otherwise, I have a spot in my desk reserved for your future resume.