When to drop out of school

When I was an undergrad, I was fascinated by the fact that so many wealthy people had either dropped out of college or skipped it altogether, and subsequently built amazing technology companies. This list includes Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and many, many others. I wondered if there was perhaps some link between dropping out of school and success in technology. However, looking back now, I think I was confusing correlation with causation. These people weren’t uber-successful because they dropped out; they dropped out because they had started something that was growing so fiercely that it took up all their time.

So if you’re about to go to college or you’re in college and you’re thinking that maybe you should skip it because so many other successful folks did, take a second look. If you don’t have that something that pretty much forces you to drop out, I wouldn’t do it. If you feel like you’re torn and you’re not sure what to do, don’t quit. You should only quit if you literally just can’t keep going because you’ve started something on the side and it’s blowing up so fast that you can’t keep your head above water. And even then, you should try and leave the doors open to return in a year or two if things don’t work out.

Oh, and if you’re entrepreneurially-inclined, do seriously consider starting something in college. You probably will never have as easy a launching pad and such a plethora of potential co-founders. It could go nowhere (but you’ll learn something), it could pay for books and beers, or it could be the start of the story you’ll tell someday about how you dropped out of Harvard to run your fledgling company that’s now worth billions. You really have very little to lose.