UnCollege movement inspires entrepreneurial students
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Instead of walking across a stage to receive a diploma during his senior year at Boston College, Tom Coburn, co-founder and CEO of surveying website Jebbit, walked away from the university to manage his expanding business.
“School was something that was always there and I could always come back to, but Jebbit was a now-or-never type thing,” Coburn said.
Dale Stephens started UnCollege in 2011 after he dropped out of school due to the lack of academic rigor and real life application of college courses. The movement promotes the idea that students don’t need to go to college to be successful.
Head of marketing for the UnCollege social movement Alexander Berger said more students are choosing to forego college in order to pursue independent business ventures.
Berger said “unschooling” is the basis of the movement. The idea is for the student to direct his or her own education and learn what they want to learn instead of what they are forced to learn. Many students graduate without a marketable skill, which Berger said is his biggest issue with college.
Berger said the increasing cost of attending a college or university has brought more attention to the movement.
“If you just look at it financially and say, ‘I am not going to college,’ and, ‘I am going to sit in my mom’s basement take online classes and watch YouTube videos about my skill,’ then that is not going to cut it,” Berger said. “If you decide you are not going to go to school, you really need to have a solid plan put together.”
There are some benefits for attending college, Berger said. He lives close to a university and takes advantage of the social opportunities there. He can make the same connections in the university community that he could if he were a student, he said.
Dan Freeman, the director of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, said there are a number of students at the university who are working on businesses they started during college. Freeman said university students have put school on hold to pursue their business full-time, but that is not the purpose of the program.
“By and large, we have designed the program to provide opportunities for students to stay in school while they are working on their business,” Freeman said.
Most start-up projects fail, Freeman said, but if a student chooses to start one and dedicate his or herself to it, they can be very successful. His program was created to help students succeed in the real world rather than to gather credits for a major, he said.
If a student did drop out of school to work full-time, the Venture Development Center and the Horn program would continue to work with them, Freeman said.
The program is geared around trying to empower students so they are in a position to either take a job when they graduate or make a job for themselves, Freeman said.
“If they make a job while they are still in school then we are focused on helping them to succeed in their venture,” Freeman said.
Coburn said his decision to leave Boston College was extremely tough, but he has no regrets despite passing up acceptance to medical school to work on the business.
“The content of my classes hasn’t helped me a ton with Jebbit, but, being a biology major, my classes were really tough so I learned disciple and hardwork,” Coburn said. “So those skills have helped me with doing a start up.”
Putting school on hold was a personal choice, he said, and whether or not it is a good idea for others should be decided on a case by case basis.
Freshman Morgan Dennison said she thinks people should at least go to college for their first year to try it out and see if it is for them. It is the student’s decision if they want to stay in school or drop out and work full time, she said.
“Half the people who are millionaires didn’t finish college so if you think you have enough knowledge about the business then go for it,” Denison said.
Coburn said he recommends students begin a start-up in college because the entrepreneurial community is open to helping students grow their businesses and there are people at the university dedicated to that purpose.
Entrepreneurial education is a fairly new concept and can help students a great deal, Freeman said. And while a degree is not necessary, it can be beneficial to learn the skills and make connections necessary to become a successful entrepreneur.
“The older generation of entrepreneurs had to learn at the school of hard knocks,” Freeman said. “But now we know a little bit more about what it takes to form a successful venture.”