By Chioma Isiadinso
If your dream is to start your own business, can an MBA still be the right fit? For years, the prevailing wisdom was that you went to business school to get ahead in the corporate world, and that there was no point to going if you wanted to do your own thing.
These days, top business schools the world over are focusing on the benefits of an entrepreneurial mindset. Some of their students go on to found groundbreaking new businesses, and others are bringing fresh perspectives and creative leadership skills to non-profits, NGOs, and multi-national corporations.
Here's a look at nine schools that have made it their mission to support and welcome student entrepreneurs. It's not a ranked list, and it's far from exhaustive, but it's a great illustration of what's out there for entrepreneurs who want to reap the benefits of business school.
IESE promises to their students “develop an entrepreneurial mindset and the creative leadership skills to excel.” They back this promise, not only with significant curriculum resources devoted to developing these skills in students, but also with an extensive entrepreneurship platform and Business Angels Network that helps students and alumni with the day-to-day work of building businesses, hiring employees, and securing financing.
2. Oxford Saïd
During this one-year MBA program, the theme of entrepreneurship makes up one-third of the curriculum. Students take part in an integrative Entrepreneurship Module, giving them foundational skills and an overview of best practices, followed by an Entrepreneurship Project that lets them take the reins on a plan of their own devising with real-world applications.
3. Cambridge Judge
In addition to Judge’s entrepreneurship concentration, the school fosters an “ecosystem” of entrepreneurship that encompasses resources like the Cambridge Science Park, Cambridge Research Park, startup incubators, and access to hundreds of nearby tech firms and hundreds of millions in venture capital.
INSEAD is itself the brainchild of a Harvard professor and venture capitalist, and the school has been a pioneer in the field of multi-campus global business education. It's no surprise, then, that the school offers an extensive array of entrepreneurship-focused electives. In addition to broad overview courses like “Entrepreneurial Strategies in Emerging Markets” and “Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation”, many INSEAD electives delve into nitty-gritty details with immersive courses like “Your First Hundred Days”, and half a dozen options for hands-on projects and field studies.
5. China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)
Developed as a joint venture between China and the European Union, CEIBS has innovation at the heart of its educational mission. The schools fosters entrepreneurship with an available concentration in Strategy and Entrepreneurship, an eLab which has helped students and alumni create more than 50 ventures since opening in 2015, and presentations on topics like “Succeeding as an Entrepreneur in China”. In addition, CEIBS offers coordinated degrees with Johns Hopkins, Fletcher School of Law, and Cornell, giving students greater flexibility in creating an educational path that supports their goals.
6. Fudan School of Management
The Financial Times ranked Fudan sixth on its 2015 list of Global MBA programs for entrepreneurship. It was the only Chinese school to make the cut, and the highest-ranked non-US school. The school's vibrant location at the heart of the Shanghai business world and multiple collaborations with world-class business schools (including a joint international MBA program with MIT) make it the perfect place for students to develop entrepreneurial skills that combine both Eastern and Western business approaches.
7. MIT Sloan
While some b-schools focus heavily on team spirit and on working within your cohort, the Sloan MBA is purposefully designed to be a highly customizable, individualized experience. The core curriculum takes up only a single semester, with the remainder of the school's two-year program dedicated to electives and a one-week “Sloan Innovation Period” in the middle of each semester. And with more than 15 Action Learning Labs, Sloan MBA students have the opportunity to get hands-on entrepreneurial and management experience in the US or abroad.
8. Harvard Business School
Harvard isn't a name that has historically called to mind disruption and innovation, but the school has worked hard to rebrand itself as a center for entrepreneurship. The core of this effort is the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, which runs programs like the New Venture Competition and Rock Accelerator Program, along with a co-working space for alumni called Startup Studio NYC. In addition, the schools offers more than 20 elective courses focused on entrepreneurship, many of them field courses.
9. Babson College
Babson describes their two-year MBA program as an opportunity for students to build “a strong foundation of business knowledge rooted in an entrepreneurial mindset.” This devotion to keeping entrepreneurship front and center is supported by the school's Blank Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership. The result is a campus where students are empowered to seek out the courses and resources they need to change the world and create something new.
She's also a former Harvard Business School admissions officer and the author of the Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets.
Chioma publishes on the topics of personal branding, leadership development and business school admissions for college students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and executives.