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Last couple of years have seen a new trend emerge in the startup ecosystem. While it is good to see more and more people with innovative ideas and a zeal to make them possible taking the startup plunge, the only problem is that a majority of these young entrepreneurs are literally young and are dropping out of college/school to try their hands at entrepreneurship. Sure, there is no denying the fact that if a person is really enthusiastic about their passion, they should be given a fair chance to pursue their dreams and make it a success, but unfortunately, a lot of this inspiration is coming from media stories glorifying billionaire dropouts.

Yes, Mark Zuckerberg did dropout of his college in his sophomore year and has made Facebook what it is today, but statistically speaking, his case is just one in a million. If one looks at some of the success stories ruling the corporate and tech sector today like Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft), Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook) and Jack Ma (Founder and chairman, Alibaba), one would find that they’re all graduates from some of the most elite colleges in the world today. This reinstates the ages old saying, “Half-baked knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance.” In fact, the great Steven Hawking, who himself is Oxford educated has bettered this saying. According to him, “the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Does College Dropout equal Mega Success?

In order to do an extensive study on the matter, Jonathan Wai (Research Scientist, Duke University) and Heiner Rindermann (Professor of Educational and Developmental Psychology, Chemnitz University of Technology) set out to study a whopping 11,745 United States leaders, which included CEOs, politicians, federal judges, multi-millionaires and billionaires, business leaders and internationally-renowned powerful men and women. The main aim of the study was to find out how many of these wealthiest and the most influential people in the US graduated college and how many of them belonged to an “elite school.”

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The study churned out some interesting facts. According to the study, out of the 11,745 U.S. leaders studied, 94 per cent attended college, and about 50 per cent were product of an elite school.

Though according to another research done by United Nation’s National Bureau Of Economic Research, there is no difference in adult income of students who attended elite school and students with similar SAT scores who attended regular schools. The research highlights that when it comes to long-term earnings, where you go is not that important, as long as you attend and graduate.

However, the data from the Wai and Rindermann study shows that students who aim make it to the top, an elite college might help them get there faster, courtesy the networks they make during their time in college or the brand name shining on their resume.

What About India?

A close look at the Top 5 Indian Unicorns would yield that all the founders/cofounders of these over $1 billion valued companies are product of elite Indian colleges. Whether its Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (IIT Delhi) or Ola Cabs’ founder Bhavish Aggarwal (IIT Bombay), they are all products of some of the top most colleges in India.

Yes, India does have examples like OYO Rooms’ Ritesh Agarwal and Freecharge’s Kunal Shah, but they haven’t been able to achieve the same success pinnacle as the college educated Indian Unicorn founders. Also, when we talk about college dropouts in Indian startup scene, how can we forget mentioning Housing.com co-founder and dropout from the elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, Rahul Yadav. Crowned as the bad boy of Indian startups, Yadav was ousted from the company after the board found about his behaviour towards investors, ecosystem and the media. In fact, Yadav’s second venture Intelligent Interfaces, which was supposed to provide intelligent data aggregation and visualisation solutions to the Government of India, to make governance 100 times more efficient, has also unfortunately failed to make a mark.

So, the bottom line here is, while some people might be a success without a college degree by their side, but they’re one of those fortunate exceptions. As far as statistics are concerned, when it comes to success, a college degree might help you climb the success ladder faster, especially in India.

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