In May of this year, Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, awarded 24 young, aspiring entrepreneurs $100,000 to "drop out of school and become world-changing visionaries."
Now that the publicity has settled down, I thought it would be a good time to offer the perspective of three entrepreneurs who dropped out of Belmont's entrepreneurship program.
None of them was part of Thiel's program, but each dropped out to chase his entrepreneurial dreams. However, all three eventually decided to return to school to finish their degrees.
John Price and Sam Dryden dropped out of the entrepreneurship program to pursue their photography and video-related businesses.
"I have never been a typical student, and I often found myself frustrated with classwork," Dryden said. "When it looked like my business was going to be a success, I jumped at the opportunity to pursue something that at the time I decided was more important than a degree.
"We are told to study hard so you can get a degree and then a job. Hey, I already had income, so why waste time in school, right?"
Both of them saw a choice: stay in school and be a student, or pursue their careers as entrepreneurs.
"I knew that I wouldn't be able to reach my business goals while attending a university and splitting the time," Price said.
Timothy Weber left the Belmont entrepreneurship program to pursue his Web-based business, GoodMusicAllDay, full time. However, it wasn't long before he decided leaving school might not have been a wise choice.
"After just one year out of college, I realized how little of a business background I had and how many 'lessons' I could have learned in a classroom instead of after they had already negatively impacted my business," Weber said.
All three entrepreneurs believe the business experience they gained while out of school enhanced their learning curve when they returned.
"Leaving school gave me crucial experience that in my opinion made the return to Belmont more valuable than if I had never left," Dryden said. "My experiences out in the 'real world' gave my professors leverage to turn class time into very meaningful time for me. It was no longer homework, and it was instead a focused business workshop that had actual repercussions in life."
At Belmont, as in many other entrepreneurship programs across the country, professors encourage students to start ventures while in school to enhance what the course work offers them.
"The entrepreneurship program allowed me to understand my business before spending all my money and time pursuing it," Price said. "The time in college provided me with the opportunity to focus on the bones of my business before I applied it to the real world.
"The time I would spend talking through my business ideas with other students was some of best feedback I could have gathered."
These three entrepreneurs learned an important lesson when they dropped out of college. It does not have to become a choice between pursuing your dreams and advancing your education, as both work better when pursued hand in hand.