I’m Starting My Own Business – Should I Finish My Degree?

At 25 and 8 months pregnant, I decided to finally go back to school at my husband’s “You always say ‘next semester’, you’re not this time” insistence. But it all was moving so quickly, I just took universally necessary courses until I could figure out what I wanted to do. I found out about Instructional Design, a fantastic career that seemed to play into my strengths, pay extremely well, and be in demand everywhere. I decided to go for a Liberal Arts degree to transfer in to the University with.

Congrats, Jennifer!

There was an unforeseen problem – I was used to working from home. I decided when my son was 6 months old that I’d go back to work, and after 2 days, I was miserable. I loved being able to get out of the house, get the work done, and go home to relax, but my son hurt himself while I was gone and couldn’t be there to comfort him, and things kept happening that I don’t want to give up control of. Not to mention having a boss tell me what to do.

You’re preaching to the choir, Jennifer.  I’ve been working for myself for nearly 15 years now, and can’t imagine having to go back and work for a boss.

I’ve realized in the couple of months since that I don’t want Instructional Design. I want to be in business for myself, and want to finally start a business I’ve been working out in my head and know I could afford to start. If I kept going on my track, I would have a Liberal Arts degree 2 semesters from now. I could move forward after that and get a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. Or, I could quit the Liberal Arts degree and start taking classes for an Associate’s in Business Administration.

I need the education on how to run a business as soon as possible. I plan to go to local entrepreneurial classes and such that the city and state do, but I don’t know anything about, well, the topics taught in these business classes.

I’m weighing the resume vs. the business of my own. If I am running my own business, what does it matter what degrees I have? Isn’t the education what’s important? Should I get a degree just because I’m close to it? – Jennifer

Everyone goes to college for their own reasons.  Personally, I leaned more toward the “need a degree to get a job” side than the “I want the education” side.  Not to mention that NOT going to college was never really an option when I was growing up.  It wasn’t like my parents said, “You can either go to college, or you can do X.”  College was just always what was going to happen with me.

There are plenty of reasons to finish school now.  Despite having been in business for myself for so long, my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees sure are a nice security blanket to have, should I ever need them.  I’m also a public speaker, so they both add legitimacy to my “pitch” – even though, in all honesty, the things I speak about are largely things I learned post-college and grad school.  So yes, I’m glad that I finished school while I was in the thick of things.

Another reason to go ahead and finish school is this – I come from a military family, where my father and many of my friends’ fathers went into the military straight out of high school (thanks a lot, Vietnam War!).  20 years later, upon retiring from the military, lots of them went back to school to get that degree so they could start their second career (sadly, 20 years of serving your country doesn’t always hold as much weight with employers as 4 years of partying and sitting in a classroom – go figure).  That, my friends, is not an easy thing to do. Imagine being out of school for twenty years and then one day realizing that you must go back and sit in that classroom again.  Pile on top of that the fact that you have 2 or 3 kids, a mortgage, car payments, etc.  It’s not a fun path to take. Admirable, sure…but not easy.

On the flip side, if you have a great business plan, a way to learn the basics of business and time is of the essence, you can always go back to school later if you need to (with the caveat of how hard it may be, as presented above).  As you said, at this point in time, IF your business does well, it does not matter what degree you have.

So there you have it, Jennifer.  I’m not gonna make that hard decision for you, but those are the angles I can lay out for you so that you can make a more informed decision.  And I’m betting that some other readers here have some more insight as well.

What do you think – anyone out there been in Jennifer’s position?  Should she just get it over with now, or dive into her business and save the time and money of finishing school?

By Judge Josh on September 24, 2014 · Posted in Articles, College Students

6 Comments | Post Comment

kathy says:

Jenny, I will sincerely advice to finish your degree in 2 semesters and keep your diploma on hand while doing your business if possible on part time basis. Thank God you don’t have longer time in school but you will look back later and be proud of yourself. You are always also setting an example for your son that it is possible to have both worlds of academic and business. Even if you never need the certificate, it is not a waste, can lead to another business opportunity later in life.
I wish you all the best.

