I guess we can all agree that going to college is not mandatory to becoming a successful entrepreneur. There have been several entrepreneurs who grew multi-million dollar businesses and never stepped a foot into a lecture hall. However, despite all the tedious tuition bills, college is not as useless as you may think. If utilized very well, college could possibly be the most rewarding experience you could get if you are an aspiring entrepreneur. Here are some tips on how you can learn to become an entrepreneurial leader while in college.
- Do your research.
- If you are not in a university yet, then you must know that it is extremely important to do you research if you plan to get a bachelor degree. If you are interested in studying entrepreneurship, then look for schools that offer degree plans in that subject. One way of doing this is by going to entrepreneur.com. They have a list of the best schools for entrepreneurship. Even if you do not plan to study that subject, do research on what schools offers the degree plans that best fit the industry you plan to go into.
- Before I became a student at the University of North Texas, I already knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So of course I did some research. I came to UNT because this school offered some of the best opportunities for students who are interested in starting their own business. The school has a center called the Murphy Entrepreneurship Center that is devoted to educating students about entrepreneurship. The center also offers the IDEA Competition that rewards $250 each to 4 best ideas and the New Venture Creation Contest that rewards up to $50,000 to the winning business plan. As you can see, this was the best school for an aspiring entrepreneur, such as myself, to attend.
- Don’t take classes to get an A in, take courses that you can learn from
- It is so easy to pick the easiest classes with the easiest professors, but if you do, I guarantee you that you will not learn as much. Especially when you start taking upper level classes, it is important to look up professors that are tough, because they are the ones you can learn the most from. Do note that tough is not the same as “bad” professors. You still want a professor that challenges you to do your best but helps you when you need it. Fully utilize these courses, don’t just strive to get an A, but strive to learn useful information for your future business.
- In my experience, I took strategic brand management as a marketing support course when a lot of marketing majors warned me that the class required a lot work. They also informed me that one of the professors that teach the course is tough. So, like someone who sees a challenge as an opportunity rather than a threat, I took that course with that “extremely hard” professor. I took this class because I knew that managing a brand is important when you become a business leader and I wanted the best professor to teach me how to do this. It turns out that I excelled in this course and I learned so much about brand management, not to mention that I got an A in the course. In my organizational behavior class, I learned the importance of creating a culture in your business as well as other important terminologies such as workplace spirituality and cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, I have learned many useful analyses to use when doing business in other countries from my global marketing class. These classes have provided tools for me to become a successful, global, business leader.
- Get involved
- In order to fully utilize your college experience, you should get involved in student run organizations. Being involved in Student Government is one of the best ways to gain experience as a leader. You can also start an organization and learn to be an entrepreneurial leader. Being a part of an organization and becoming a leader is THE best way to train yourself to be a business leader while in college. When you are organizing projects, you are gaining the experience of becoming a business owner.
- When I was at the University of North Texas, I was apart of an internationally known organization known as SIFE (students in free enterprise). The chapter at UNT was weak, so I learned to take an entrepreneurial approach to rebuild the organization. I learned to recruit, market and organize projects like a business leader. Through this experience I learned what the entrepreneurial approach meant. I have also learned the importance of networking.
- Network, network and network!
- And finally, the most important thing whether or not you want to become an entrepreneur is networking. You want to surround yourself with people who know more than what you know and can mentor you. You also want people who can get you where you need to be. There are many (and I mean many) ways you can go about this while in college. One way is to be a student leader and communicate with business leaders in the area to sponsor or support your organization on campus. Another way is to get involved in special organizations that offer networking skills as well as programs for elite students. Many schools offer programs like this. Another way is to network with your professors and lecturers. Many of them probably have already been in the workforce. They can teach you much more in their office than what they teach in class.
- At the University of North Texas, I was a member of the Professional Leadership Program. This program aligns each of its members with a business leader in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to act as a mentor. Along with this, students are highly encouraged to network with other mentors within the program. Furthermore, the program is partnered with many well known companies and host several networking events just for the students. Through this program, I was able to meet many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. I also received an opportunity to work for an entrepreneur who is in the industry that I would like to pursue.
So in conclusion, college is more than just going to class. If you utilize your college experience to the fullest, you can learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur. But remember, college does not promise opportunities, it offers them. It is your responsibility to take full advantages of what college has to offer.
What are your tips to making the most out of college? Let us know in the comments.
Stephanie Ezeugo is an emerging social entrepreneurial leader in Dallas. Visit artofentrepreneurship.