Some of the greatest ventures in modern history were started by college students. Tech and social media giants like Microsoft, Facebook, Reddit, WordPress, and Google were all started by students still receiving a university education.
The internet and technology have made it so you don’t have to be a seasoned professional with decades of business experience to launch a business. All you need is a good idea, a strong team, work ethic, and self-belief. More college students than ever are aiming at a future as entrepreneurs, and the track record of success other students have had shows that it is possible.
Being in a college environment is a huge advantage for a young entrepreneur. There are a lot of different resources college students can tap into, and the benefits of being in an academic setting are significant.
If you are someone that is focused on a future in entrepreneurship, college is the place to be. You can take the necessary steps to prepare for this future, meet the people who can help you along the way, and position yourself to thrive as a successful entrepreneur going forward.
Let’s look at some of the different ways entrepreneurs in college can leverage their university setting to prepare them for their future in business.
Build Your Network
One aspect of the college experience that is where a significant portion of the value of a degree comes from is the ability to build a network. Many colleges around the United States have upwards of 20,000 students, similarly aged people interested in pursuing education.
The people who attend your college will go on to become doctors, lawyers, business people, and everything in between. They are fellow young, educated individuals, and getting to know as many of them as possible will be a big asset to you as you go forward.
The more people you know, the better it will be for your enterprise experience. Having a wide network of people across industries has long-term value. There is also a likelihood of finding people to join you on an entrepreneurial journey.
Countless people have met co-founders and team members while in college. Make an effort to get to know people in class, attend campus networking events, and join social clubs, and you might just end up leaving college with the network you need to succeed.
Branch Out Academically
Entrepreneurs have to learn on the fly, adapt to changes at a moment’s notice. It is a rigorous job that requires a diverse skillset. College may be the best time to nurture and grow that diverse skillset.
College students are in an academic setting, with knowledgeable experts surrounding them. There is a wide range of topics that you have the freedom to learn about. Take the time to branch out academically and broaden your horizons.
In America, just about every higher education school has a broad range of courses offered and gives their students a significant degree of academic freedom. While you may be pursuing a major in business, political science, or public relations, that doesn’t mean you can’t take classes that cover other topics.
Many college students pursue a minor that is very different from their major. This is a great idea, but even if you don’t want to take a minor, every student will have electives. Take advantage of this academic freedom.
Browse the list of what courses your school offers, and find courses that seem interesting or like they’ll help you with your entrepreneurial aspirations. Don’t be afraid to study something new and different; it’ll serve you well down the road.
Familiarize Yourself with Technology
The future of business and entrepreneurship lies with technology. This is the direction everything seems to be trending, but college students are lucky enough to be at the perfect age for adapting to new technologies. College is an environment that can help here.
Do some research into what emerging technologies you believe will be important to understand in the future. It can be anything from coding to web design or the Adobe Suite. Then, look into whether your university offers any courses or workshops that can be an asset here.
Most universities will have classes and public workshops that give students practical, hands-on experience with emerging technologies. These can give you the baseline understanding you need to build upon for the future.
Universities also often have guest speakers that will talk about emerging technologies and their role in commerce. These can be enlightening events and also serve as networking opportunities.
University is a perfect time to familiarize yourself with the technologies you’re going to need to be capable of using. There are plenty of learning opportunities, from courses and workshops to speaker events.
Find Out What Students are Looking For
The best ideas fill gaps in peoples’ lives that they didn’t even realize were there. All the biggest start-ups have provided a value add by filling holes in the marketplace that the common consumer didn’t know they needed.
In university, you have access to a huge population of people that are considered the most desirable demographic for marketers. This is because they are young, educated, and likely to become the tastemakers that define the future.
The better you understand this group of people, the more capable you are of creating a product or service that resonates with them. The more immersed you are in student life and the campus experience, the more you can understand the broader population you could be trying to market to.
What are some pain points that the typical student is dealing with? What values and goals do they have? Understanding these types of questions can position you to create something that resonates with a pivotal demographic.
Test Out Your Ideas
Once you’ve developed an idea, don’t be afraid to put the gears in motion. The best experience you will ever get with entrepreneurship is practical experience. Develop an idea while in school, and put it to the test.
This is easier said than done, and college students have a lot of different responsibilities. However, there are a lot of benefits that come from starting a venture while you’re still in university.
First and foremost, there is something of a safety net. When you are out of university, you will likely have more bills to pay and will either be working a different job or have your venture be your primary source of income. If your venture is your primary source of income and doesn’t work out, that can be devastating.
There is also the practical advantage of getting hands-on, real experience while still young. Starting a venture in college will allow you to get to know yourself as an entrepreneur better. You can find out your strengths and weaknesses and gain knowledge that will help you in all future ventures.
There’s no experience quite like actual, hands-on business experience. Testing out your ideas by starting a venture in college will give you a great chance to learn from doing, with more of a safety net if things don’t work out. It is an opportunity to develop your skills through practical experience, and maybe even start the next big thing.
Get to Know Your Professors
One of the things many people talk about with entrepreneurship is the value of a mentor. Having someone who has the lived experience that you may not is incredibly useful, and mentors can serve as great resources and sounding boards for young entrepreneurs.
Luckily for university students, they share a campus with a group of highly respected, highly experienced professionals who can be highly valuable mentors. Professors aren’t just there for teaching. They are often true industry insiders who have first-hand experience in the topics they discuss.
Taking the time to build connections with your professors and get to know them is something you won’t regret. Many colleges across America employ professors who’ve spent years working in fields from business to medicine, and picking their brains will help you gain a higher-level understanding of the potential industries you want to operate within.
There are many different ways you can connect with professors. There are student-professor events, office hours, and you can simply walk over and introduce yourself following a lecture. Sometimes, it is as simple as an email asking to meet for a cup of coffee.
A long-term connection with a professor whose expertise you value will serve you well. These are people you can discuss your ideas and goals with, who will give you honest feedback and encouragement. That is an invaluable resource for a young entrepreneur.
University is a pivotal period in young peoples’ lives. It is a time when they are supposed to gain hands-on skills and foster the connections that will serve them for the rest of their lives. It is a time of great opportunity.
If you have your sights set on entrepreneurship, university is a period with a lot of potential. You can do many different things to get the most out of your university experience.
Young entrepreneurs can begin building their network, expanding their education, developing tech skills, and gaining a higher-level understanding of what fellow students are looking for in a product or service. They should gain hands-on experience by starting a venture and getting to know their professors.
By doing this, college-aged entrepreneurs will take some important steps necessary to future success in business. If you are a young entrepreneur that is in college, entering college, or just graduated, we want to hear from you. Comment below, or connect with us on social media, and share with us the impact college has had or will have on your entrepreneurial journey.