Lots of business schools offer concentrations and majors in “entrepreneurship.” It is the expected response to more and more entrepreneurial young people either foregoing college altogether or majoring in something like computer science rather than going to business school. If you want to be an entrepreneur, it may seem like majoring in entrepreneurship at a business school is the way to go. Don’t do it. There are at least three reasons why.
1. The school format doesn’t jive with entrepreneurial learning
There’s something particularly odd about a school creating a series of formal courses on entrepreneurship. Here are instructors and administrators taking a robust set of skills that require a supreme level of flexibility and dynamism and attempting to put them in eight-or-fewer semesters worth of formal classes with syllabi, exams, and assignments (even if the classes are designed to allow students some flexibility, they can’t be totally flexible by their very nature). It would be as if schools had majors in riding a bike. Students would study all the theory behind bike riding, would get to know the history of it, may even run a few simulations, but would never really ride the bike.
Four years go by and students never really run a real tried-and-true business. They may run a simulation with the university, or help with a project on campus, but never really get outside the university bubble. Four years go by while their competitors test and fail with various models, moving ahead at a greater and greater pace. The opportunity cost itself should be reason enough to avoid going to business school for entrepreneurship.
2. It will make you resent your passion
Maybe you really want to go major in entrepreneurship because it is your dream to open up and run a business. Maybe it is something you’ve always wanted to do, and now that you are done with high school, getting a degree in it seems like the next reasonable step. Maybe you were the kid in high school who ran his or her own business, and maybe you did all the extracurriculars with FBLA and DECA.
If you find yourself passionate about entrepreneurship, a college major in that subject poses a particular risk. Schools are particularly infamous for making students resent learning from a young age — being forced to do something they would otherwise not do generally garners resentment. Even college falls into this category. Though you aren’t forced to go to college, going in to study something you are passionate about can turn that passion into a sore subject. When professors and classmates approach a highly dynamic subject differently and then begin assigning grades to it, it puts pressure not on loving the subject, but on performing well.
Soon your passion for the subject is transformed into a constant anxiety about getting the right marks and knowing the right material for the exams. What you once viewed as something which you can really dig into now appears to be a chore.
This is true, of course, of any subject in a formal school setting, but rings particularly strong for entrepreneurship, since it is something that comes in different colors for different people.
The world is a dynamic place and problems aren’t easily solved by following an algorithm or the same rule-of-thumb in every situation. People placed in formal settings where there is an agreed-upon answer that they must reach teaches them this is, first, how problems are to be approached. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to think outside of the algorithm, or to attempt to find information that isn’t provided.
This applies generally for all problems in the world, but rings true most strongly for entrepreneurial endeavors. Why? Successful entrepreneurs must analyze a set of problems and find an original and effective solution. This, by its nature, requires them to think in different ways than most people are thinking. If they fall into the trap of thinking like everybody else, they miss those “a-ha!” moments, and soon begin to fade out of the entrepreneurial mindset.
It’s understandable why anybody would want to major in entrepreneurship. Perhaps they resent the idea of going to college altogether, and this seems like a nice compromise between going and getting a generic degree and not going at all. Perhaps it is just the path they’ve been pushed into. Perhaps the school has sleek “sizzle-preneurship” marketing. Regardless of the reasons why, anybody who is attracted to majoring in entrepreneurship should seriously consider the irony of such a major.
Talk to some successful entrepreneurs and you’ll find that they generally resent the idea of business school. Both at the MBA and the undergraduate level, they view it as a formality at best, and a waste of time at worst. Spending some time with people who have earned their wings in the marketplace is far more valuable.