Coming out of the pandemic, if the Biden Administration can hone its economic policies, the United States may see a golden age of entrepreneurship. There are already signs a growing number of students are considering entrepreneurship as a career path.
Gen Z grew up in an era when entrepreneurs were put on pedestals, and business leaders like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos hold a disproportionate mindshare of the U.S. public. Entrepreneurs have a new prestige factor. The number of entrepreneurship programs is exploding, too, and now numbers at more than 250 across the country.
But if you’re a high school student thinking about majoring in this new relatively academic discipline, how do you pick a school? The two famous heavyweights are Stanford and MIT, both extraordinarily difficult to get into, especially this year. But what about the rest of the vast array of choices of schools that offer entrepreneurship as a major, from the Ivy Leagues to community college?
Entrepreneurship is an unusual discipline, in that there is no set path for creating a successful company. The competitive landscape changes so fast that it’s tough to study, learning to be an entrepreneur is very much about learning by doing.
One way to figure out if a school offers a good environment for learning by doing is to look at the size and scope of the school’s entrepreneurship competition. Times of Entrepreneurship, working with George Washington University Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship , recently released a list of the Top 20 Entrepreneurship Competitions.
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“We all know college students are increasingly interested in innovation and entrepreneurship as a career path. But many aspiring entrepreneurs and changemakers are not aware of the opportunities at the collegiate level that provide seed funding, startup services, and access to a community of like-minded students eager to build businesses, startups, and social ventures. One of the hallmarks of a healthy, innovation ecosystem is entrepreneurship competitions, or pitch competitions, which are becoming more popular across college campuses,” wrote Scott Stein and Janssen Keiger, associate director and graduate fellow, respectively, at the George Washington University office.
Some of the competitions give out hefty sums – from $225,000 at the MIT $100k Entrepreneurship Competition to $527,000 at the MN Cup, at the University of Minnesota.
But cash alone is not the only measure: In-kind donations, such as marketing and other support, can considerably increase the value of winning a competition. Some competitions produce companies and entrepreneurs that go on to be major innovators for years. The list is ranked by a weighted score that includes cash, in-kind donations, and participants. The ranking also included the percentage of participants that were women – which generally clocked in at 30-60%. The top five competitions and their cash and in-kind prizes were:
MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition ($975,000)
Richard Barrentine Values and Venture Competition at Texas Christian University ($500,000)
New Venture Competition at George Washington University ($515,000)
The Baylor New Venture Competition ($468,600)
McCloskey New Venture Competition at the University of Notre Dame ($405,000)
All of the top five had more than 400 participants and gave out at least $400,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.