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12 Best Colleges for Student Entrepreneurs

It used to be that when you asked young people what they wanted to be when they grew up, nearly all would give you established job titles that would have them working for other, larger entities. While astronauts, film makers, archaeologists firefighters, medical assistants, football players, nurses, and forest rangers are still certainly needed, more than ever today’s young people aspire to strike out on their own and start new ventures. And why shouldn’t they? The heroes this generation grew up admiring were technology visionaries, start-up millionaires who not only made the fortune of a lifetime while still in their twenties, but changed the world in the process. With traditional employment feeling less like the “safe” choice than ever, students’ educational priorities are adapting as well. Here are a dozen schools that foster the entrepreneurial spirit:

  1. Babson College

    One of the first institutions of higher education to go all-in on entrepreneurship was Babson College, just outside Boston in Wellesley, Mass. This small, business-focused campus was one of the first in the world to offer studies concentrated in entrepreneurship specifically, and both its undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs are consistently rated No. 1 in the nation. With the Route 128 high-tech business region nearby, and top-quality talent and innovations available from other local institutions like Harvard and MIT, there are few better places for entrepreneurs to incubate their transformative visions.

  2. Stanford University

    While its greatest spin-offs have generally come from students in other fields than business, we’d be remiss if we did not include this Palo Alto powerhouse in any list of the best schools for aspiring entrepreneurs. After all, Google, Yahoo!, HP, Sun, Cisco, and many more tech giants can trace their roots back to Stanford. The independent Stanford Research Institute, itself a nonprofit spin-off of the university, has also launched about 50 companies including Siri and Symantec. A recent study suggests that a whopping $3 trillion is poured into the economy each year as a direct result of Stanford’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

  3. University of Michigan

    The home of the Wolverines is also a major incubator of student start-ups. As part of an initiative to revive the state’s venerable but notoriously troubled manufacturing economy, the university’s College of Engineering launched its own Center for Entrepreneurship in 2008. This great resource from the STEM side supplements the existing Samuel Zell and Robert E. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, which opened at Michigan’s Ross School of Business in 1999.

  4. Brigham Young University

    Looking at it in historical perspective, few entrepreneurial ventures have ever been more unlikely or more spectacularly successful than the Mormon exodus led by Brigham Young, trekking from religious persecution in Illinois across the vast expanses of the West to the equally (at least at first) inhospitable desert of Utah. Speaking of hospitality, the business school at BYU is named after hotelier J. Willard Marriott (as was presidential runner-up Willard Mitt Romney, for you trivia nuts), and it endeavors to keep that pioneer spirit alive with its Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.

  5. Rice University

    Famously the place where John F. Kennedy announced the moonshot, the best little university in Texas is also one of the nation’s most promising launchpads for entrepreneurs. Thirteen years ago the school launched the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, and in that time it has facilitated the launches of over 250 startups. Rice’s business plan competition also claims to be the largest and most lucrative in the world, with more than $1.3 million in prize money available.

  6. The University of Texas at Austin

    The home of the Longhorns has not only been impressive in the number of business it spawns, it’s been equally prolific in terms of launching initiatives to help those entrepreneurs. There’s the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship Growth and Renewal at the McCombs School of Business, a student organization known as the Technology Entrepreneurship Society, an academic concentration in Innovation, Creativity, & Entrepreneurship, plus the Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs, not to mention the Austin Technology Incubator, which also sponsors UT Entrepreneurship Week as part of the South by Southwest festival that draws thousands in the music, movie, and tech worlds to the city each year. Whew!

  7. University of Virginia

    Along with the U.S. itself, UVA was one of Thomas Jefferson’s fondest ventures. He originally designed the main lawn in the “Academical Village” to be open at one end toward the Blue Ridge Mountains, embodying not only its architect’s adoration of nature, but his sense of limitless possibility for the young nation. While unfortunately later development filled in this side of the quad, UVA has reinforced its passion for the entrepreneurial frontier spirit with its Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business, as well as an annual Entrepreneurship Cup.

  8. Washington University in St. Louis

    This excellent and confusingly-named institution was ranked as a top school for entrepreneurship at both the undergraduate and graduate level by Entrepreneur magazine. The hub for these activities is the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. There are also a few different contests for business plans: the Arch Grants competition, the YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition, and the Discovery Competition. According to Google, nobody there seems to have noticed the portmanteau potential of “WashUpreneurs” yet; hopefully this will change that.

  9. University of Arizona

    The University of Arizona is another school that puts an emphasis on entrepreneurship not only for graduate students, but also for undergrads. Indeed, they can claim to be “one of the few research universities in the country to offer an undergraduate major in entrepreneurship,” via the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, which offers classes and support at all levels for those hoping to become the next generation of innovators to transform the economy.

  10. University of Houston

    UH also allows undergraduates to make their entrepreneurial dreams an official part of their degree, offering a BBA in Entrepreneurship. Majors in this field can take advantage of the impressive resources of the Cyvia and Melvin Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the school’s Bauer College of Business. The center was founded in 1991, its founder won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award in 1994, and the major was first offered in 1995. Since that time, it has consistently been judged one of the top programs of its kind.

  11. University of Southern California

    Trojan alumni have founded enterprises as diverse as Lucasfilm, Pinkberry, Oakley sunglasses, Dollar Rent-a-car, California Pizza Kitchen, and Wham-O toys. So it’s no surprise to hear that USC has one of the best entrepreneurship programs in the nation. It was an early adopter of the concept, offering its first major in the field in 1971. The Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC’s Marshall School of Business is the nerve center for these activities on campus, offering scholarships, awards, business plan competitions, clubs and support groups, and networking opportunities.

  12. Baylor University

    This university in Waco, Texas, has been receiving very high marks lately for its undergraduate entrepreneurship initiative, based out of the John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship. Some of the programs offered through this center are innovative in themselves, like the Innovation Evaluation Center, which offers students a supportive but dispassionate and objective assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their entrepreneurial brainchildren, and the Institute for Family Business, which was founded in 1987 to help family-owned business with strategies for thriving through the generations.

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