The dynamic between college and entrepreneurship: A student perspective

Let’s start with an obvious truth: Entrepreneurship is hard. Anyone who has embarked on the journey of autonomous work and self-leadership will tell you at least as much. In a similar vein of honesty: College is hard. These statements sound almost silly when said aloud, but what if the practice of merely acknowledging and embracing the challenge could be valuable?

And while these two pathways are surely challenging enough in their own regards, the undertaking of both at once is often a hefty goal that can seem unattainable, and sometimes even counterproductive. After all, they both require a lot of time, energy, and resources. I’ve found myself living at this crossroads during my time in both high school and in college. Because of this, it’s something I often consider deeply; trying to strike the balance.

Of course, there are a multitude of manners in which one might strike said balance along their journey. This piece, if not anything else, is intended to highlight the value of that internal dialogue. Because I do believe it is worth the energy. Below are a few thoughts on how one might maximize both entrepreneurship and being a full-time student, written by someone who is currently doing so.

1. Reframing what “learning” looks like, and what it means to us.

The truth is that learning is literally boundless. The professors at the university of life come from every background, and enter our purview via the many serendipitous moments that line our days. The stranger on the corner, the waitress at a favorite restaurant, our preferred musical artist – they all have learning to offer us. The value of this learning might go unnoticed to us at the time, but in the longer-term it most certainly exists. Taking this stream of thought, and turning our attention to our entrepreneurial endeavors, the logic is fittingly adaptable.

A conversation with a founder or practitioner, an exercise in brainwriting, the testing of a minimum viable product, or heck, even a focused viewing of a YouTube video, are all valid learning experiences. If we pair this with an ambition to build something – an entrepreneurial ambition – then this learning is most certainly part of our education.

Said another way, the material and substance of our learning doesn’t have to stop when the professor’s PowerPoint does. It is okay to shift our weighting system and reevaluate what is worthy of our time. After all, what good is our college learning without the application of information to moments of uncertainty and curiosity? Entrepreneurship is the most perfect exploratory outlet for this.

2. Becoming a polymath.

 polymath: “a student of industry whose expertise spans a number of subject areas.”

Throughout time, these individuals have thrived, and many believe the same is true today. Web Smith, a seasoned entrepreneur with quite the resume has been catalyzing in the name of a more polymathic entrepreneurial ecosystem for more than 5 years now. His operation – called 2PM, and standing for “to polymaths” – empowers operators at every level to embrace the concept of deep generalism; to understand a lot about a lot of things.

I’m a full believer in the concept and am convinced that to dive deeply into both traditional student-hood, as well as entrepreneurship, is synonymous with living a more polymathic life. Convincing ourselves around the values of this generalism is crucial to the balance we’ve discussed, and I encourage anyone to embrace the polymathic way of learning.

3. Proximity – being in a place that values both.

In a nod to ASU – and I really mean this – we are each in a truly magnificent place when it comes to the balancing act that I’ve been speaking of. Who we surround ourselves with matters immensely. It is very possible that we all could have ended up in an educational environment that values only the metrics of tradition and theory, and that does not equally celebrate an actionable – sometimes seemingly unconnected – pursuit of ideas and innovations. ASU is not that place, and in fact, it is very much the opposite. Here, I’ve found an institution that does not only tolerate external curiosities, but that actively promotes, encourages, and champions them in the community it serves. This is a place that is doing it the right way; by leaning into the coexistence of entrepreneurship and schooling, and totally prioritizing the amalgamation.

I know that I’ve taken these truths, and this place for granted in the past. I also know that I’m making an active effort to never make that mistake again. As the headline infers: proximity matters, a lot. We have it – let’s continue to use it, and prove it matters. Continued success will yield continued opportunity. It can all start here, and that’s a thrilling thought to think!

In summation, the value of this season of life can best be maximized by way of a diversified portfolio, just as is the case in investing, diet, and many other microcosms. I’ve found that by leaning into the hardness, embracing the push, while simultaneously expanding the definition of our success, that there can be a better strain of college takeaway. Being smart is a multidimensional concept and claim, and an entrepreneurship-infused college tenure is tailormade for a world which runs on the proliferation of diverse knowledge.

About the Guest Author:

Brad is always searching for the next opportunity to listen and learn. He started his entrepreneurial journey back in high school, with his podcast More Than A Word. Today, this work has evolved into speaking, writing, and various other forms of purposeful storytelling. Brad has also worked with startups Culdesac, A Frugal Athlete, and 2PM. Upon graduating from ASU, he plans to pursue a graduate program in Urban Planning, working towards making our cities better places to live. Brad is a senior at Arizona State University studying Business Entrepreneurship. To connect with Brad or another Entrepreneurship Catalyst to help support your entrepreneurial experience at ASU, visit the Entrepreneurship Catalysts webpage.

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