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What are the best schools for business/entrepreneur classes?

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Tony’s Answer

Hey Hallie! A great question and one that I know many students think about before going to college (especially one that I thought long and hard about when applying to college)

While you can always look at college rankings and various resources online - what's important to keep in mind is that you get out of college what you put in. I know this might sound cliche, but it really is true and I'm speaking from personal experience. I went to a school (UC Santa Cruz) that is not traditionally known for business or entrepreneurship - we don't have a business school and the major I graduated with was Business Management Economics.

Whatever school you do end up choosing, make sure you get as involved as possible. Join as many clubs, student government, intramurals, etc. The experiences you have and the people you meet will create opportunities for the rest of your life. The job I have today is thanks to the people I met in clubs, internships in college and the people I meet today are ones who I will rely on in the future.

Hope this helps!
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Laura’s Answer

Hi Hailie. As a little background, I've spent 15 years working with entrepreneurs as an advisor, operator, and investor, primarily in the tech space. I've also built a lot of stuff from the ground-up in an entrepreneurial capacity myself, helped launch products, and supported founders in determining their best way forward. I have an MBA from Wharton, as well as MAs in Applied Economics and Resource Management that I honestly don't use as much as I'd like, but studied because I love those topics. Here are my 2 cents:

Your best resource if you want to be an entrepreneur (and generally in business) is your network. For that reason, you should aim for the best ranked business program you can get into: it's not a perfect proxy, but top schools tend to attract the best pipeline of profs and fellow students. I don't know if you're looking at a full-time degree or a part-time program with a really specific focus. Regardless, the students you meet by participating in one of these programs are a much more valuable long-term resource than any material you may learn.

Top bschools for entrepreneurship, like Stanford, Wharton, HBS, Berkeley Haas, CBS, Michigan, etc offer a lot of content on YouTube that you can check out at any point for free. So does Y Combinator's Startup School and a number of other top startup accelerators. Should you want to earn an actual credential, those schools -- and many others -- also offer a lot of non-degree programs that are a much lower cost and time investment (though you do forgo the enormous benefit of building a network with your fellow students) than a formal program.

Entrepreneurship, as you know, covers a lot of ground. Founders (and their investors) need to know how to hire and then manage teams, have difficult conversations / make tough choices, basic finance and accounting, as well as actually driving the launch of a prod/service. A lot of this is learn-by-doing, so nothing beats getting experience by spending some time volunteering or working at a small startup in whatever capacity you can provide value. This will also help you figure out if this is the place you want to start your career: it's not for everyone. (Large companies have their own downsides, but they also have formalized training for people early in their career that shouldn't be under-valued.) With COVID, so much of this can be done virtually, so take advantage.

Laura recommends the following next steps:

Take a look on YouTube for free content from top bschools, watch some videos, see what sparks excitement -- a lot of it won't
Check out some sites like AngelList or Y Combinator's Work at a Startup for roles that might be a fit with your experience. As well, if there are regional accelerators in Iowa, their job boards could also be a great resource.
Keep learning and don't settle. If you hit a point of frustration, build where you can: reach out to your network to do virtual coffees and learn more about what they do, who else you should talk to. Or take an online class.
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Bob’s Answer

Tony, Laura Allen and Michael all offer an excellent perspective related to universities and entrepreneural programs. As a retired venture capitalist executive, my prior (over decades) role had been to identify, assess, invest in, lead, grow, divest and profit from the success of chosen investments in global high tech companies.
I personally view entrepreneurs, whether coming from a business management, engineering, finance, sciences, or other college backgrounds as folks who have a passion and keen intellectual curiosity about the workings of a business. Folks who can envision otherwise unforseen ways to provide creative solutions to challenges that will change the way people live, learn, work and play. Many successful entrepreneurs have parents who own a small business. While young they work in all aspects of the business. They understand how all of the pieces fit together.
Some then have a passion to define creative solutions to problems they encounter or envision.
So, whether you major in business and entrepreneurship or finance, engineering, bio sciences, et al; your first mission is to understand if you have a passion to create in business terms. If so, lay out a plan that will permit you to work in small start up companies where you will be called upon to learn all of the puzzle pieces and processes of operating and growing a successful business. Then take that knowledge and combine it with your scholastic background to pursue your dreams.
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