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Startup Education: 10 Things to Look for in a World-Class University Entrepreneurship Program

Here's a look at criteria believed to be essential to the success of a university entrepreneurship program, in random order.

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Each year the Princeton Review reveals their study findings on the Top 50 Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs, an annual ranking of top colleges and universities for aspiring entrepreneurs at the undergraduate and graduate level.

For the fourth year in a row, Massachusetts-based Babson College ranks #1 in graduate entrepreneurship programs, and #2 in 2011 for undergraduate programs. Babson also ranked #1 in entrepreneurship education, according to U.S. News & World Report, for 19 consecutive years. It’s safe to say that when it comes to world-class entrepreneurship studies, Babson College is a front-runner.

But what makes Babson College so special? What does it offer that sets it, as well as the other 49 schools on the list, apart from all other programs? Here’s a look at criteria believed to be essential to the success of a university entrepreneurship program, in random order:

1. Number of Entrepreneurship Courses & Tracks Offered

One of the first things to look for in a world-class entrepreneurship program is the number of entrepreneurship tracks and courses a program offers. A successful program should allow for students to enroll in courses that reflect their personal goals.

2. Availability of Internships & Cooperative Learning Experiences

One of the best ways to gain real world entrepreneurship experience is through internships and cooperative learning opportunities. Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you: hands-on experience is essential in the startup learning process.

Students in successful entrepreneurship programs are allowed the freedom to test their knowledge and to learn from mistakes during college in order to avoid the same mistakes post-graduation. A good entrepreneurship program will require you to participate in a required number of internship hours before graduating. For example, at Babson, the course “Living the ‘Eta’ Life in Silicon Valley” requires students to spend three weeks in San Francisco to complete hands-on work in Silicon Valley.

3. The Students Are Entrepreneurs

One of the criteria the Princeton Review looks for in top entrepreneurial programs is the percentage of students that are actively involved in entrepreneurial endeavors. Students that are actively engaged in creating new small businesses foster innovation and ambition within the student body, and have taken the initiative to gain real world experience and application of the tools they’ve learned so far.

4. The Professors Are Entrepreneurs, Too

Princeton Review criteria also weighs the percentage of faculty that have started, bought or run a successful business. Professors that have put their teachings to practice for their own businesses have much more experience and advice to offer students than professors who only use their teachings in theory.

For example, The Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston, which came in #1 for top undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, has a faculty that’s entirely comprised of entrepreneurs. A faculty full of current or former entrepreneurs provides students with practical hands-on, real world advice at their everyday disposal.

5. Clubs & Organizations Abound

Outside of the classroom, a successful entrepreneurial program should provide students with opportunities to participate in organizations and societies specific to their industry. Most schools establish their own entrepreneurial centers and societies as a support system for students within the program. Clubs and organizations provide enrichment and networking opportunities for members, as well as opportunities for campus involvement and résumé building.

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