What would it take for you to turn down school?

That is the question posed at the end of Neil Parmar’s thought provoking piece on the Thiel Fellowship. Established by Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, this fellowship gives 14-20 year-olds the opportunity to flex their entrepreneurial muscles and pursue startup projects.

Many of these young innovators were knee deep in their undergraduate studies when they decided to apply for the fellowship, but the opportunity to dedicate their full attention to something they’re passionate about ultimately outweighed completing a bachelors degree.


Written by Neil Parmar for Young Entrepreneur

When it comes to learning how to be an entrepreneur, sometimes the classroom just can’t cut it.

Young innovators are increasingly ditching school in lieu of alternatives that aim to help them launch businesses. But not only are they opting for training courses like those offered by the Code Academy, programs such as the Thiel Fellowship are catching the eye of open-minded young treps.

Designed for 14- to 20-year-olds, this particular fellowship awards $100,000 over two years while entrepreneurs work on passion projects, meet mentors and receive educational support and technical training. While fellows are encouraged to move to the San Francisco Bay Area to take advantage of these opportunities, they are allowed to work on their projects from any city. Unlike some incubators, though, there’s not a lot of structure to this program, such as specific project deadlines or set obligations with mentors.

Even so, many apply but few get in. For the latest 2013 batch of Thiel Fellows, only 20 individuals, or 3 percent to 4 percent of applicants, made it in.

“We’ve been portrayed as critical of higher education in total, which is probably too strong,” says Michael Gibson, who is vice president for grants at the Thiel Foundation and dropped out of graduate school based on his thinking that the future of higher education was in trouble. “I think there are a lot of problems in higher education irrespective of what we’re doing, but we’re definitely pro-learning.”

Here, some Thiel Fellows — both outgoing and incoming — share lessons they’ve learned that entrepreneurs can leverage while getting started outside of the conventional classroom:

Meet some of the young entrepreneurs in the Thiel Fellowship and read more: http://bit.ly/12hmdLQ

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