I’m a 17-year-old college freshman at Northeastern University and I joined Testive, an ed-tech startup in Cambridge. I’m reprimanded frequently by college students and startup vets on why taking that startup gig freshman year was a bad idea, or how it’ll detract from having a social life. This is a response to Paul Hlatky’s post on the Greenhorn Connect Blog, which can be found here.

I’ll preface my advice by telling you that this should be a very personal decision. Just as I believe that following generic advice meant for the average freshman isn’t the way to go, my justifications may not be right for you, however, there are a few tips that’ll point you in the right direction. They include:

1. Find the right team. Knowing when you’ve found the wrong team is easy, but finding the right team is much harder and quite intuitive. Because of where freshmen students are in life, the right team is supportive of educational and professional goals, focused on providing a positive learning experience and understanding about your huge transition to college. I’ve found all these true at Testive after working with them for a while. It’s difficult to get a sense of this without that experience.

2. Don’t join a company you’ve never worked with. For me, joining Testive was easy, since I had just completed an internship over the summer and knew the team and culture well. It’s incredibly difficult for me to even consider joining a completely different startup during fall of freshman year. Since every startup has it’s own distinct culture, it’s hard (maybe near impossible) to get acclimated while working part-time and being hit with a host of other changes.

3. Make sure you can be flexible. You may find that you can’t actually work the time you committed to or can’t come to the office more than once a week. Working with the right team is crucial here, because they can grant you the flexibility you’ll need to balance school work, a social life, startup work and new extracurricular activities.

4. Do work you enjoy and care about. This is a universal tip, but especially important here. Balancing everything is going to be much easier when you’re doing work you enjoy on a project or cause you care about. Don’t even bother with taking the position if you don’t enjoy or care about it, because you’re going to have a terrible time balancing it and you’re not going to have fun to boot.

5. Allocate time for other activities and friends. Meeting new people and pushing your social boundaries is a really important part of college. Splitting your time solely between your startup and schoolwork is a recipe for disaster.

Make sure to have time to play an intramural sport, join a club and hang out with lots of new people.

With the right mindset and self-discipline, I definitely believe it’s possible for college freshmen to greatly benefit from working at a startup. Besides, most students work an on-campus job, and startups definitely beat out stocking towels at the gym!

I think Jason Evanish put it best here:

I’d love to talk to anyone who has any questions @arjunblj.

Photo Courtesy of Official Street Radio