The Best Colleges for Startups
Aspiring entrepreneurs often need guidance and support when developing their ideas and planning their startups in college. While many schools provide entrepreneurship training, the best colleges for startups run programs, venture accelerators, and competitions. These schools also offer access to entrepreneurial networks, legal and professional resources, and funding sources.
The following list focuses on schools that go above and beyond when it comes to helping students launch businesses. Our methodology considered many factors, including the number of startups created by students, the amount of capital raised, and a school's program offerings.
Our ranking also favored schools with the best entrepreneurship and startup support resources, such as workshops, events, funding opportunities, and facilities. The more supportive the college's startup environment and culture, the higher its ranking.
Top Colleges for Startups
At Stanford University, students with startup goals receive excellent support and training. According to PitchBook, Stanford's undergraduate programs produced more entrepreneurs and more companies than any other university between 2006 and 2020. These startups also received the most funding, with nearly $48 billion in capital raised.
Stanford also ranked first on the World's Universities with Real Impact's list of the most innovative universities. The university offers entrepreneurial support programs at the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Center for Professional Development. Students can take courses and earn certificates in innovation and design thinking, test their ideas in the startup garage, and gain full access to the Stanford entrepreneurship network.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranked in the top three on the World's Universities with Real Impact innovative universities rankings. Additionally, according to PitchBook, MIT undergraduate alumni helped develop nearly 1,000 startups between 2006 and 2020 and raised over $33 billion in capital. The institute's alumni run more than 30,000 companies, which generate nearly $2 trillion in annual revenues.
MIT students can access the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, which offers training, professional advisors, and various programs to hone entrepreneurial skills. The center also features startup accelerators. MIT runs a $100,000 entrepreneurship competition for competitive ventures.
Harvard University gives a great deal of support to entrepreneurs and startups. The university earned fourth place on the World's Universities with Real Impact list of the most innovative institutions. Additionally, as reported by PitchBook, Harvard's undergraduate alumni went on to form nearly 1,000 companies who raised more than $40 billion between 2006 and 2020. Harvard's Office of Career services provides specialized assistance for entrepreneurs, helping them find internships, jobs, and funding opportunities.
Harvard students gain access to the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, which features the Rock Accelerator for putting startup ideas on trial, a venture competition, and a venture program for workshopping and advising. Harvard connects budding entrepreneurs with potential investors, startup mentors, other entrepreneurs, and legal experts, allowing students to work out their business plans prior to graduation.
According to PitchBook, the University of California, Berkeley developed the second-most startups and entrepreneurs among undergraduate institutions between 2006 and 2020. During the same period, students who graduated from Berkeley's undergraduate programs raised over $36 billion in venture capital. The university was also ranked among the 15 most innovative universities by the World's Universities with Real Impact.
To support startups, Berkeley offers a blend of degrees, certificate programs, events, and support services. Aspiring creators can grow their skills in the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program, network with other entrepreneurs at the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum, and put their ideas to the test in various incubators and accelerators. Students also gain access to the university's industry alliances, venture mentoring, and startup competitions.
According to PitchBook, students who graduated from undergraduate departments at the University of Pennsylvania founded more than 900 companies and raised over $22 billion in venture capital between 2006 and 2020.
Since founding the first business college in the world in 1881, Penn has established The Wharton School in honor of its founder. Today, Wharton offers student resources at every stage of the startup process, including exploration, development, launching, and scaling.
Penn also ranked among the top 10 most innovative universities on a list compiled by the World's Universities with Real Impact. At Penn's Mack Institute for Innovation Management, students learn how to move from the research stage to development with the help of industry and academic leaders. Additionally, the university hosts a startup showcase competition and operates a venture initiative program.
Founded by innovators and entrepreneurs, Cornell University carries forward this legacy by providing students with resources to support their business aspirations. According to PitchBook, the university's undergraduate alumni created close to 900 companies and raised over $28 billion in venture capital between 2006 and 2020. Cornell offers degrees at various levels, courses, certificates, and specializations in the discipline.
Students and alumni at Cornell gain access to internships, entrepreneurship competitions and events, startup job opportunities, and professional and legal advice. The university also encourages student entrepreneurs to use the eLab and Center for Transformative Action — incubators that help kickstart venture development.
At the University of Michigan, aspiring startup developers can pursue various pathways to foster and advance their ideas. According to The Princeton Review, the school's undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurial degree programs each rank among the top five.
Learners can receive support at the engineering school's Center for Entrepreneurship and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, which established the country's first course in small business management.
Whatever pathway they choose, student entrepreneurs enter an innovation ecosystem that helps them transition from academic research to the for-profit and social sectors. They can take advantage of the school's entrepreneurship competitions, networking events, and various accelerator programs. Additionally, according to PitchBook, U-M undergraduate alumni founded more than 800 companies and raised over $19 billion in capital between 2006 and 2020.
Students at the University of Texas at Austin can enroll in entrepreneurship programs through the engineering and business schools. According to The Princeton Review, UT Austin's graduate entrepreneurship program is one of the very best in the nation. Learners can enroll in the Genesis program, which provides resources for startup investing, along with business plan and pitch competitions and pre-accelerator and accelerator programs.
According to PitchBook, UT Austin undergraduate alumni founded more than 700 companies and raised over $10 billion in capital between 2006 and 2020. The university provides assistance at every stage of development, offering access to technology incubators, funding networks, and commercialization insight.
Between 2006 and 2020, students who graduated from Princeton University's undergraduate programs created more than 550 startups and raised more than $19 billion in capital, according to PitchBook. Princeton's students can take individual entrepreneurship courses, such as entrepreneurial leadership, or earn a full entrepreneurship and innovation certification.
