The light right above the camera was brighter than she expected. Then again, only 12 hours earlier, she had no idea that she would even be on camera. Three months before that, she had no idea that she’d be pitching her new business concept in front of over 100 people: students, faculty and six judges. Was she on a game show? Not quite.
A new class offered last semester by the economics department at SUNY Purchase, “Entrepreneurship and Finance: Turning Ideas Into Startups,” embraced a unique approach to teaching students about entrepreneurship.
The class was unusually hands-on. Within the first two weeks, students were expected to devise a business idea leveraging the ideation techniques they’d learned in class and interview their first five potential customers. Then, after months of practicing their pitches, running mock negotiations in class, diving deep into market numbers and business financials, students were expected to face a panel of judges.
Looking for opportunities
Classes like that one are far from what people would expect from a traditional university curriculum. Still, it’s no surprise that millions of college students across the country are searching for ways to get more out of their education. They’re seeking more experiences, more interactions, more networking and more ways of being uncomfortable. After all, it’s in discomfort that most learning happens. When you learn that only 27 percent of college graduates have a job that’s directly related to their major, you start to understand that the practical skills you acquire in college have a considerably higher impact on your career than any individual class that you take for your specialized discipline of choice.
Increasingly, students are taking action. When a job after graduation is no longer guaranteed, many are choosing to spend their free time experimenting with their own entrepreneurial ventures while still in school. To stay competitive, more and more universities are now offering entrepreneurship classes for this growing subset of the student population. And where formal programs do not exist, students are organizing their own communities to provide resources for their like minded peers.
Perhaps the biggest impact of the experimental entrepreneurship class at SUNY Purchase was on the students that didn’t explicitly seek out to learn how to become an entrepreneur. Like most busy students, they were simply looking to fill their academic calendar with something interesting and new. The unintended result? Awareness around a completely new type of career path, as well as the opportunity to discover and refine creative muscles that are not often flexed in a purely academic setting.
As classes like these become more popular at schools across the country, we’ll likely see a surge in entrepreneurial ventures. After all, the interest is there. Students want to get their ideas out there; with the right preparations, they’ll be primed to succeed.
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Header image: Jesse Jacobs