As a future entrepreneur, your job is to make money, not spend it. So naturally, if you're looking to take entrepreneurship courses, you'll want to make sure the program you select will one day pay dividends.
Here's how to evaluate your education options, with getting the best bang for your buck in mind:
Talk to students.
The Internet is a great starting place for learning about a school and its offerings, but nothing compares to getting on campus and seeing it firsthand. But don't just rub elbows with recruiters, advisors and faculty. The information they can provide will surely be useful, but if you really want to get a sense of a program, seek out students who are already in it. Ask them questions like:
- Is the program what you expected?
- What are you going to do when you’re done?
- Do companies recruit from within the program?
- How does the program invest resources in students? Do they fund student competitions, student travel to conferences, etc.?
- Do they offer experiential opportunities outside the classroom?
Get out of the classroom.
Education is what you make it, of course. But there’s only so much you can learn from textbooks and lectures.
Learning the nuts and bolts of income statements and balance sheets, for instance, doesn’t make you an educated entrepreneur. An educated entrepreneur knows how to apply concepts to specific situations. They can build teams, network and develop leadership, pitch and self-confidence skills. Those typically can’t be obtained in the classroom. And the only way to learn this is to get out of the classroom.
Look for schools that send their students to conferences or offer hands-on experiences. For example, some schools pair students with startups in need of interns. This is a great opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. They learn on the job while working for a company that’s still developing strategies. It’s getting in on the ground floor and getting an education in the process.
Learn from the best.
To be the best, it often helps to learn from the best. So consider picking a program that gives students the opportunity to learn from those who’ve already been on the start-up battlefield.
A good program will be packed with these people. A great program will help you develop networks and relationships with those people. Find out what kinds of connections the programs you’re considering can promise. Who’s an alum? Which businesses sponsor their projects and programs?
And no matter what school you choose, make sure you’re pursuing your passion -- not just the school’s degree.
What criteria did you consider before picking a program? Let us know in the comments section.
- Will Metscher contributed to this column.
Dr. Greg Bier is a Professor of Management at the University of Missouri. He leads the newly formed Entrepreneurship Alliance at the University of Missouri University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business. He is also a partner with Entrepreneur MO.