College is a time for exploration, and if you're interested in starting a business, it might be the ideal time to explore all that the top entrepreneurial programs in the country have to offer. To assist in your search for the best college for you, Entrepreneur has partnered with The Princeton Review—for the third consecutive year—to bring you our sixth annual listing of the top 50 entrepreneurship education programs in the country. Whether you're looking for the best 25 undergraduate programs or the top 25 graduate programs, we reached out to more than 2,300 different schools to help you navigate the exciting world of college entrepreneurship.
If you're like other students of your generation, you're gathering information before you set foot on any campus. "I'm getting contacted by more and more incoming students than before," says Raman Chadha, executive director of the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at Chicago's DePaul University, the No. 2 ranked graduate program and the No. 7 ranked undergraduate program on our list. "Students will contact us before enrolling, saying, 'I want to learn how I can take advantage of the [entrepreneurship program].' "
Taking advantage of all that Babson College had to offer were Thomas Chevalier and Carlos Larracilla, co-founders of PeopleAhead, an online matching service that uses TrueMatch technology to connect employers with professional job candidates. These 2007 MBA graduates were accepted into the Entrepreneurship Intensity Track during their second-year studies and then paired with a mentor to help them launch the business. Larracilla and Chevalier were even able to grow their company in Babson's Hatchery Program, using incubator space on campus for more than a year to launch the business—up to three months after they graduated. "As an MBA student, there's a lot of coursework . . . what you really learn to do is prioritize in order to get the business going," says Chevalier, 28.
Perhaps one of the brightest aspects of the No. 1 ranked graduate program and the No. 2 ranked undergraduate program at The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson is the array of faculty, staff, students and alumni who share that entrepreneurial spirit. "That's very [interesting] about the culture [at Babson]," says Larracilla, 33. "Everybody tries to give you advice and to be cheerleaders for your business." Waltham, Massachusetts-based People-Ahead launched to the public in June and expects sales in the six figures this year.
The coming year is full of changes at Babson, according to Allan R. Cohen, dean of the graduate program at Babson, located in Babson Park, Massachusetts. There will be at least four new entrepreneurship courses this year, including social networks in the virtual world and environmental entrepreneurship. All of the courses are designed to immerse students in the nuts and bolts of business. "Entrepreneurial education is not a spectator sport," says Cohen. "We tell students: This is not going to be taking notes or just participating in class discussions. We expect you to have to do something."
Another successful graduate of Babson’s MBA program is Dwight Schultheis, 33, founder of Get Amenity, a men's grooming products company in New York City. This 2004 graduate was a member of the Entrepreneurship Intensity program and credits his MBA training with helping him create and refine his business plan and marketing strategy. "The attention that Babson gave to the curriculum to really give us all sides of the entrepreneurial puzzle—I found that invaluable," says Schultheis, who launched his company upon graduation and projects $4 million in sales for 2008.
The diversity and presence of international students at Babson in particular even helped Schultheis with his market research. Before he launched his products in retailers both in the United States and internationally, he bent the ears of fellow students who hailed from other countries and got their take on men's skin-care products.
The idea of using entrepreneurship to reach out both internationally and locally prevails among these programs. Babson sends student groups to teach entrepreneurship in developing countries, for instance. An emphasis on green entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship continues to grow as well. Says Chadha, "We're going to start seeing universities trying to attack the world's problems through entrepreneurship."
The Complete Picture
The top entrepreneurial education programs are teaching students to evaluate a business idea from top to bottom to get a true understanding of the market. Jessyca Blood's studies at the No. 1 ranked undergraduate program at the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston helped her launch Jess & Co. in 2007 while still an undergraduate. Blood, 27, a fashion lover, initially planned to create her own clothing line—until her sister asked her to sew some cute outfits for her dog. The designs were such a hit that Blood realized what business she wanted to start. "It was an opportunity," she says. "I saw that there was such good feedback that I made a total switch from fashion apparel to pet clothes"—a decision she made with help from the program.