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What 11 Entrepreneurs Wish They Knew in College

students at university

We asked 11 YC Entrepreneurs “if you could go back and give your college (or college-aged) self a piece of advice, what would it be?” These are their answers:

Matt Brown from Bonsai

“Cast your intellectual net as wide as possible. You’ll find interesting things in topics and subjects that might not seem obvious or important at first. Although I majored in economics, some of the biggest insights I had in college and especially after came from lessons in physics, history, psychology, and even literature. So don’t specialize too early, and be intellectually promiscuous!”

Cedric Dussud from Narrator

Get involved in more interesting projects. Classes are obviously important but can easily soak up all your time and energy. In the long run, they’ll matter a bit less than the friendships and experiences you’ll build doing things outside of class. I was a computer science major (so spent a lot of time studying) but some of my most fulfilling experiences were just hacking around on side projects with fellow students in my major. Once you leave college you won’t have as much (easy) access to an incredibly diverse set of talented and driven people.

Alana Laverty from ZeroDown

“Something I wish I could go back and tell my younger self in university is this: Your career path does not need to be linear and it doesn’t need to “make sense”. Embrace every opportunity that comes your way and pursue jobs that genuinely interest you. You may be studying journalism right now, but eventually, you’ll end up at a real estate start-up, in a job that feels like your purpose, and that proves this saying is true: “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. 

Arjun Mahadevan from StartPack

You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. Don’t just set goals; start building systems.

Jason Corwin from Safely Finance

If I could go back and give my college self a piece of advice, it would be to slow down, take a breath, and don’t rush things. Taking a semester off to get work experience doesn’t mean you need to burn the midnight oil and take extra courses over the summer to graduate within four years. The opportunities will still be there, and the experiences you gain when you slow down will be more than worth it.

Alex Hilleary from Gather

Prioritize learning over maximizing your GPA at any given point. In college — unlike in high school — grades just don’t matter as much as you think they do (unless you’re going to grad school). College is a unique point in life where you can try out new things and hang out with different people without worrying about how it all fits into a certain career or life trajectory. It’s your time to explore.

Arjun Paul from Zoko 

“Read lots of books. Hang out with smart people and learn from them. Do at least one thing that will (positively) affect people a 100 years from now”

Amrit Singh from LoopHealth

“Just spend 12 months to actually learn how to code instead of jumping to start the next project or business preemptively. The fundamentals are important and lend to compounding returns.”

Joshua Wong from Hypotenuse AI

“Prioritize your time mercilessly, but also prioritize time to hang out, meet people and try new things.”

Kam Leung from Papercups

You gotta eat less cake…to be more official: Don’t be afraid to look dumb by asking questions. When you get your first job you’ll have way too many questions that are going through your mind. You will grow and learn much faster if you ask and don’t worry about what people think”

Neil McLean from Navattic
Give side projects real attention.  It’s only after school that you realize how unique an environment you’re living in during college. Having a surplus of time, motivated people and inspiration from friends is a rare combination that’s difficult to find outside school.  Make full use of it!”

Looking to build more skills while in college? Forage offers free virtual experiences that replicates an employee’s work day and connects you to the companies themselves. 

By Nhon Nguyen – 2021-03-08