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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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6. Entrepreneurial Grant & Scholarship Availability

Scholarships are helpful to all students in their pursuit of higher education, but especially to entrepreneurial students. Student loans and debt accumulated during college can prevent many would-be entrepreneurs from being approved for small business loans.

The best entrepreneurial programs offer scholarships to new and existing students within their programs. Entrepreneurial grants can be used for college debt as well as startup funding to get a student’s idea of the ground.

7. Alumni Involvement & Mentorship Programs

Alumni involvement, just like faculty involvement, is essential for an entrepreneurial student. Alumni offer direct advice and support to current students within the program, providing them with practical advice from personal experiences. Alumni involvement in entrepreneurial programs encourages networking, and partnerships or investment opportunities for the student.

8. Local Business Community Support

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to raise an entrepreneur. Some of the best entrepreneurial programs team up with local small businesses to provide support and opportunities for their students.

Local small business owners can provide mentorship, internship and shadowing opportunities, and possible partnerships for resources for students to start their own businesses. For example, the local farmer’s market may partner with a student that is creating an all-natural snack brand, or a small boutique may allow a student to sell their newest designs in-store for a small percentage of their revenue, or even for free. These connections can build real relationships and business partnerships that can carry on after graduation, as well as experience in negotiation, contracts, marketing, and sales.

9. Entrepreneurship Competitions and Contests

Business plan competitions and contests allow aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their business plans to school alumni, the local community and even national brands to see if their ideas have legs. The best entrepreneurial programs will host their own competitions for students, where winners are awarded cash prizes, grants, or even angel funding.

Your university should also be in the know about national contests such as the Small Business Challenge, MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series, and the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Contests create an opportunity for students to test their knowledge and apply everything that they have learned, as well as compete against fellow peers and even other colleges. These types of programs foster innovation and creativity within the student body.

10. Graduate Success Rates

Once you’ve researched an entrepreneurship program, visited the campus, met with professors—and you’re pretty impressed with what you see, what’s next? Make sure the students within the program are actually graduating. Furthermore, how many graduates go on to create successful businesses?

Graduating from a world-class entrepreneurship program doesn’t guarantee success, but high graduation rates suggest that a program equips its students with the tools they need to become successful entrepreneurs and business owners.

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Photo: Gant

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