These tips will help young entrepreneurs find admissions success in an overcrowded landscape of undergraduate business programs.
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1. Dare to be different
Pursue an unusual activity if you love it. Colleges appreciate “niche” applicants: champion jugglers who raise money for a cause, budding meteorologists who link economic trends with the weather, expert costume designers who run a side hustle renting costumes. Set yourself apart.
2. Be creative
Artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs are in demand. Why? First, the arts and creative cultural expression enliven all communities and bring people together. Second, today’s most pressing problems need creative solutions, so colleges seek students who think differently. Top business colleges are flooded with STEM kids who long to land in Silicon Valley, so don’t be afraid to stand out and take a non-traditional path.
3. Use tech to turn your hobby into a business
Gone are the days of lemonade stands. The advent of social digital platforms as broad as Depop, Thumbtack, or Etsy, and the ease of creating a digital presence, make it easier to monetize your passion. The customized sneakers you paint in your spare time or your branded water bottles can be marketed and sold via a well-considered Instagram page. Going through this process is a great exercise in all aspects of setting up a business.
4. Get a job
Seriously. Part-time jobs demonstrate much more maturity and responsibility than a laundry list of low-commitment clubs and activities. Especially if you come from a privileged background or attend a private school, you should show you aren’t afraid to work hard. Holding down a job is almost a requirement for admission for most business programs.
5. Take your tech fluency to work
Gen-Z has the advantage of being the first generation of digital natives. There are great opportunities for high schoolers to bring their tech expertise to work. Does the café you work at have a Facebook Business Page? If not, create one. Even better, figure out how to optimize their digital ads strategy. We’ve seen this in action firsthand. One student re-systemized the entire Panera Bread where she worked part-time with her coding skills.
6. Be a scholar
Take the initiative for your own learning and go above and beyond in your studies. Bottom line: Valedictorians are de rigueur at top business programs. These schools want students who love learning, not just those who get good grades. Show your scholarship by taking college courses in the summer, scoring high on standardized tests (including the Math 2 Subject Test and the Calculus AP exams), and ranking at the top of your class.
7. Build bridges
Diverse communities thrive because of students who reach across differences and want to live with and learn from people whose backgrounds are different from their own. Don’t just get a job through your parents; rather, find a way to create a product or service that solves a problem in your community. Are you an advocate for women in the workplace? Get active in your community making jobs for other young women or creating a mentorship program.
8. Pursue awards that validate your talents
If you are a math genius, enter national math competitions. Love to write? Consider starting a column in your local paper about commerce in your town from a teen’s point of view – even submit your article to Entrepreneur Magazine. Passionate about coding? Enter a white-hat hackathon. These events are great prep for the pitch wars and case competitions that are part of every college business program.
9. Don’t do community service for the sake of “getting in”
Do work to make a meaningful difference in your school and community. Commit to causes that are important to you. Be generous and selfless with your time and energy. Tie in your community service with your academic interests. The history lover can volunteer at a local museum or start a town History Club. The computer lover can collect old laptops and refresh them for a local shelter. The entrepreneur can launch an app that not only helps those in the town but raises funds for town coffers.
10. Find your mentors
The advantage of entrepreneurs getting started younger and younger is that now business mentors aren’t just your parents’ friends. You can find mentors near your age who might just be a little further ahead in their business journey. Start building this network so that you have people a few years ahead of you who can give you direct knowledge and guidance on the best clubs, classes, and internships for which to apply.