In Princeton's Keller Center, students can access the Entrepreneurial Hub, which offers training, challenges, and events, along with an immersion program and an annual innovation forum contest. Student entrepreneurs can use the school's many labs, the technology transfer office, and various accelerator groups. Princeton helps guide aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring and funding.
PitchBook reports that alumni from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's undergraduate programs created more than 600 companies and raised over $16 billion in venture capital between 2006 and 2020. Along with enrolling in the university's undergraduate program in entrepreneurship, promising entrepreneurs can visit the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the engineering school or pursue an innovation specialization from the business school.
At Illinois, students can develop their ideas into fully functioning startups by participating in venture challenges, visiting networking events, and competing for a $20,000 innovation prize. They can also access the school's iVenture Accelerator and professional and financial advising to give their venture idea a boost.
Students in Yale University's entrepreneurship program join a supportive network of entrepreneurs and gain access to expert consulting, events, and venture competitions. According to PitchBook, Yale undergraduate alumni created 560 companies and raised over $15 billion in capital between 2006 and 2020.
Yale also ranks among the most innovative schools, according to the World's Universities with Real Impact. The university houses many institutions committed to supporting innovation in various disciplines, including the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, InnovateHealth Yale, the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking, and the Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology.
Undergraduates also benefit from the Yale Entrepreneurial Society. This organization promotes entrepreneurship, provides internships, and helps startups with market research and funding.
At Columbia University in the City of New York, students can take various entrepreneurship courses and programs, depending on their interests and goals. They may choose a summer startup or fellowship track, the greenhouse program (to strengthen their ideas), or the entrepreneurship-focused MBA. Learners enjoy access to Columbia's startup lab, mentoring from the university's network and partners, and funding sources.
According to PitchBook, students who graduated from Columbia's undergraduate programs founded more than 500 companies and raised over $15 billion in venture capital between 2006 and 2020. The university also ranked in the top 25 on the World's Universities with Real Impact list of most innovative schools.
According to PitchBook, Brigham Young University undergraduate alumni developed more than 350 startups and raised over $8 billion between 2006-2020. Students can enroll in courses and programs at various levels, including an entrepreneurial management major. The Princeton Review listed BYU among the best colleges for entrepreneurs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and BYU's lean startup model walks students through the venture creation process, helping them develop ideas, prototypes, and business plans. Learners can participate in networking and professional events, accelerator workshops, and some of the largest venture competitions in the country, such as the Miller Competition Series and the New Venture Series.
Between 2006 and 2020, undergraduate alumni from Duke University created more than 450 companies and raised more than $11 billion in capital, as reported by PitchBook. The World's Universities with Real Impact also ranked Duke among the top 25 most innovative schools in the world.
At Duke, learners can pursue an innovation and entrepreneurship certificate, study business, or enroll in an entrepreneurship engineering program. Through Duke's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, students can access training, mentoring, startup resources, and a community for networking. The Office of Licensing and Ventures and the Center for Entrepreneurship ensure that startups get the protection and nurturing they need to survive and thrive.
According to the World's Universities with Real Impact, Boston University ranks as one of the most innovative institutions in the world. Additionally, PitchBook reports that undergraduate alumni from BU founded more than 360 companies and raised nearly $14 billion in venture capital between 2006 and 2020.
At BU, students can choose from various courses and programs in entrepreneurship, including certificates, minors, majors, and a graduate program. They also gain access to various facilities designed to support entrepreneurs and new ventures, such as the BUild Lab IDG Capital Student Innovation Center, which provides accelerator and incubation workshops, competition and funding opportunities, and access to innovation pathways and communities.
What Is the Best Major for an Entrepreneur?
Every major offers something different for prospective entrepreneurs, and the best fit depends on what each individual student needs most. Some students may need to learn more about the management and startup side, so business management or entrepreneurship programs could be the best fit. Alternatively, other students may be interested in developing their technology skills in an engineering or computer science program.
Before choosing a major, learners should evaluate the resources, courses, and credentials their school offers. Degree-seekers may be able to build their entrepreneurial expertise through additional training or extracurricular activities while pursuing a degree in another field.
Is an Entrepreneur Degree Worth It?
An entrepreneur degree can provide students with the knowledge they need to develop their startup and get started on the right path. These degrees often provide training related to business plan creation, strategy, and the managerial and administrative facets of running an organization.
Entrepreneur degrees may appeal to degree-seekers who plan to start their own venture but need to learn the skills required to launch a successful business. While this type of training can also be applied to other business management careers, students should be confident in their plans before choosing such a specialized degree.
Can I Start a Business in College?
Entrepreneurs can start a business wherever and whenever they want, but creating startups while in college can be very beneficial. Many schools provide resources and support for this type of venture. The best colleges for startups help entrepreneurs perfect their business plan in school.
Learners can workshop their ideas with other entrepreneurs. They can build a prototype, perfect their innovation, and practice pitch meetings and practical scenarios. The best schools for entrepreneurs may also provide a collaborative professional network, funding opportunities, and legal support for startups.
How Do I Launch a Startup in College?
Launching a startup in college requires great determination and commitment. Fortunately, colleges often provide a supportive environment for startups. Students can access school facilities, the expertise of instructors, and other important resources.
To have a successful launch, entrepreneurs should ensure they have a strong business plan and understand their market fully. They need to acquire the appropriate funding or have a plan to do so. They must also build the necessary relationships with partners, collaborators, and consumers.
This process can be daunting, but the best colleges for startups offer exceptional guidance in all of these areas, helping entrepreneurs find success.