US Universities That Show You How to Become an Entrepreneur

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By Kate Sitarz
Last updated on July 9, 2024

If you are an international student with big dreams of starting your own business, Shorelight university degree programs can set you up for success.

A female international student entrepreneur major stands in front of a glass wall covered in colorful sticky notes at her internship, working on answering what is a entrepreneur and listing the skills of entrepreneurs for her upcoming project.

What is an entrepreneur and how does an international student become one? The word has many meanings: a person who starts a new business, an innovator, or an inventor who develops new ideas. In essence, entrepreneurs see a problem that needs solving and they come up with a way to solve it.

For international students looking to forge their own professional journeys, studying in the United States is a great decision. Ranked second in the world for entrepreneurship, the US is known for providing plenty of opportunities for innovation — and that is true of its universities, too.

How to Become an Entrepreneur

Study at US Universities

Many US universities offer both an undergraduate major in entrepreneurship and MBA programs with a specific concentration or focus in this area. These programs provide you with business administration and management skills in addition to hands-on experiences designed to prepare you to start, run, and grow your own business. 

You can also choose to minor in this field, allowing you to pursue programs potentially unrelated to business. Take fine arts, for example. Perhaps you study for a degree in art and minor in entrepreneurship, giving you the skills you need to open your own gallery. Or you double major in computer science and entrepreneurship with the goal of building your own business that develops software programs.

You will want to talk with your advisor to make sure you can take the classes you need to pursue your goals. Your advisor can also help you identify other opportunities at your university, such as start-up labs, case competitions, or internship opportunities that will help you build your skills. 

International-Friendly US Universities That Set You Up for Success

University of Utah

Ranked in the top 10 for undergraduate programs and #12 for graduate programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2023), the University of Utah is home to the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. The institute is an innovation hub where all students, including international students, can launch start-ups and fabricate new products. There is even space for residential living at Lassonde Studios. International students, like all students, can apply to live here and get additional access to programs and innovation spaces.

There are plenty of opportunities to connect with other like-minded students through the Entrepreneur Club, as well as related professional groups focusing on food, arts, and more. There are also interdisciplinary certificate programs in collaboration with the Engineering department (e.g., gain an understanding of how engineering solutions fit into a business environment, as well as the skills needed to start your own company). 

University of Illinois Chicago

Whether you have a brand-new idea or an established business you want to scale, the UIC Entrepreneurial Support Program offers one-on-one consulting with experienced business professionals. These experts can help you with tasks like establishing the viability of a business idea, registering patents, and applying for funding. 

The school’s Office of Technology Management (OTM) is another resource for students, offering an educational series, start-ups 101, as well as handbooks for start-ups and inventors. 

If you have an invention or idea, you can submit it for review by the OTM staff. The staff can then weigh whether it is viable (i.e., does it have a chance to succeed in the marketplace?).

Louisiana State University

At LSU, undergraduate students can pursue a dual degree in entrepreneurship and any other major from any college on campus. But no matter what you choose to study, you will have access to the Student Incubator at LSU Innovation Park and Louisiana Business & Technology Center (LBTC).

The LSU Student Incubator involves an informal application and meeting with incubator staff. If accepted, the first step is to create a business plan. Throughout, you get one-on-one consulting to make sure you set out on the right path and stay on it.

In addition to the personalized attention that helps you get your business started, you have 24/7 access to the co-working space, plus marketing, financial, and general business consulting and counseling. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the space is the network of business professionals and mentors that you can build here.

University of Dayton

The University of Dayton has a top 50-ranked program and the sixth-largest student-run business in the country, Flyer Enterprises. More than 200 students work across Flyer Enterprises’ 12 divisions, which include coffee and smoothies, storage space, and more. Students can work their way from sales associates to CEO during their time at the university. 

The university also hosts the annual Flyer Pitch Competition, awarding more than $150,000 in cash prizes. More than 80 ventures have launched thanks to the competition, which is open to all students and offers three tracks:

  1. Entrepreneurial Services Provider Program (ESP)/tech - for high-growth startup ideas

  2. Main Street - for brick and mortar or online small businesses)

  3. Nonprofit - for qualifying charitable organizations currently serving or planning to expand to the Greater Dayton area

Any student is also welcome to participate in the university’s L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, such as Epsilon Nu Tau, the nation’s first entrepreneurship fraternity. Additionally, majors get the chance to start their own microbusinesses — with $5,000 in start-up capital.

Work While in College  

If you already know you want to start a business or think you may like to try, the best way to know for sure is to get experience. That means pursuing internships that will allow you to explore and discover the types of work you enjoy, as well as what you don’t. In practice, this may mean exploring opportunities in different industries, or taking roles in different departments within a company to understand their various responsibilities.

Finding internships with start-ups is a great way to learn the ins and outs of a business just getting off the ground. You will also want to look for the type of company that you may want to start. So, if you want to start a coffee shop, working at a coffee shop is a natural place to look for opportunities. 

Inside and outside the classroom, you should build connections with as many people as possible. In particular, identify professors or business owners who have successfully done something that you hope to do one day. They will have invaluable advice as you get started. 

You may also keep in mind fellow students who have strengths that you do not. For example, maybe a classmate is an excellent web developer or someone who knows the ins and outs of marketing. These may be people you will want on your team as you start your business.

Get involved with events and campus organizations that support professional development. These are great opportunities to meet new people who can help you develop your idea and bring it to life. 

Another key to being successful is not being afraid to ask for help. But in order to ask for help, you need people you can ask for help. The larger your network, the better the chances you will have someone in your network that can help with specific questions or point you in the right direction. For each person you know, that individual can connect you with all the experts they know. 

Even if you do not end up starting your own business, having a robust network and entrepreneurial mindset will give you a huge advantage over others, regardless of your field. The larger your network, the more opportunities will be available to you. And if you are someone who knows how to consistently take action to overcome challenges, or creatively pivot to move forward, more people will want to work with you, too.  

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