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For the college entrepreneur, options and choices abound

6:02 PM, Oct 20, 2013   |    comments
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a conference on Sept. 11, 2012, in San Francisco.(Photo: Kimihiro Hoshino, AFP/Getty Images)
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Gerald Yao and Tori Molnar are part of a growing number of students who've caught the entrepreneurial bug, leading them to ask themselves, their parents and their counselors, "should I stay or should I go?"

Yao didn't enroll in classes for his penultimate semester at Emory's Goizueta Business School, choosing, instead, to gain hands-on experience away from the classroom.

Yao, the CFO of Fiscal Note, has helped raise $1.2 million since May 2013 for the start-up, which uses artificial intelligence to predict future government decisions.

"I knew I couldn't give [FiscalNote] my 100% without taking a semester off of school," he explains.

Molnar, 16, runs Utoria, a company that gives young women in high school and college the tools and resources needed to become successful entrepreneurs. She started the company at 13, and now, as a home-schooled high school senior, has decided to delay college in order to focus on her work full time.

It's a decision that isn't always easy to make.

But at a time when college costs have skyrocketed, jobs outcomes are bleak and the Internet and technology provide resources to establish a business affordably, some students see taking time away from or delaying college as the golden ticket.

Statistically, it's very likely, however, that students will fail in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

For every Mark Zuckerberg, a thousand students drop out of college and fail in their plans, according to one TechCrunch article

While a college education is costly, it certainly has high returns. But a burning passion for a great idea trumps concerns of failing for these students.

When a student decides to leave school, colleges and universities often "hold" his or her spot, or let him or her apply for readmission. But policies differ among universities.

Yao fully intends to return to Emory after this semester, and Molnar is hoping to gain acceptance to Draper University in the future.

At some schools, leaving doesn't have to be an option

On campuses of schools such as Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, accelerator programs offer an experiential experience that aid students interested in start-ups and entrepreneurship.

By providing mentoring, legal advice and even desk space, accelerator programs give students a foundation in start-up training that might not otherwise be taught in traditional classrooms.

At Harvard, venture capitalist Hugo Van Vuuren is running a $10 million investment business to recruit and aid Harvard's budding entrepreneurs who hope to start a business before even graduating.

And even if a student does still decide he or she wants time away, some schools are able to arrange course credit for a student's work.

Kelsey Donohue worked in the offices of a Washington D.C.-based start-up the second semester of her senior year at Marist College in New York.

Donohue says what she learned at the start-up wasn't something that could have been easily taught in the classroom, Since she received course credit and was able to graduate on time, she has no regrets about her time away from Marist.

USA Today

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