March 20, 2017
The incredible success that entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs were able to have without completing higher education programs established a sentiment that earning your degree might not be necessary to make it big in the startup world. Although schooling has always been an important part of learning tricks of the trade for fields like accounting, marketing, and medical, entrepreneurs have traditionally felt like the higher education funding programs and curriculum available didn’t quite fit their needs. Fortunately, universities and scholarship providers across the nation are starting to hear aspiring entrepreneurs’ cry for support.
Over the past few years, universities, colleges, and technical schools have begun installing programs and resources designed specifically to fit the needs of entrepreneurial-minded students. Many have gone beyond simply adjusting curriculum or adding courses and have created entire buildings specifically for entrepreneurial-focused programs.
Here are four ways higher education is working to become a major player in the future of the startup world.
1. On-Campus Incubators
Business incubators have been in schools across the U.S. since the 1950s. Although their traditional roots of providing aspiring business owners with the tools and resources they need to get started have not changed, the type of businesses they focus on has begun to change.
Incubators are now more focused on businesses within the tech sphere, which caters more to the startup world.
Schools are listening to what their students are asking for and providing entrepreneurs who are interested in the startup world with the guidance, materials, and programs they need to get a leg up in the industry.
The Simone Center at the Rochester Institute of Technology provides students with degree programs and curriculum designed specifically to nurture entrepreneurial minds and build upon tech-focused business models. The center takes on students at all levels to provide them with the resources and guidance they need to take their ideas to the next level.
Another on-campus incubator the startup world is excited about is the Harvard Innovation Lab. The program provides innovation challenges, cross-university courses, and startup launch labs to help Harvard students build and launch their startups while completing their coursework to earn their degrees.
2. Creative Scholarships
Scholarships have traditionally been awarded based on academic achievement or participation in collegiate sports. Although these are both fantastic routes for some students to take as they look for options to fund their higher education efforts, many entrepreneurial-minded students have different interests and talents in the tech sphere that don’t fit within these areas. This is why the addition of creative scholarships over the past few years has helped more entrepreneurs pursue their goals of earning a college degree.
Scholarship programs like the video gaming scholarship at Ohio University, the robot competition scholarship from FIRST, and the Intel Science scholarship for research projects provide alternative routes for tech-minded students to fund their schooling with their unique talents.
3. Entrepreneur Housing
Some schools have taken their incubator programs a step further in providing not only specific programs and resources for entrepreneurs, but special housing as well.
The Lassonde Institute at the University of Utah offers up entrepreneur housing that allows students to literally live at the office while they work to bring their ideas to life. The $45 million dollar residential building houses 400 students who earn their spot through an application process.
Georgetown University also offers student housing for entrepreneurs who would like to experience living where they work during the first year of their college career.
4. Venture Competitions
One of the most difficult steps an entrepreneur is tasked with on the journey to bringing an idea to life is securing funding. Although this usually involves getting their foot in the door with VCs and crafting an amazing pitch to sell them on an idea, some schools are helping their entrepreneur students make this process a bit easier by setting up venture competitions.
Boston College hosts an annual venture competition where students submit their business plans to be reviewed by a panel of judges. The selected winners receive prizes of up to $15,000 in funding to help them get a solid start on growing their ideas into profitable businesses.
USC Marshall has a competition designed specifically for female entrepreneurs. The Marshall Women’s Pitch Competition accepts submissions from teams of current students who go head-to-head in a pitch-battle. The group of talented students who win this competition are also awarded up to $15,000.
Higher education and entrepreneurism are two things that have never seemed to go hand-in-hand in the past. Although there are many successful business owners who have completed their studies while growing their businesses, it seems like some of the most well-known of the bunch left school before they earned their degrees. Fortunately, schools and the programs that support them are changing things up a bit in hopes of becoming a bigger influence on this generation’s biggest names in the startup world.
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