It's been six months since I dropped out of college to bootstrap my financial research startup. I had an old thread about this and received a lot of advice against it, then the thread got deleted. Some had come forward to PM me asking how I've been doing since, and I figured it would be useful to start a thread with advice on dropping out of college. This sounds bad - and I don't ever encourage someone to drop out of college - but realistically, I think it's better to share my experience rather than sweep it under the rug. Some context for those who never saw the old thread: I took a leave of absence at the end of my sophomore year to start a trading firm. Before that, I was doing decently at my academics. I had several research accolades at the national level, represented my college at the Putnam and MCM competitions, and did well in a host of graduate classes. And I didn't leave because I was particularly disillusioned with physics. Quite the contrary, I love physics. I regularly visited conferences and still do. However, I felt strongly against paying for my college education any further. I felt that I was quite foolishly paying for single courses that cost more than my entire high school education even after scholarship money. At some classes, I felt I was truly just paying for the certification rather than paying for the instruction. The learning opportunities out of college were just as abundant, and much more affordable. I felt in today's age where you can access quality course material either on professors' personal websites or online learning aggregators (like Coursera and edX), and when a private college education can set you several years in debt, I'll be part of the first wave of dropouts who form the norm rather than the exception. You can disagree with me. I weighed the opportunity cost of rushing to finish my degree one year early against taking the leave of absence, and decided for the latter. I've become increasingly tight-lipped about what I do on a daily basis ("financial research"), to the point that I deleted my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. But I will talk a bit. During this time, I had the good fortune to tackle problems at the frontiers of several disciplines. I sold most of my physics textbooks, but still refer to my mathematics textbooks frequently. The NASDAQ ITCH feed alone takes up 7~8 GB of space per day. That's a lot of experimental data to play with. When the data set grows to such a magnitude, you have to deal with several nontrivial problems on the infrastructural side. You'd find ways to push the limitations of the software/hardware that you are working in. Examples: The automatic GC locking up your program for 5~10 ms every few minutes without your control. Handling events every 1, 10, 100 us. Reducing thread synchronization overhead. Bypassing the linux kernel. Estimating timespans and sychronizing clocks down to microsecond precision. Some of the problems persist in 10^3~10^5 dimensions, which requires a lot of computational firepower, if not programming ingenuity, to work around. I lead a brilliant team (we have more top-tier degrees split among us than number of people) and sometimes wonder what they're doing around with me. I usually get roundabout questions regarding my financial stability. The furthest I'll go is that I pay about $3,500 of rent every month, excluding utilities and monthly expenses. And I'm fully independent from my parents now. I think this is acceptable for the first year out of college. One of the first things I did was to set up a background app that monitored what I did every day. I generally work 90 hours per week, at least 60% of that time on an IDE/vim and churning out work. The remaining time reading references, doing research, and organizing the business end. I absent myself from talking about my work inasmuch as possible, but the people on my team often receive snide remarks about how they left a scientific field for a profit-motivated field. The remarks fall under two categories: the regulatory kind, and the activist kind. Regarding regulation, I don't think that it should involve judging the ethical value of traders' orders, but rather ensure transparent markets. Regarding activists, I feel that there are many institutions we should dismantle before we can even get to the financial industry on a moral scale. Besides that, I genuinely believe that the work we do cannot generate any profit if not that we provide some kind of service, because it is extremely cost-prohibitive to set up the infrastructure. Advice: 1. If you feel like taking a leave of absence, try take a semester or two to cool off your head and do things differently to "prepare" yourself for the leave of absence. You might change your mind or strengthen your resolve at the end of it. I already had the notion but decided to give college a try for another semester. During that time, I took some classes just because I felt they would prepare me for the work after I dropped out - and it was a great decision. I even feel now that I should have waited one more semester before I left, because a lot of the time was spent learning things that I didn't know so I could bootstrap things myself - accounting, more esoteric fields of mathematics, programming in other languages etc. 2. STAY IN TOUCH WITH THE PROFESSORS WHO HAVE TAUGHT YOU! As many of them! I've come across several problems, in the least expected areas, where I wish I could just email one of them without feeling awkward. 3. Having a supportive family, significant other and group of friends makes the largest difference. It's a *huge* mental challenge to have a very successful partner and having him/her explain to his/her parents that you are planning to finish your degree at some indefinite time. If you think this is a problem and you have a choice to continue college, ask yourself if you can really bear to lose your girlfriend/boyfriend because of your career choice alone. If the answer is yes, then you can still do it. These people are the ones who will keep a check on you, instill a sense of discipline in you to do meaningful things despite the seemingly infinite time on your hands. 4. For most of the things you can drop out to do, nowadays, having programming skills is almost a must. I've come across several other dropouts and read many articles on this since then, and come to believe that this is true not just for myself. Knowing how to program today, I feel, is like knowing how to use a word processor 10~20 years ago - meaning, you have no excuse not to. I'm not speaking about what is necessary for doing a financial startup, but speaking in general - whether you want to do a mobile app startup (I'm against these), become a web designer, become an IT consultant, become a photographer, most of the careers that you *could* manage to do with only high school credentials seem to benefit from some kind of programming skill. 5. The most important personal skill that you need is self-discipline. This sounds like a trivial statement, but there was one occasion when I wasted a whole week playing a MMORPG (yes) and felt terrible for it afterwards - I got out of it because of point (3), I had a reason to work hard and my significant other helped to threaten me whenever I strayed off course. 6. Having been there, I always thought that majors like accounting, economics, management science, psychology, philosophy, history were for softies. I felt economists were silly guys whose only unit root of interest was 1. I even felt that chemistry and biology were even less deserving of being natural sciences. This sounds rude but I'm being absolutely honest with what I used to think - I was definitely not alone in this mindset and I still come across people with this mindset these days - through conferences or other networking events. I always thought that so long as you were good at physics and mathematics, you had this magical toolbox and could easily learn what others were doing in lesser time, so I would defer things involving them or even try to avoid them altogether. But if you are dropping out of physics/mathematics in your second or third year of college, trust me, the chances are that your immediate ability to earn money is just as good as the U.S. is at reducing its public deficit. I can't think of anything which you could do that entails even 49% of your time purely doing physics/mathematics. Not even if you are doing a startup that involves a technical invention. Maybe tutoring high school kids. If you want to avoid non-science activities: go to college and maybe grad school. So if you really think these non-science activities are less worthy of your time, you will be very unhappy with the unsheltered life outside of college. 7. Estimate how much money you have, or your parents are willing to support you with, and honestly ask how long it can last you while you don't have money coming in. Multiply the duration by 3~4, and ask yourself if you can last that long without turning in a profit. 8. Set high ambitions for yourself, if not higher than the ones you had while enrolled in college.