What Entrepreneurship and College Admissions Have in Common
May is always a time for college selection choices, and while one of my children is finishing school, I have another just completing his freshman year.
Nearly two years ago, my son Nick started the long process of considering what college to attend. Naturally, he didn’t know much at the start, from what criteria he would use to select a school to what he wanted to study, or, truth be told, what the college process was going to be like. All he knew was that he was college-bound, so he just stepped into the process (well, more or less – it depended on the day or even the week).
A year later, the living room was filled with boxes – Nick’s and his sisters’. Boxes overflowed with bedding and clothing, printers and school supplies (yes, there’s no avoiding that annual August ritual that finds us at Staples!), and various sundry items that would make a dorm room more like home.
As I thought back through the numerous steps taken to launch my son on to his college career, I realized that in many ways, he and I had been on a similar path. At the time he started his college process, I started the process of re-launching my business and brand as a coach and consultant.
Here’s why entrepreneurship and the college admissions process are so similar:
They’re both roller coaster rides, terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
If you’ve gone through the college admissions process yourself or with a child, sibling, cousin, etc., you know what I’m talking about! The college research, application, and visit process is always interesting. It is also exhausting, frustrating, and disappointing while, at the same time, filled with hope, optimism, determination, and excitement.
That’s exactly what my entrepreneurial experience has been. Some of us are natural entrepreneurs or have a family heritage of entrepreneurship. I can’t put a check mark next to either of these. I’ve really worked hard, put in long hours, and sought out help to understand my purpose as an entrepreneur.
The same thing goes with the college admissions process. Whittling down your choices, compiling applications, crafting essays, visiting schools, asking for advice. It’s hard work, and it’s long hours.
What you want isn’t necessarily what someone else wants.
This point was driven home when I attended a two-day orientation session my son’s chosen school, Virginia Polytechnic Institute (known as Virginia Tech, or, in our neck of the woods, simply as VT). Nick is my third child, so this was my third college orientation experience. Old hat, you say? Yes, so did I.
But here’s the thing: The orientation at VT “hit” me differently.
First, my been-there-done-that attitude was blown away. VT was nothing like my daughters’ smaller schools. Statistics alone were overwhelming, because it’s a huge school with almost 30,000 students. From the number of applications for admission to the number and variety of dining halls to the size of the football stadium, the VT orientation was a completely unique experience.
Second, Nick was excited to be at a big school and eager to study a STEM curriculum. I had to wrap my head around this, because my daughters both chose a liberal arts education. As much as I puzzled over why he wanted to be at such a large, spirited, STEM-focused school, I also knew intuitively that this was the place for him.
My takeaway was this: We may think we know everything, because we’ve done it once or even many times, but we don’t. People, situations, time, interests, and needs are always changing, and we need to trust that others know what’s best for them.
This is especially true for our businesses. We don’t always know what our prospects, clients, colleagues, or partners may want at any given time. Instead, we need to approach our business with a fresh set of eyes, keen hearing and open mind each and every day. We can’t assume that our brand, products, or services are what others want or need. They will let us know. We just need to be open to it.
Do you need help navigating the roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship? I will help make your business vision a reality – contact me today!