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College students, here’s what you need to do before launching a startup

October 6, 2015, 3:00 PM UTC
Aaron Price, founder of the NJ Tech Meetup
Courtesy of NJ Tech Meetup

The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What can every aspiring entrepreneur do before college graduation to be more successful?” is written by Aaron Price, founder of the NJ Tech Meetup and rocketfuel.cc.

I started a business in high school. And another in college. And several more since. Here are seven things I did (or should’ve done more of) before I graduated to gain an edge:

Leverage school resources
You know all of those old administrative buildings on campus? They house a ton of good information, and more importantly, good people. These people want to help you succeed. Sometimes, it’s literally their job. For instance, you might have an idea and have already come up with a name for your business. Might the name be a trademark violation? Should you consider a patent? There’s a great chance that your school has legal resources to help you navigate these issues. In some cases, they will even fund the legal expenses. In others, they might ask for equity and try to help you commercialize your idea (likely something you’ll want to avoid). Regardless, leverage the resources available at your school.

Make more friends
Your future business partner or employees might be sitting next to you in class. Don’t start interviewing your classmates — you’ll lose friends fast — but seek out those who are thinking bigger. Share ideas. Hang out with them. Build real friendships and trust in each other. Talk about how you might solve a bunch of problems on campus — or in the world. You’ll start to click with certain people. The No. 1 question I get now is, “How do I find a cofounder?” While you’re in school, there’s a good chance he or she is right next to you. Tip: Set some ground rules up front. Who owns what? What if you disagree? Learn about equity vesting and do that. Working with friends is tricky, but if you talk about the tough stuff up front, it can save you a lot of headache in the end. I founded a company in college with my best friend. We broke up from the business, but still remain extremely close today, 15 years later.

Meet alumni
The last thing I cared about when I was in school was the alumni. They were always coming around and telling me about their glory days, though I really didn’t care. But it turns out they can serve as really great connections, and there’s most likely an entire alumni relationship department at your school whose job is to maintain relationships with them. Have an idea for a flying car? Go talk to the alumni relationship team and see if they can find you someone who works at an automobile or aviation company. Likely they can make an intro for and you’ll be able to setup a call or coffee meeting. Do that 10 times and I guarantee you’ll find at least one great mentor.

Talk about your ideas
You probably have a bunch of ideas. Don’t lock them up. Coming up with ideas is the easy part — it’s the execution that matters. See what others think, especially those outside of your friend group. Join the computer science club and talk to them. You’ll learn how to communicate your ideas more effectively and might recruit a few other people who want to join you along the way.

Build stuff
You know what you have in school that diminishes quickly when you graduate? Time: your No. 1 asset. Use it wisely. Draw wireframes. Build MVPs. Come up with ideas and run user tests to see if anyone cares about them. Get creative. Recruit your friends to pass out flyers. Build simple landing pages against them. See what clicks. Throw out what isn’t and pursue what is.

Be smart about your social media use
I’m so glad social media wasn’t around when I was in school. I still managed to do plenty of dumb stuff — it just wasn’t memorialized in quite the same way as it is today. Be authentic and be true to yourself, but keep in mind that you are building the brand of you and future you. It follows you around for the rest of your life. In college, it probably feels like no one is paying attention, but eventually it will catch up to you. Future you will thank you for being smart.

Write it down
Blogging will help you build an identity and a following, which is helpful in many ways, especially when you launch something. More importantly, it’s a great place to log lessons you learn along the way. People will enjoy reading them, and by writing things down, you’ll be more proactively thoughtful about what you’re doing right and wrong. Future you will really appreciate that, and future partners and investors will respect it.

Your college years can provide some of the most fruitful opportunities to both learn and build great relationships. Use them wisely. I look forward to seeing what you build.

Aaron Price educates and inspires innovation as the founder of the NJ Tech Meetup, New Jersey’s largest technology and entrepreneurial community of 5,000 members, and its corporate counterpart, rocketfuel.cc.