Saturday, 7 May 2022

Should I study hard in college days?

Absolutely.

Rather than just “studying” hard in college days, consider “working” hard during the college days.

College is a great time for a lot of things - studying, networking, exploring, experimenting, and most importantly - trying new things and failing and rising up again. During college, you are not expected to make money and so, you are free to try out things that you like.

During my 4 years at IIT Bombay, I did a bunch of things:

  • Studies: I was good at academics. I received the Institute Academic Award and graduated with a GPA of 9.2/10 which by all standards at IIT Bombay is quite good.
  • Teaching Assistant: I was a teaching assistant in several courses - Calculus, Introduction to Programming, Linear Algebra, and 2 others. Being a TA helped me not only earn a small stipend but also helped broaden my understanding of the subjects. I got a chance to interact with smart students from the Computer Science and Chemical Engineering department and understand their perspectives. Many of them asked interesting and thought-provoking questions in the TA sessions which helped me understand the subject better.
  • Department Academic Mentor: In my 3rd year at IIT Bombay, I was a mentor to some 12 students from the 2nd year. These students were all from Computer Science Department and my role was to help them with making decisions about which course to take, and also help them clear any backlogs in the courses where they were struggling.
  • Convener at Rubik’s club: I actively participated in the activities of Rubik’s club.
  • Blogging: I created a blog on IIT-JEE (now JEE Advanced) preparation which, at its peak, clocked more than 100k hits per day. Through the blog, I was able to connect with lakhs of JEE aspirants and also earn money on the side via advertisement and affiliate marketing.
  • Freelancing: During my college days, I did a bunch of freelancing activities including writing blogs for companies to grow their audience, solving JEE papers for coaching institutes, developing websites and mobile apps for businesses, and building trading alphas for hedge funds. Freelancing helped me understand the basics of business - acquiring a client, delivering satisfactory work, hiring members to provide support, and effectively delegating work to them.
  • Internships: I did 2 internships - a research internship in Germany and a Software Engineering internship at a US-based Startup called Rubrik. Internships helped me travel the world, interact with new people, learn and earn. Rubrik internship also helped me secure a job and avoid going through the hassle of placements.

What’s the end result of all of this? Today I run a 100+ member startup that has been acquired by a larger brand recently. My learnings from college have helped me immensely:

  • Hard work: Running a startup requires working hard. I learned that during my college days.
  • Handling clients: I converted my content writing freelancing work into a small business in the 4th year of college. I remember we had clients from various countries - the US, Canada, Poland, Singapore, and of course, India. Today, I have to handle clients daily, the basics of which I learned during my college days.
  • Team building: For the content writing business, I had hired a content management intern and some 20 odd freelancers to help me deliver the content. The basics of hiring and building standard operating procedures that I learned during the content writing business are relevant for me even today at my current startup.
  • Networking: I learned early on that networking will help me acquire clients and grow the business. The networking activities I learned during my college days are helping me till date acquire new clients.

As you can see, a large part of what I am effectively able to do today in my current startup has been learned during my college days. College time is arguably one of the most important times in one’s life to discover what one loves and experiment with it.

If you enjoy playing guitar, start a YouTube channel. If you enjoy writing, start a blog. If you enjoy programming, start freelancing. Try and learn stuff and experiment and nail down on what you want to do for the rest of your life. Don’t waste your college time. Work hard and utilize it to your fullest. I would not say that if you use your college time well you will be “set for life”. But I will definitely say that if you use your college time well, the life ahead would be much easier.

All the best!

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