It used to be that you went to college to learn or to better yourself — maybe to become a well-rounded adult. But these days, it seems college is just a means to an end. And that end? Employment.
With competition for entry-level positions becoming more and more cutthroat and with Cambridge being an innovation hotbed, it makes sense that Harvard University is encouraging students to stray from typical employment options. According to The Boston Globe on Monday, Harvard has allowed a venture capital firm to set up shop on campus. The Experiment Fund, which has about $10 million in its investment pool, holds open office hours for start-up inclined Harvard students.
It’s encouraging to see high-level institutions embracing their non-traditional students. How often do people cite Albert Einstein dropping out when they tell their parents they failed a test? Creative minds can chafe against the structure of school, and it’s time we stop penalizing students for having ideas.
If Mark Zuckerberg had stayed at Harvard to finish his degree, where would you put this editorial to share with all your friends? Myspace? I think not.
By having an “in-house” venture capital firm, Harvard is maintaining ties with students that have the opportunity to do something else. Other institutions often leave the door open, encouraging students who take time off for start-ups to return if they so choose.
This is a candid move by officials at Harvard, as they recognize many creative, entrepreneurial students are increasingly frustrated with having hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to receive a degree they supposedly need in order to do work they already have inspiration for. At the least, more schools could take from this honesty and scrap the “Do whatever you’d like — so long as you meet our arbitrary requirements and continue to pay us for a degree that the system says you need” rhetoric that bashes energy into apathy.
Harvard is in no way breaking ground by trying to support and benefit from the success of innovative alumni. Many colleges offer courses in entrepreneurship and schools such as Standford University and Carnegie Mellon University are offering start-up funds to student-run businesses, according to The Globe. But Harvard is a school with big shoes to fill innovation-wise. Students and university officials are eager to see another Zuckerberg grace the quad — perhaps one who will have more of an association with Harvard and who will not drop out.
But does encouraging start-ups from day one take away from college? Higher education is already stressful enough, what with mounting student loans, increasingly low acceptance rates and bleak job prospects. The pressure of employment used to be a problem for second-semester seniors. Now kids still in high school are planning what major in college will get them their first “starter job.” Maybe we shouldn’t be rushing things.