Have you spent your entire life dreaming of starting your own business?
Maybe you’ve already started a business or two? Perhaps, you’ve even some made money off of your business! You've taken your first steps to becoming an entrepreneur.
If so, you’ve probably thought about whether or not going to college is right for you. Why waste your time applying, if you’re probably just going to drop out anyway?
I mean, all of your idols either didn’t go to college or dropped out and look how they’ve turned out.
Even Oprah Winfrey dropped out!
You don’t see any of them suffering, do you?
Plus, think of all of the time you could spend working on your next startup if you didn’t have to sit through pointless classes every day for the next four plus years.
Yep, you’ve made up your mind.
Sorry, mum and dad... maybe Charlie will go to college.
You, on the other hand?
You’re going to the school of life. You're going to join the league of successful young entrepreneurs through hard knocks and experience.
What if I told you things were changing?
What if I told you that the majority of college dropouts make 32% less than college graduates and are 71% more likely to be unemployed?
What if I told you business courses, such as the Babson College Entrepreneurship program, are viable options to buttress your idea against possible failures.
Would you reconsider your choice?
The Entrepreneurship Problem
Colleges around the world are facing a major problem.
With the opportunities afforded by digital technology, more and more middle and high school students just like you are starting their own businesses.
And the more successful your venture becomes, the more likely you are not to apply to college or to drop out soon after.
Not to mention, you probably think that your entrepreneurial mind won't benefit from traditional classroom settings.
Colleges are quickly realising that if they want to stay relevant in this new day and age, they must offer the right courses and provide the right support to help you achieve your entrepreneurial goals.
Why The US?
The US college system is more advantageous for entrepreneurs than almost any other in the world.
That’s not to say that the US has more students interested in starting their own businesses, but there are a number of factors that make US universities better positioned to support the entrepreneurial spirit.
2. Course Flexiblity
3. International Students
4. Risk Tolerance
First and foremost, US colleges simply have more money to play with.
And this comes in handy, because it takes a bit of spending to attract and nurture the best entrepreneurial talent.
Two of the best ways are creative courses and business competitions.
The fact that there is money and support available to help get your business idea off the ground surely makes the idea of university more appealing?
For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosts a business plan competition every year that gives out more than $350,000 USD in cash and prizes to students with the best ideas.
Universities around the US host these types of competitions to encourage students to start their own businesses.
Colleges also use their large bank accounts to fund new and exciting entrepreneurial courses.
In fact, over half of the colleges in the US have at least one course about entrepreneurship.
These courses cover everything from new technology ventures to law for the entrepreneur to building design prototypes, and so much more.
US colleges want to help you with every aspect of your venture and, most importantly, they have the funds to do so.
Unlike other universities around the world, you don’t need to know what you are going to study and ultimately what field you are going to work in before you go to uni in the US.
Quite the opposite actually.
Due to US universities’ willingness to let you explore, you have a lot of flexibility in what courses you take, what clubs you join, and what you do with your free time.
For example, most US colleges will allow you to major in economics and minor in entrepreneurship, or major in art, minor in physics, and take a few entrepreneurship courses on the side.
Check out Peter's journey of becoming a social entrepreneur while studying at Wharton!
Your options are pretty much unlimited!
Cross-subject studies can help you think more creatively and apply the knowledge you gain from multiple different fields to your future business.
Not to mention, real innovation comes from connecting fields that have never been connected before. So the more you learn about different subjects, the more innovative your future business may be.
That being said, you don’t need to be an expert in every subject! The best startups form from a variety of experts in different fields with different backgrounds who can all contribute a different piece of the puzzle to the business.
Learn about everything but find the piece of the puzzle you are most passionate about and run with it.
At the beginning of this blog I told you that US universities aren’t great at fostering an entrepreneurial culture simply because American students are more interested in startups.
And I wasn’t lying.
More than half of Silicon Valley startups were founded by immigrants.
Think about that for a second.
Of course, not all of those immigrants were educated at US universities, but many of them were!
Historically, the US has had a pretty open immigration policy and most universities love accepting international students.
In turn, international students are attracted to US universities and bring their business ideas (or future business ideas) with them.
