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If You've Applied to College, You Can Pitch Investors. Here's Why. Surprising similarities in these life-altering exchanges include the art of persuasion as part of a unique communication skill set.

By Mimi Doe Edited by Matt Scanlon

Key Takeaways

  • The process of applying to colleges mirrors preparing for an investor pitch.
  • You must be prepared, do your research and ask insightful questions.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the dynamic landscapes of entrepreneurship, investment and higher education, effective communication is vital. My company, Top Tier Admissions, brings more than 20 years of experience helping students secure places at Ivy League-level schools. As an educator, founder and CEO, I have seen how the art of persuasion and negotiation is most successfully applied in these seemingly disparate realms.

Investors are primarily interested in the return on their investment, so it's crucial to understand their preferences, risk tolerance and what excites them about your industry. Colleges, meanwhile, seek students who will contribute to their community and excel academically. Extensive research on the institution's values, programs and culture is therefore vital to tailor an application accordingly.

Related: 10 Social Media Tips for Students to Improve Their College Admission Chances

A few additional areas of both similarity and contrast to consider:

The personal statement vs. elevator pitch

College applications require personal essays or statements that showcase a student's intellectual vitality, experiences and academic goals. Much like the elevator pitch, however, this is an opportunity to stand out and make a real impression.

In the entrepreneurial world, the elevator pitch is your first impression — a concise, 30-second overview of your business idea, emphasizing its uniqueness and potential.

Distinct life experience vs. unique value proposition

College applications require a student to convey their distinguishing experiences and perspectives, highlighting what they bring to the campus that sets them apart from other applicants.

Similarly, a winning business pitch should articulate a particular solution to a problem, demonstrating why customers choose your product or service over competitors.

Self-reflection vs. market research

Academic institutions demand introspection and self-awareness, so students would be wise to reflect on their personal growth, values and aspirations to provide a compelling narrative.

Entrepreneurs must conduct thorough market research to identify opportunities and assess demand. Investors expect data-driven insights.

Extracurricular involvement vs team dynamics

Student applications include vital sections devoted to extracurricular activities. The right student will showcase leadership, teamwork and authentic civic engagement — reliable indicators of character.

Investors, meanwhile, will evaluate the strength of a team and its ability to execute a business plan, focusing particularly on complementary skills and shared vision.

Related: Did a Giant Dancing Pineapple Just Jump Into This Meeting? Watch the Season Premiere of 'Elevator Pitch'!

Academic achievements vs. financial projections

Colleges, of course, assess a student's academic record (including standardized test scores) and letters of recommendation to demonstrate an ability to excel in a rigorous learning environment.

Investors want to see a clear path to profitability, which includes well-researched financial projections and a sustainable business model.

Interview performance vs. pitch delivery

Academic interviews are an opportunity for a student to showcase potential contributions to and enthusiasm for an institution. Part of that is being prepared to offer thoughtful responses and ask well-researched and insightful questions.

Business pitches should be engaging, concise and persuasive, which makes honing them to a fine edge instrumental in capturing an investor's attention.

College selection vs. competitive analysis

Colleges align with a student's academic and personal goals, and applications should be tailored to each institution to demonstrate genuine interest.

Meanwhile, identifying and analyzing competitors is paramount in understanding market positioning. Investors want to know how you'll outperform other players in a sector.

Related: Competitive Analysis Basics

Well-roundedness vs. adaptability

Higher learning institutions tend to value individuals who have depth (not breadth) in a specific academic niche and are versatile and creative as they adapt their interests and talents to particular circumstances.

In the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, adaptability is crucial. Investors want to see that you can pivot and innovate.

Campus visits vs. networking

Visiting colleges provides a networking-like feel for campus and culture. Colleges track demonstrated interest, so it's vital — even if students can't visit in person — to show interest in other ways (perhaps virtually).

Similarly, building relationships with potential investors is vital, which includes attending networking events, pitch competitions and industry conferences.

Related: 2023's Top Colleges for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Remember that a well-crafted pitch can be a ticket to success, even in sectors as seemingly unrelated as these. While specific requirements and expectations may differ, the underlying principles of knowing an audience, showcasing uniqueness and delivering a compelling narrative remain constant.

Mimi Doe

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Top Tier Admissions

Mimi Doe, co-founder and CEO of Top Tier Admissions and the internationally acclaimed Application Boot Camps®, has helped students from around the world gain acceptance to top schools for 20+ years. Doe’s work has been covered everywhere from Oprah magazine to The New York Times.

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