Why I Wish I’d Attended Startup Institute Instead of Grad School


I have a Master’s in Higher Education Management, and I also work at a startup. It may seem a bit incongruous - or at the very least, an unnecessary pre-requisite to work for a startup in the tech world. Although I got value out of my grad school experience, here are a few reasons why I wish I’d pursued a more market-aligned education instead of a traditional one.

  • Grad school is singularly focused: Grad school provides a path to create future professors and researchers. Most grad students,  myself included, apply and attend grad school uncertain that they wanted to commit to a life in academia For uncertain folks like myself grad school turns out to be the longest litmus test for interest in a field.  There are definitely ways faster than 2 years to figure out whether or not you like a field.

    Compare that with the world of startups where you’re constantly trying new hats, and learning about your preferences and skills. Theres no time for 50 page papers, and the closest thing to a thesis defense will be defending your value prop to investors.

  • The opportunity cost is huge: Don’t get me wrong, graduate school has its merits.  During those two years I read an incredible amount, developed my critical thinking skills and spent a ton of time picking apart various theories.  But what about the opportunity cost of those 2 years of reading and theorizing?  


  • In grad school you learn how to learn; at SI you learn to do: Thats the biggest difference between my time at Startup Institute and at grad school, actually doing things.  In two months at Startup Institute, I built a personal portfolio, learned the tools I needed to become a marketer, built out a network of people in my desired profession, the whole time surrounded by smart, passionate people.  I can easily say that I’ve learned, experienced and accomplished more at SI over the last 12 months as both a student and staff member than in double the time at Grad School.

If you know you’re in love with particle physics or molecular biology - great. Go to grad school. Likewise, if you answer true to all of the questions in the graphic above.

But if like most you’re unsure of what you really want to do, there are better places to figure that out - all the while building a network and real skills that are invaluable regardless of your choice of profession.

Learn more about Startup Institute HERE.

This blog post was written by Brent Williams, Program Manager in Chicago and former Startup Institute student.