The melting pot of students at US universities allows people with different backgrounds, ideas, and expertise to mingle, ultimately creating a pinnacle of innovation at US college campuses.
You have a much higher tolerance for risk as a university student than you’ll have at any other time in your life.
You probably don’t have a house.
You probably don’t have a spouse.
And, most importantly, you probably don’t have kids.
Your only responsibility at this point in your life is you.
Why does this matter?
Simple. You have more room to take risks and experiment with different business opportunities without having to worry about the consequences of failure.
While this level of risk tolerance isn’t unique to the US, many US colleges actually increase their students’ ability to take risks.
For example, Harvard allows you to take as much time off as you want while you are completing your degree.
If you find a business idea you want to pursue full time, you can leave the university, come back when it fails, and start studying again right where you left off.
You can repeat this cycle as many times as you want until you finally start a successful business... or you graduate.
A Word On College Dropouts
University isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.
However, dropping out of college isn’t guaranteed to make you successful. In fact, unless you are a unicorn, dropping out is more likely to leave you poor and unemployed.
Yes, we’ve all heard stories about Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison, but believe it or not, these super successful dropouts are the exception, not the rule.
These magical people are special.
They are self-educators.
They have excellent time management skills.
And sometimes, they have rich parents or friends to fall back on.
Most of the time, they’ve already started a successful business and know that their next business will probably be successful as well.
Unless you are a unicorn, it’s better to stay in college, get your degree, and then enter the school of life.
Believe me, life is a school you’ll want to wait to enter.
Top 6 US Colleges For Undergraduate Entrepreneurship
Now that I've convinced you to go to university, let’s take a look at the best US colleges for entrepreneurship.
1. Babson College: Babson Park, Massachusetts
Babson has literally been the number one school in the US for entrepreneurship for the past 20 years.
Way before Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were founded, Babson was offering entrepreneurship courses and leading their students to success.
Babson has multiple “real world” entrepreneurship courses that will help you find your footing in the startup world.
In your first year at Babson, you’ll take a course called “Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship”, that’ll not only expose you to business fundamentals but will require you to start a business with a group of classmates. The university even loans each group a sum of money to get their business of the ground.
By the way, Babson also has one of the highest college ROIs (return on investment) in the country.
Spending your time and money at Babson is bound to pay off.
+ Acceptance Rate: 25%
+ Total Cost (tuition, room, board, etc.): $68,482 USD per year
+ Undergraduate Population: 2,283
+ Percentage of International Undergraduates: 27%
+ Number of Entrepreneurial Related Courses: 24
+ Number of Startups Launched by Graduates in the Last 5 Years: 320
+ Notable Entrepreneurs: Alberto Perlman (Zumba), Arthur Blank (Home Depot), Roger Enrico (Pepsi)
2. Stanford University: Stanford, California
Name a successful startup and it probably got its start at Stanford.
In fact, Stanford students have created so many companies (39,000 since the 1930s) that if they were all combined into an independant nation, it would literally be the world’s 10th largest economy.
Basically, Stanford churns out successful entrepreneurs faster than pretty much any other school in the country.
I don’t know what’s in the water there but I can tell you, Stanford’s doing something right.
It more than likely has something to do with the fact that it's located right in the heart of California's tech startup hub, Silicon Valley.
If you really want to get the full package, go to Stanford Business School and your chances of becoming a successful entrepreneur will skyrocket.
+ Acceptance Rate: 4.65%
+ Total Cost (tuition, room, board, etc.): $69,109 USD per year
+ Undergraduate Population: 7,032
+ Percentage of International Undergraduates: 11%
+ Number of Entrepreneurial Related Courses: N/A
+ Number of Startups Launched by Graduates in the Last 5 Years: 309
+ Notable Entrepreneurs: Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger (Instagram), Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy (Snapchat), Peter Thiel (Paypal)
3. Brigham Young University (BYU): Provo, Utah
BYU is located in the “Silicon Slopes” of Salt Lake City, and has been compared to Stanford and its relationship with Silicon Valley.
One in every seven students on campus has taken at least one course in entrepreneurship. With over 43 course to choose from, it’s no wonder most people find at least one that appeals to them.
