I’ve been getting this question a lot lately, so I thought it was worth a post. Before we get going, this is my opinion on an undergraduate degree. My thoughts about this question as it relates to graduate school can be found here.
Ok, so you want to be an entrepreneur. Should you go to college? My short and general answer is yes. There are exceptions, as with everything, but I’ll provide some specific reasons below.
One resource I always suggest folks start with is the Princeton Review‘s list of the top programs in entrepreneurship. Universities that make this list are judged several factors, but here are a few that are important to consider:
- Number of faculty have started businesses and/or serve as a board of director
- Financial success of their alumni
- Amount of funding provided to students (competitions or travel to competitions)
- Amount of funding raised by students
- Breadth of classes offered and interdisciplinary efforts
When you attend a university with a highly-ranked entrepreneurship program you gain access to a network of faculty, students, and alumni that were all entrepreneurs themselves. The most important thing is that typically, this network is LOYAL to its own network and you will likely be able to gain free advice, connections and resources rarely accessed so seamlessly.
Another benefit that I find is often overlooked is collegiate entrepreneurship competitions that provide equity-free funding. I’ve listed a few on my resources page. These competitions could be pitch competitions, business plan competitions, social venture competitions, etc. These competitions are only open to college students are normally free to enter. An added bonus is that the university will not only pay for any travel expenses, but coach you on your entry entirely for free. If you look again at the Princeton Review criteria, they have set it up so that if students succeed, the program succeeds.
The other benefit that should not be overlooked is access to potential co-founders. So many early entrepreneurs I work with have ideas that require some kind of technology build. So, another criteria I would suggest to entrepreneurs thinking about enrolling in a university is checking out the engineering program there. Engineers (and graphic designers too!) that are early in their careers like to build portfolios of their work and connecting with them while they early in their careers can benefit both the entrepreneur and engineer (or designer).
The final benefit I will highlight are university entrepreneurship programs with either incubators or accelerators. These are normally extra-curricular programs students can optionally enroll in. At my current university, Florida Gulf Coast University, our program is open to all majors and you receive free weekly one-on-one mentoring sessions and at the end of the program, you can pitch for up to $20,000. Oh, and you can get course credit for it too. We aren’t unique in this approach, so I encourage you to seek out similar programs if you are thinking of enrolling in college.
All of this said, for those of you that follow this blog, I do have a bit of a different take on entrepreneurship and graduate programs, which you can read here. As always, feel free to reach out to me via email or social media if I can answer any further questions. Please also feel free to leave comments below.