Why High School Students Should Try Entrepreneurship

The skills, values and philosophies they'll learn can help them in many areas, now and in the future.

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By Anna Johansson

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Starting a business while still in high school may seem intimidating, but it's a challenge that will improve your skills and enhance your perspective on growth and opportunity for years to come. The point isn't necessarily to create a business worth millions or to build an enterprise you can lead for the rest of your life, though these outcomes can happen. Instead, most high school students who delve into entrepreneurship establish skills, values and philosophies that can help them in many areas, from getting into better schools to starting a bigger, more impactful business in the future.

Examples of Teen Entrepreneurs

There are many examples of young entrepreneurs who started impressive businesses while still in high school. For example, Sanil Chawla (now 19) launched a web-development startup while he was just a sophomore in high school. Next, he pivoted to focus on the nonprofit sector and developed software to automate the paperwork associated with sponsorship deals. That startup became Hack+, an organization that has helped more than 1,000 students launch startups, nonprofits and events.

There's also Jamie Beaton, who got his start at 18. Beaton dreamed of attending the most competitive universities in the world. After gaining acceptance into all 25 of the world's highest-ranked universities, including Harvard, Stanford, MIT and the University of Cambridge, Beaton decided to help other students achieve their goals of attending prestigious universities by creating Crimson Education, an organization that mentors, guides and supports students in getting into their best-fit dream college. Crimson Education is known for guiding middle and high school students to learn key leadership skills, helping them leverage entrepreneurial practices to start projects, initiatives, nonprofits, businesses and more. It's no coincidence that Crimson's student network has secured more than 1,400 offers to the top 50 U.S. colleges, as well as 269 offers to Ivy League universities.

Related: Top 5 Lessons From a Kid Entrepreneur (Pay Attention, Public Schools!)

The Skills that Student Entrepreneurs Learn

Entrepreneurship rapidly teaches you several important skills, all of which can be used in many different contexts in your life. These are some of the most valuable:

  • Leadership. Entrepreneurship forces students to learn leadership quickly. Student entrepreneurs are the ones in charge of developing their business from the ground up. They are often navigating managing other students, employees, partners, contractors and other professionals, coordinating them to function efficiently. Student entrepreneurs can seek out leadership building through books, podcasts, online courses and more. One of the best ways to help guide a student through learning leadership is by giving them practice within their own extracurricular clubs; they can look for solutions within existing organizations.
  • Creative problem-solving. Most businesses don't go the way they're initially planned. That's because unforeseen obstacles and new developments (like competitors entering the market) can stand in an entrepreneur's way, and if they're a high school student, they have not likely faced that problem before. Student entrepreneurs do best when they develop creative problem-solving skills, allowing them to see and resolve issues in novel ways.
  • Strategic communication. No matter what type of business the entrepreneur runs, they'll hone communication skills. Student entrepreneurs have many opportunities to pitch their concept at youth-oriented entrepreneurship competitions. There are several designed for high school students, such as the Tiger Global Case Competition, Blue Ocean, Diamond Challenge and Green Idea, which allow students to pitch directly to investors and mentors. Students need to learn both the brevity and power of persuasion.
  • Financial planning. Businesses need to be carefully financially managed. Student entrepreneurs need to understand what they are spending and how they are spending it, what they are charging for their products and how they will grow in the future. This careful balance demands the development of financial-planning skills, which they can use in business, in financial career fields and even in their personal life.
  • Overcoming adversity. Entrepreneurship also teaches students about failure and allows entrepreneurs to embrace the challenges of adversity. After owning a business, entrepreneurs become more resilient to setbacks and more willing to move past mistakes.

How Entrepreneurship Sets You Up for Success

Becoming an entrepreneur while you're still young can also set you up for success in many ways:

  • College applications and attending university. Having a business under the belt looks great on college applications. It's the ultimate extracurricular activity that showcases incredible skills and impact. Entrepreneurs often have success rates with competitive programs such as Penn's Management & Technology degree. This is a great way to meet other high-achieving and like-minded entrepreneurial students, professors and receive access to top-notch competitions, funding sources and more.
  • Resumes and job interviews. The increasingly competitive job-hiring process calls for evidence of not only your personal attributes but prior work. By adding your business to the top of your resume's most recent work experience list, you're sure to stand out from the crowd. Come interview time, you will also have memorable, impactful experiences to reference that are far from the norm.
  • Entrepreneurial experience. Serial entrepreneurs tend to see higher rates of success because they have learned from past failures. If you decide to start another business in the future, your experience with your first startup will set you up for success as you learn from your mistakes.
  • Networking. In the course of developing your first business, you'll likely meet a number of other professionals, including investors, other entrepreneurs and skilled talent. This network can be useful to you no matter what your future career plans are.
  • Intrinsic motivation. Entrepreneurship also cultivates intrinsic motivation. As a business leader, you're forced to be self-reliant and self-motivated. These qualities don't fade over time; instead, they tend to grow.
  • Life skills. Don't forget that many of the skills you learn as an entrepreneur will be useful not just in future entrepreneurial endeavors and careers, but also in your personal life. Financial planning and communication, for example, are vital for personal success.

Related: Teen Entrepreneurs Learn to Embrace Failure. Can Adults?

Starting a business while still in high school isn't easy, especially if you're already juggling academic work, sports, personal responsibilities and the ever-looming deadlines of applying to colleges. But in the long run, your entrepreneurial experience can give you untold advantages both in your college applications and for the rest of your life.
Anna Johansson

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Freelance writer

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who specializes in social media and business development.

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