There are also more than 10 clubs on campus that focus on entrepreneurship and startups, as well as many mentorship and competition opportunities through the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology.
If you’re looking to get a head start on the future of entrepreneurship, BYU is the place for you.
+ Acceptance Rate: 53.4%
+ Total Cost (tuition, room, board, etc.): $23,890 USD per year ($18,430 USD per year for Latter-day Saints students)
+ Undergraduate Population: 30,395
+ Percentage of International Undergraduates: 4%
+ Number of Entrepreneurial Related Courses: 43
+ Number of Startups Launched by Graduates in the Last 5 Years: 320
+ Notable Entrepreneurs: Ryan Smith(Qualtrics), Aaron Skonnard (Pluralsight), David Elkington (Insidesales.com)
4. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Michigan offers three types of entrepreneurship courses:
Engagement courses Skill-building courses Practicum courses Each of these courses helps you through different points of your journey, whether it be learning about the importance of entrepreneurship in today's world, learning real world skills, or launching your own company – Michigan’s got you covered.
The university encourages you to “be the difference” and truly make a change in your community through either a minor in entrepreneurship or a certification program.
+ Acceptance Rate: 26%
+ Total Cost (tuition, room, board, etc.): In-State: $28,007 USD per year, Out-of-State: $61,388 USD per year
+ Undergraduate Population: 28,983
+ Percentage of International Undergraduates: 7.1%
+ Number of Entrepreneurial Related Courses: 54
+ Number of Startups Launched by Graduates in the Last 5 Years: 310
+ Notable Entrepreneurs: Larry Page (Google), Edgar N. Gott (Boeing), Brad Keywell/Eric Lefkofsky (Groupon)
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Cambridge, Massachusetts
Home to some of the brightest students and professors in the country, it’s no surprise that MIT fosters a fantastic entrepreneurial culture.
The uni offers more than 60 entrepreneur-related courses as well as startup boot camps, 40 student clubs, and multiple competitions all dedicated to helping you launch your own successful business.
MIT even has its own accelerator to help you increase your business’ success!
+ Acceptance Rate: 7.83%
+ Total Cost (tuition, room, board, etc.): $65,478 USD per year
+ Undergraduate Population: 4,524
+ Percentage of International Undergraduates: 9.5%
+ Number of Entrepreneurial Related Courses: 60
+ Number of Startups Launched by Graduates in the Last 5 Years: N/A
+ Notable Entrepreneurs: Robert Noyce (Intel), Jonah Peretti (Buzzfeed), Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi (DropBox)
6. Baylor University: Waco, Texas
Not only does Baylor have a lot of entrepreneurship courses but it even has its own living community just for entrepreneurs!
This community is home to likeminded entrepreneurial students (who will probably be ecstatic to start a company with you), and you'll receive extra assistance from your professors to get your business off the ground.
Chances are, you’ll probably fit in there. Who knows, your future co-founders could be just down the hall!
+ Acceptance Rate: 44%
+ Total Cost (tuition, room, board, etc.): $56,628 USD per year
+ Undergraduate Population: 14,348
+ Percentage of International Undergraduates: N/A
+ Number of Entrepreneurial Related Courses: 31
+ Number of Startups Launched by Graduates in the Last 5 Years: 280
+ Notable Entrepreneurs: Joe and Barbara Allbritton (Allbritton Communications/Politico), Gary Keller (Keller Williams), Hal C. Wingo (People Magazine),
Do you need to go to college to start a great business? No.
However, can going to university in the US help you start a great business? Yes.
Keep in mind that you do not have to have an idea of what kind of business you want to start before going to college in the US.
All you need is a passion for business and an entrepreneurial mindset and your college will help you with the rest.
Once you come up with an idea, be persistent and apply the lessons you learn in your classes to your business.
Plus, students who attend US universities get more than just a degree. Their large alumni networks give you an immediate connection to some of the brightest people in the world, so don’t be afraid to tap into your network for help as well!
In the end, just remember that entrepreneurs can absolutely benefit from a university education.
You’ll get to the school of life eventually, but it will be much easier to navigate with a college degree!