Posted on September 28th, 2014

Chelsia says:

Jennifer, I think you should finish school. The business can happen now or later in the future. If you have a good plan it’ll hold till school is done. Finishing your education while your son is young is an opportunity that is yours now. I’ve owned a business. I loved it. I even went back to school to have the skill needed to pursue it. It didn’t work out. Back to the drawing board aka back to work. Having your degree will allow you to earn a higher wage if business isn’t as hot as you’d hoped. Business can be a stress. When you aren’t getting customers, you’re not getting paid. There’s a lot of hot and cold. You may experience no business for months and lots in other months. Consistency is hard to achieve. When money is lean having the job option even for consultancy will save you stress and keep your home life stable. Also, do an internship. Opportunities as a student gets you in more rooms than just simply being interested as a “civilian”. Good luck. Please use your time wisely.

Posted on September 28th, 2014

NGVH says:

Finish your degree. Business is wonderful to go into but entails a certain amount of risk so it is nice to have something to fall back on if things go south. It will be harder doing both but will provide some security whichever the way the wind blows.

Posted on September 28th, 2014

Belinda says:

If she can afford it, another option is to attend school part time and attend the entrepreneurial classes at the same time. Normally, I would say finish the degree first but in business you have to strike while the iron’s hot. What if she waits to start her business and someone else has the same great idea and takes all of her potential sales/patents? I also think she should discuss this with her husband and come to a decision together since it affects the family and he seems concerned about her education.

Posted on September 29th, 2014

Rebecca rick says:

I think all the comments are great and very true. Do finish your degree but start working on tour business at the same time. If your running it out of your house or out of a store front, start working on doing all paperwork that is necessary then once your done w school then you can go full swing into your business. Maybr start small by woeking out of ur house or off the internet if possible then open up the store front as soon as tour done. You will look.Back one day and go im glad i did finish. Compared to looking back and being upset with your self if u dont finish and going i wish i would have finished

Posted on September 29th, 2014

Dana C. says:

With only two semesters to go finish that degree. Sure it is a few months out of your life but in case your business does not go the way you hope the degree gives you other options. Even a Liberal Arts degree gives you more options then no degree at all.

Going back to college later will be harder than you think. I dropped out in 1991 to take care of my mother when she became ill. I eventually went back to get a degree–22 years later, while working full time (2 jobs). I had to drop one job in order to make it work and took on loans to replace that second job. I got my AA in Business Information Technology and graduate just as the recession hit. Lucky me. Then I went for my Bachelor in Business and ended up switching to being a History major. I still managed to graduate in three years while working 63 hours a week. Finding time to study was always difficult and being as older or older than fellow students was hard.

I meet tons of people that said they dropped college with the intent to go back in a year or two and never did it. Most do not once they stop college. It is just a fact of life that other things take over. You get used to having a steady check and put it off one more year. You want to start your own business, which may or not pay off. You do not want to give up time with family, etc. The list of reasons not to go back grows every day and pretty soon you are just another person wishing they had gotten a degree. Better to finish the one you are pursuing now since you are so near the end. Senioritis can get bad, we have been there. You will probably regret dropping later when you realize how close you were, and your son will ask later why you dropped. Or worse why he should go to college when you never finished.

I have had a couple of my own businesses over the years and only one earned enough to make it worth while. The others barely broke even or last money. So know that you may want your own business now, but it is a lot of work–even harder than college by a large margin. You are nearly there and will be so happy once you are done, and even a Liberal Arts degree gets credit in Business circles over no degree. If you need a loan banks consider you a better risk if you have a degree–it shows you can stick to things and complete them.

So take a deep breath and dive in. You will be done in a very short time and will have achieved a difficult thing. You can later apply those same stick to it skills to business when things get hard. You will also make contacts in college and even discover potential customers. Also internships…find internships in a business similar to the one you want to start, if possible. It will give you both experience in the field and references when you go out on your own. Professors can give you references for if you need a business loan until you have customers to do it. So do not knock finishing college. It can help you in the long run and save you having to do it over later.

Best.

Posted on October 1st, 2014