April 1, 2015

Why I Majored in Computer Science at Harvard and Skipped Business School

Today, we have a guest post from Jason Shah, a Harvard University graduate. He previously founded SAT prep company I Need a Pencil and worked at tech company Yammer, which was acquired by Microsoft. He's now Founder and CEO at Do, a company that helps people run effective meetings. You can follow him on his blog.

Here's Jason on why he decided NOT to major in Economics or go to business school:

I started out as an Economics major in college simply because I wanted to get a good job afterwards. However, once I realized how silly this was, I switched to a double-major in Computer Science and Sociology.

I chose Computer Science because I wanted to work in technology, and I wanted the ability to build my own projects. Sociology interested me, and the fact that it wasn't the most demanding major left me with a lot of time to work on side projects.

It also gave me the free time to expose myself to randomness - to meet for coffee with interesting people, to go to startup events, and to have various internships. If I'd been pre-med, I wouldn't have had time for that.

Through these experiences, I discovered that advertising and consulting didn't bring me the same pleasure that working with small companies did. Creating different options for yourself after graduation is one thing, but it's all futile if you create the wrong options. You don't want to work really hard to open the door to a career you thought you wanted, only to realize a year in that you don't want it after all. Then you're forced to rationalize your investment of time and money.

Going to business school just wouldn't have made sense for me. 2 years is a huge opportunity cost, both financially and time-wise. You could be building a company for the price of tuition. Taking up two years of my 20s in business school would have been a huge commitment, and I already had a sense of what I wanted to do.

So, you could take the MCAT if you want to leave the door open to being a doctor, but your time might be better spent exploring what you want to do. Intern at a hospital for a month so you can figure out if you're passionate about medicine or it just sounds nice. People are often sold on the prestige and the money they'll make without thinking about what they'll actually be doing day-to-day.

Meet people, read about your industry of interest, and reflect on what you like doing. Once you figure out viable options for your post-college path, use public channels like Twitter and Quora to reach out to people in the industry, meet them, and pick their brains.

Lesson: Leave yourself open to random possibilities. They could change your career path. Always stay open-minded.

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