Reason 1 - You have nothing to lose
Upon entering the college life I had just finished a summer of working as a part-time pizza connoisseur. I was dropped off at college with my belongings and a wallet with my $250 limit credit card and $50 cash. After staying sober for four years in high school I was ready to begin my college life (just like in the movies).
Despite the e-Bill reading a balance of around $38,000 for the year it just didn't seem like real money. It was all just low-interest student loans that will come back and bite me in the ass later. Thank god for scholarships and grants or I would be in debt about $200,000 already with an entire year to go. The good news to all this? My life for an entire year was paid for. Free food, free housing, and I even had a nice work-study job lined up that allowed me to finish my Calculus 1 homework and save up for the weekend beer pitch-in.
Even with the moderate to heavy course load of an engineering major at an ABET accredited university, I still had more time then I knew what to do with. So with plenty of time, a $250 credit card limit, and some cash-flow from my work-study job, why not get adventurous? Heck, the worst that could happen is that I don't have enough money for the beer pitch-in in which case I could just visit the frat parties that had free beer. Maybe not your case exactly, but I think you get the point.
The conclusion? The first couple years of college (at least) you really don't have much to lose. You won't lose your house, your family, and in most cases even your car (since it is probably in dad's name). This is a crucial low-risk time to get moving. So start boot-strapping with your available resources or start getting together a business-plan for a potential venture capitalist pitch.
Reason 2 - You are surrounded by intelligent life
No, I am not talking about extra-terrestrials. It took me a while to figure this one out but it is truly amazing what building a network at your university can do for you. Smack in the middle of podunk Ada, Ohio lies my school, Ohio Northern University. ONU is about 3,000 students strong and has somewhere around 200 faculty members in five colleges. The population of Ada, OH; 5,582. Sounds like opportunity is gleaming right? Heh, I didn't think so either.
That was my first mistaken logic. After getting active and involved on campus I began to establish a network that has been truly priceless. The network consisted of:
Eventually after expanding my network through those listed above I connected with the community. The community network consisted of:
I was able to take advantage of this network to get referrals, clients, free advice, PR, introductions, employees, interns, and much more.
During your years in college you are constantly being bombarded with information, most of which you will completely forget in a few years. In the case of my Real Analysis course, I made myself completely forget everything immmediately following the 48-hour cram-session before the final. But if you are running a business that is even remotely related to the courses you are taking you will actually be able to connect the two in your head. These courses become invaluable. Introduce yourself to the professors and give them a business card after class.
Just as an example, here is an abridged list of courses my business directly benefited from:
Reason 3 - You are different from the rest
I am a strong advocate of professional networking and being a college student has truly enhanced opportunities for me at such events. I won't get into the details of networking in this post but I will say that it is great for bootstrapping because it is virtually free advertising. Just as it is important to differentiate your business it is important to differentiate yourself when you are at these events. Being 22 years old does turn away a few people as they disregard you as illegitimate, but at the same time it makes more people curious about you.
My advice is to take advantage of the fact that you are different from the majority and if you feel you are turning heads away make sure you are wearing a suit and tie. Getting a suit and tie? Head to Macy's and sign up for a Macy's credit card, take a coupon with you from your most recent Sunday newspaper, and get a suit that is on sale. My $1,500 retail CK suit only cost me $230.
The same is true for sales pitches, they will remember you because you are different. You will be the 'college guy' that submitted the proposal. Just don't show up to a sales pitch with your greek letters on.
Reason 4 - You will look better on paper
Okay, so your business fails. Your life is over and your exit strategy was death. Right? Wrong.
There is a chapter in the book The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss that explains how easy it can be to get a job after quitting on bad terms with a company. This is somewhat of a similar analogy to this situation. Timothy explains that if you do something crazy (travel the world for a year was his example) then it will spark the interest of your interviewers and they will hire you just because you are different and they want to know how you did it.
Just like in the example above, being a student entrepreneur sets you apart from the rest. In todays fierce job market we need to be different. I can't even begin to count how many of my great and intelligent friends (drinking buddies) just graduated from ONU with engineering degrees and can't get a job. So once again, being a student entrepreneur and even attempting to start a business while still in college will differentiate you from the rest putting you on path to a successful career. That is, until you decide to start your next business.