4 Ways The Entrepreneurial Economy Should Change Your Undergraduate Education

Author: John Gilmore

Since working with CampusBookRentals, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is not a career—it’s a mindset. When that mindset is applied to solving problems for society and communities, you get the high-tech startups, the TOMS Shoes, or the woman down the street running her own small business. 

When you apply that same mindset to your efforts as a college student, I believe you’ll get much better bang for your FedLoan buck. Here are four cases in which you should adopt entrepreneurial principals as an undergraduate. If taken seriously, they are going to prepare you more effectively for any future—including that of the professional entrepreneur. 

The Field of Entrepreneurship

The Field of Entrepreneurship

1. Your Generals: Graze (Chewing Thoroughly)  

If you think you must decide on a major by the middle of your freshman year, you’ve been mislead by a guidance counselor who doesn’t know the world has changed. Moving curiously and slowly through your general education will broaden your capacity for problem solving, strengthen your resistance to entrenched thinking, and help you get over your fear of failure.

In your future as a professional, you’ll get ahead by creating new solutions, products, and services through mixing old ideas that others hadn’t thought to put together. This is the essence of entrepreneurship. The broader your explorations as an undergrad, the more you’ll have to draw on as you move into the entrepreneurial economy. You’ll bring your diverse thought patterns into every discussion, you’ll leave those discussions with an even more complex understanding, and you’ll be ahead of competitors who only know how to think in one subject or channel.
2. Your Major: Learn To Learn By Challenging Yourself 

Your major serves as in-depth “Learning Training,” not job training. You can find this Learning Training as you apply yourself in a Theater major or a Physics major, and you can miss it when you slide through either. Major in anything that engages your mind continually, and you'll leave college with an unshakeable habit of learning. As an entrepreneur, neither your subject of study nor your grades are going to affect your success, but the extent to which you have learned to learn will be paramount. 

Because learning to fail and retool is more valuable than a perfect GPA, you must not shy away from the challenging courses and the notoriously difficult professors—in fact, seek the latter out. Keep in mind that any industry or company that demands a perfect GPA is inflexible enough to be disrupted by an idea, product, or company you could create.

 3. Extracurriculars: Use Them To Pad Your Resume Network

A resume rarely got anybody a job even in prior years. Now—even more than in the past—your success depends entirely on the people you’ve connected with. “Networking” means connecting sincerely with people who share a passion for working hard and making a difference. You’ll find them on the Drill Team, at the Poetry Club, in the Greek community, and in your residence hall. They might be your age, a decade older, maybe 72. Five years from now, these ambitious individuals will be the ones you’ll see working at the most interesting companies, starting their own successful businesses, and looking to change the world in a way that also puts food on the table. You’re not going to email them your resume; you’re going to reconnect and invite them to join you in building something. 

Find a club or group and investigate whether it’s energetically supported. Look for bright and driven people, and if they are absent, move on. Discover what matters to these bright people—whether it’s growing club membership, improving the group’s image on campus, competing more successfully, or transforming the community—and ask them what you can do to help. When you reconnect in 8 years, they’ll remember you not as an old college acquaintance, but as someone they once partnered with for success, and someone with whom they’d partner again. 

4. What’s Next?

 As your undergrad years come to a close, the old model of “Graduate—Send Resume—Interview—Get Hired” is going to come increasingly under fire. Many students find comfort in avoiding the job market by jumping into another round of schooling—one that goes deeper into a niche subject: Graduate School. It’s arguable that this is a questionable move, given everything we’ve discussed so far. At the very least, it seems a better decision can be made on the subject with a few years of wisdom and experience under your belt. 

 Putting off graduate school and instead investing your time and money into starting a company, creating a product, or selling an idea is a win-win proposition. If you succeed in the venture, in a few years you may find yourself exactly where you’d hoped grad school could get you—living as a professional in your desired field, with the option of applying to grad school at any time. If you fail, which you most certainly will, your personal story and breadth of experience will stand out in a pile of graduate school applications stuffed with unmemorable essays about overcoming adversity. Remember: either option is likely to leave you with more experience and less money, but when done in the right order, you can minimize cost and maximize benefit.