College Guide

Blog

September 19, 2012 3:03 PM In Praise of Frat Parties

By Daniel Luzer

09-19-12Luzer2.jpg

Back in September 2010 technology billionaire Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal) created a sort of anti-scholarship. He held a contest to encourage young people to submit ideas for their own startups. The 20 winners would leave college and get $100,000 to work as entrepreneurs.

It’s far too early to know if any of the erstwhile students are actually creating successful companies or products, but one journalist wondered what these people were like.

They resemble, well, what college students would be like if they didn’t get the opportunity to live and play with others in an academic setting. That might be something of a problem.

According to a piece (“You Say Keg Stand Like It’s A Bad Thing,” which is a great title) by Sarah Kunst at Beta Beat:

What doesn’t coordinate quite as well? Their social lives. A recent night saw several Thiel fellows-all under legal drinking age-at a San Francisco house party described by one attendee as “tech hippies doing drugs and sitting in a cuddle pile.”
It was an unsettling sight for guests surprised by the Summer of Love manifesting itself in 2012, but for the babes in the Redwoods it seemed disturbing on another level. A Thiel fellow who dropped out of an Ivy League college at age 17 spent most of her brief time at the party hugging her purse and asking for clarification about what, exactly, a whippet was.

Seriously? You can’t just Google it, tech genius?

Dealing with human resources is likely to be something of a problem for this young woman. But it might be more than that. As Kunst explains,

In a recent interview, Mr. [Adam] Levie, the Box CEO who dropped out of USC, told Business Insider, “Unfortunately this is going to produce a lot of people that are college drop outs that don’t actually have the idea that’s taking off that they can go spend time on. It’s not the right sequence.” Leaving school to become a billionaire seems logical, ending up sans degree or hockey stick company while former classmates field offers from hot tech, banking and graduate programs sounds less practical.

Granted , it’s not really clear that this is Thiel’s fault—it’s hard to tell if they’re socially awkward because they didn’t go to college, or if the sort of people who win Thiel scholarships just tend to be socially awkward—but this is important to bring up.

Part of the reason one goes to college is to learn to work and party with others, face limits, and create things in structured environments. It’s not just about the classes. If someone doesn’t have that experience, he’s lost something.

Keg stands aren’t just fun (actually they kind of aren’t fun) they’re actually a way of building tolerance, keeping track of your freinds, and working together. Granted, it’s not the most productive way to use those skills, but it matters. Social life is one of the most important parts of college.

College isn’t the path to being a successful tech entrepreneur; it’s more like an insurance policy so you can do something stable when tech entrepreneurship doesn’t pan out. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer