Doctors go to school to be a doctor. Accountants go to school to become accountants. Entrepreneurs go to school to…start a business? Unfortunately, graduating with a degree in entrepreneurship doesn’t come with a great business idea or LLC hidden inside your diploma.
Every year, tens of thousands of young bright-minded students enter collegiate entrepreneurship programs. Here in Chicago, there are three of the top 25 entrepreneurship programs for graduates in the country: DePaul University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago. Less than a three-hour drive away, there are strong programs at Bradley University, Illinois State University, Northern Illinois University, and Millikin University. The value of an education is tangible and proven, but how do entrepreneurship programs help students actually start a business?
While it’s not a guarantee that school will create entrepreneurs, university-based entrepreneurship centers and programs provide opportunities, resources, and an ecosystem that needs to be taken advantage of by students in order to maximize the value of their entrepreneurial education.
I studied entrepreneurship in college. While going to school, I was very involved on campus and in the Peoria community. I worked with several startups and spent time in the local innovation center, which was also a startup incubator. I graduated from Bradley University’s entrepreneurship program in 2008. Later that year, I enrolled in the MBA program at DePaul University in Chicago to focus more intensely on entrepreneurship. Having six years of higher education in entrepreneurship is valuable, but it doesn’t guarantee a career as a successful entrepreneur.
After graduating from DePaul, I took a position with the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization to work with young entrepreneurs and business faculty across the country. Now as Director of Community Engagement for the Future Founders Foundation and by leading the development and launch of its collegiate division, College Founders, I’m able to work with the most passionate and successful young student entrepreneurs in the Chicagoland area. After nearly a decade, I know the true value of an entrepreneurial ecosystem within a university setting, as supported by the community. While you can learn many trades in the classroom, true entrepreneurial lessons are learned through experiences, trial and failure, and taking advantage of opportunities.
An investment in an entrepreneurship education only pays dividends if it’s fully utilized both in and out of the classroom. Whether it’s through internships, competitions, mentorships, networking in the community, hackathons or startup events, being in a club or professional society, or even just pursuing an idea, students need to experience as many entrepreneurial opportunities as possible to complement the lessons learned in the classroom. Although it can lead to launching a business, studying entrepreneurship in college is no guarantee. Entrepreneurs have to overcome obstacles and work tirelessly to achieve their dreams.
See the original version of this post on LinkedIn here.