From the classroom to the boardroom: why students make great entrepreneurs
Gone are the days where students accept passively sitting in an auditorium, listening to a professor drone on as their post-secondary experience. Today’s students are more active on their campuses and in their communities than ever before. As a result, universities are engaging students by nurturing entrepreneurial thinking and providing more opportunities to build skills that are transferable to starting and running a business.
While some suggest dropouts or ‘bad students’ are more likely to become entrepreneurs, there are many reasons why students who excel at school can also excel in business. They are trained in critical thinking and are comfortable exploring problems in search of creative solutions. Here are our top reasons why students make great entrepreneurs:
In business, continuous learning is more than an asset – it’s necessary to be competitive. Entrepreneurs must constantly learn and evolve as leaders to grow their companies. The ability to adapt learning styles to different situations is an essential skill at all stages of business, but especially during the early stages when you’re often wearing multiple hats.
By the time they arrive at university, students are nearing expert-level learner status. Balancing assignment deadlines with a full course load teaches students to apply efficiency to their learning; they are excellent and figuring out what they need to know, when they need to know it. Most students also take a variety of classes throughout their university career, so they are accustomed to learning about multiple topics at once.
Great entrepreneurs know how to prioritize tasks and make strategic sacrifices when necessary, such as killing a product that your team poured their hearts into or pivoting completely to re-align with the long-term company vision. Likewise, students understand that sometimes they have to sacrifice their best work on an assignment if it means improving their overall grade point average by prioritizing another course or project.
Proximity to research and talent
Universities are a gold mine for innovative research and facilities to help you develop your product. As a student, there could be an opportunity to partner with your university to commercialize research. There are typically programs or initiatives to help student-run businesses leverage the research and resources on campus.
Students often collaborate with other classmates on a regular basis, meaning they have direct access to a talent pool of energetic and driven individuals. Student entrepreneurs have a great chance of finding a peer who may be the right fit for a co-founder or team member.
Whether you’re delivering a pitch to investors or presenting a strategic plan to a board of directors, presentation skills are critical for entrepreneurs. While presenting is a skill you develop over time, students can hone this skill faster through coursework and extracurricular activities. Some students take public speaking courses, while others gain experience by presenting projects and papers in class, or through joining student council and student-run societies. Not only do students enjoy presenting, but they are exposed to more opportunities to practice and that experience will be important when running a business.
Professional network and relationships
When you’re starting a business, your professional network is an important resource; who you know can impact how fast your company grows, and what better place than a campus full of young, passionate minds? Universities are a great place for students to meet new people, and the people they meet on campus today could become a partner, investor or mentor tomorrow.
Experiential learning, such as co-operative education work terms, is one way students develop strong professional networks throughout university, and they also often have the chance to meet business leaders during guest lectures and speaking events. These experiences help students develop relationships with people that can provide advice, or even capital, to help them turn their ideas into successful businesses.
If you’re a student looking to launch a business, remember that you’re already gaining valuable experience that you can apply to your entrepreneurial endeavours. If you’re not quite ready to start a business and you want to gain real-world experience, check out our startup careers page to find out which companies in our community are hiring.