Studying Entrepreneurship Doesn’t Make You An Entrepreneur

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.


The Reward of Learning: What’s Broken In Our Education System

I was recently inspired by Daniya Kamran’s TEDxIIT talk on “Ideation as a Reward in STEM” (you can watch it for yourself here). Daniya is a very intelligent and passionate female leader and her talk went straight to the heart of why education is failing, in particular for STEM-based fields – science, technology, engineering and math. Essentially, she explained that the process of learning, exploring, and discovering needs to become the reward of pursuing education; students need to “fall in love with the idea of creating ideas.”

Listening to Daniya’s talk really resonated with my experience and beliefs as to how entrepreneurship is and should be taught. Entrepreneurs are typically classified as having an extreme amount of passion, tolerance for risk and uncertainty, a unique vision of the future and most importantly the tendency to break rules and go against the norm. However, if we are to teach students to be and act like entrepreneurs, why do entrepreneurial courses force these students to stick to rigid curriculum structures bound by typical grading scales that train students to think within the system? Where is the innovation and creativity? If we expect students to become entrepreneurs, then we need to train them to act like entrepreneurs, and this requires creating environments in classroom settings that don’t treat them like average employees. As Daniya said about STEM, it is the process of learning, creating, and actually doing that needs to be taught. By giving students ownership of this process, they will be excited to learn and excited to pursue their career, which in turn will lead to passionate people being internally inspired to impact the world.

Why High Schools Should Teach Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has become cool and trendy in popular media, but to the majority of teenagers and high school students, its meaning is still pretty much non-existent. When I was in high school, the only class that even mentioned the word entrepreneurship was an intro to business elective that discussed it for one week over the semester. We watched a video all week about a cartoon caveman who started a business and built up his community. Besides the fact that we had to know how to spell it correctly on our final exam, this defined the extent of my entrepreneurial knowledge.

Meanwhile, in between juggling homework and after-school sports, I started to tutor younger kids in my neighborhood. It was great to get paid for something that came so easily to me and that I actually thought was fun. While my friends were complaining about their retail jobs, I was so proud that I didn’t have a “real job” — no boss, no stipulated work hours, and no real “work.” Little did I know that I was acting as an entrepreneur, that I could be successful and pursue a path that would never feel like “work.”

It wasn’t until my sophomore year at Bradley University that I finally learned what entrepreneurship really was, when by chance I happened to come across it as a major. Who knew that I could study entrepreneurship and pursue it after school? When I attended my first National Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) Conference , I joined over 1,200 other entrepreneurial-minded students from around the world in a setting that proved the realities of being a young business owner and hit me with the entrepreneurial spirit. I only wish I had known at an earlier age that the traditional idea of work doesn’t have to be a reality, and instead of growing up thinking you need to mold you talents and interests to fit a company or employer that will want to hire you, you can do what you love and work to make yourself happy.

Here are some reasons why high schools should teach entrepreneurship: 

Early Exposure. Just as students grow up wanting to become a doctor or teacher, being an “entrepreneur” should be taught as realistic of an option. Entrepreneurship allows you to dream your own destiny and craft a job that you can excel at. Whether it’s a small coffee shop or the next Facebook, entrepreneurs design and build businesses that support our nation through job creation and a sense of community. Why aren’t students encouraged to start their own summer business rather than get a summer job? The hands-on experience that you gain as an entrepreneur can help you not only test your limits and teach you about yourself, but the real world can be a better classroom.

Pursue Passion. If you’re going to spend time doing something, why not spend time doing something you love? Rather than waste time, turn a passion or hobby into something that will create value and earn you money. Teens shouldn’t feel like they are wasting their time working just to get a paycheck, and when you are doing something you love, time flies and it doesn’t seem like work.

Resume Builder. What looks better on a resume — someone who started a lawn-mowing business and made sales as a teenage or someone who worked as a cashier in a local supermarket? Whether it’s a lawn care business, a tutoring company, or a jewelry making business, building a company is more impressive that working a minimum wage part-time job. Whether it’s on a college resume or even for a position at another company, the characteristics and skill sets required by an entrepreneur are in high-demand in our society and reveal a lot about an individual. Being an entrepreneur demonstrates a work ethic and level of hard work and commitment that can make someone successful in any situation.

High school is the perfect time to explore opportunities for the future. Don’t think that students need to wait until college or that they need experience first. Don’t wait to take action! If you are a high school student, find a mentor or someone that can support you on your entrepreneurial journey. Set your goals, create a plan of action and get started! There are many great books that can teach you, but hands-on experience is the best teacher.

Re-posted from Yahoo Contributor Network