To better develop entrepreneurs, colleges and universities need to do a better job of showing students a path to success, new research finds.
Entrepreneurship education that spends more time guiding students through the process of starting their own business, as opposed to a theory-based curriculum, increases the likelihood of turning those students into future business owners, according to a study to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Small Business Management.
Universities can play a critical role in convincing students that the noncorporate path is a viable option, said Erik Monsen, one of the study's authors and the Steven Grossman Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at the University of Vermont.
"People become entrepreneurs because they think they are good at it and are going to be successful, but students don't always feel that way when they graduate," Monsen said in a statement. "Our findings show the need for more goal-specific programs that give students the confidence that founding one's own firm can be a controllable and potentially successful career."
Using data from a survey of 15,866 college and university students, the study's authors found that 55 percent of students plan to work for an existing firm, with 32 percent aspiring to start their own business. [Entrepreneurial New Grads Embrace Startup Culture ]
Starting a business often involves high workloads, increased responsibility and financial pressure, which can lead to stress, an unsatisfactory work-life balance and burnout.
The study's authors said besides simply having a strong desire to start their own company, students also need to believe that they can control their chances of being successful.
"These aspects are likely to decrease an individual's freedom and self-directedness; consequently, students might perceive that being a founder might not necessarily allow one to control one's own fate," the study's authors wrote. "This, in turn, lowers the founding option's attractiveness for individuals with high perceived controllability."
Students feel they have more control over their entrepreneurial success by getting more hands-on experience in the classroom, according to Monsen.
"If you have never done something before, it's scary, so I try to give students a feeling of control by equipping them with tools that they can practice with in the classroom with real-life technologies and researchers," Monsen said.
Part of Monsen's hands-on approach involves students working on commercialization projects and as consultants for researchers on campus needing help bringing new technologies to market.
"This allows them to learn the process and say, 'Wow,' this isn't that bad after all, I think I can actually control the outcomes,'" Monsen said.
Colleges and universities also must do a better job of showing students that entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily have to be profit-driven.
"Some academics feel better about nonprofits, so if you can change how they see the world of entrepreneurship they might get excited about it and find something that fits their personality and allows them to do some social good,” Monsen said. “It's a matter of finding a way of being entrepreneurial that is attractive to them."
The study was co-authored by Philipp Sieger, an assistant professor at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.