Competitions have become a core feature of many top business school programs—one in which students are eager to participate.
Initiatives like Harvard Business School's New Venture Competition and Wharton's Startup Challenge are landmark annual events. These competitions catalyze entrepreneurial innovation and help students consider the wider social implications of business projects.
Business school competitions also expose students to diverse industrial problems and encourage them to formulate disruptive solutions, not to mention facilitating cross-disciplinary collaboration with researchers from different fields.
On a more practical note, the cash prizes—as much as $40,000—have the potential to make a significant dent in an MBA student’s tuition fees.
Here are 11 US and Canada-based competitions incoming business school students should investigate:
1. Human Capital Case Competition at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management (Nashville, TN) Total Prize Money: $14,000 First Prize: $10,000
Owen's Human Capital Case Competition was developed specifically for students interested in pursuing innovative human capital strategies and solutions.
The goal of the competition is for teams from top business schools to come together and address issues related to organizational behavior and company culture. Applications are accepted in August for the late October event.
2. International MBA Case Competition at Aspen Institute Business and Society (New York, NY) Total Prize Money: $31,000 First Prize: $15,000
As one of the most venerable competitions on the list, Aspen's International MBA Case Competition welcomes MBA students from 25 schools to compete over the course of three rounds.
The competition was created as an incentive to encourage business leaders to innovate at the intersection of corporate profitability and positive social, environmental, and ethical impact. The Aspen Institute covers travel expenses for students to fly to New York for the final round at the end of April, where groups compete for five award placements of up to $15,000.
3. Biopharma MBA Case Competition at Rutgers Business School (New Brunswick, NJ) Total Prize Money: $11,000 First Prize: $6,000
Rutgers' Biopharma MBA Case Competition is open to all MBA students and takes place annually in November. Teams compete to solve real world pharmaceutical industry challenges and campaign in front of top executives.
One of the most coveted aspects of this competition is the likelihood that participants will make key connections with biopharma executives, as resumes along with competitor photos are distributed to sponsoring companies. There are four awards—the winner takes home a $6,000 cash prize.
4. Renewable Energy Case Competition at University of Michigan Ross School of Business (Ann Arbor, MI) Total Prize Money: $7,000 First Prize: $4,000
Regarded as one of the premier energy case competitions in the US, Michigan Ross' Renewable Energy Case Competition is certainly a boon for those students looking to pursue careers in CleanTech and beyond. Top MBA programs compete at the end of November and beginning of December for a $4,000 prize.
5. Hult Prize Regional Competition at Hult International Business School (New York, NY) Total Prize Money: N/A First Prize: $1,000,000
The Hult Prize honors innovative social impact strategies. If students are selected for the mid-March competition, they are automatically eligible for the Hult Prize Accelerator Program. This program provides access to mentors, investors, and corporate partners assisting entrepreneurs in creating a big pitch for the United Nations HQ with the potential of a $1 million prize.
6. New Venture Competition at Harvard Business School (Boston, MA) Total Prize Money: $75,000 First Prize: $50,000
Harvard’s annual New Venture Competition welcomes all Harvard Business School's students and alumni with an entrepreneurial spirit.
During the competition in March 2018, 71 student-led groups all vying for $50,000 to advance their startups, pitched ideas to judges with venture capital, private equity, law, accounting, philanthropy, impact investing, and social entrepreneurship backgrounds.
After three rounds of deliberation, judges offered a grand prize and runner-up prizes to selected groups. The majority of winners in 2018 were alumni of the school.
7. Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management (Evanston, IL) Total Prize Money: N/A First Prize: $5,000
The Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition isn’t your run-of-the mill case competition; it may be one of the most radical competitions on the list, positioned at the crest of the biotech wave.
Last year’s case, “How do you turn a biologic drug into a big growth opportunity?” was held at the end of January. First place in the competition will earn students up to $5,000.
8. Startup Challenge at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School (Philadelphia, PA) Total Prize Money: $135,000 First Prize: $45,000
Much like Harvard’s New Venture Competition, the annual Startup Challenge is another incredible opportunity tailored specifically to student entrepreneurs.
Wharton students compete for up to $135,000 in cash prizes to accelerate their startups. Teams that emphasize tech and biotech concerns have performed well in the past. Student businesses should plan to submit their applications in January for the late April Startup Challenge.
9. Case Competition at American University Kogod School of Business (Washington D.C.) Total Prize Money: $1,575—$2,625 First Prize: $600—$1,000
Kogod’s Case Competition is open to all American University students as well as select Kogod-partner schools. Its focus changes annually to reflect diverse challenges that business leaders face today.
Students must first apply, and then address a particular case assigned by the judges. The competition serves as an opportunity to connect with Kogod alumni, as many of the judges are former MBA students. Participants enrol in February and compete during two rounds, from November to February.
10. Invitational Case Competition at University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business (Pittsburgh, PA) Total Prize Money: $18,000 First Prize: $10,000
Katz's Invitational Case Competition appeals to outside-the-box thinkers with a keen interest in corporate social responsibility.
The Katz Invitational Competition challenges MBA students from around the world to evaluate a tough business situation from multiple perspectives in a short period of time. Teams then present recommendations to senior executives. The Invitational occurs annually in February. First prize is $10,000.
11. McGill International Portfolio Challenge at the Desautels Faculty of Management (Montreal, QC) Total Prize Money: $38,000 First Prize: $19,000
The McGill International Portfolio Challenge pioneers the niche of competitions targeting innovative portfolio design and asset management. Unique in its mandate to shift the status quo of traditional academic competitions to the buy side, MIPC aims to bridge the gap between students with a demonstrated interest in asset management and industry leaders.
The top-25 teams are extended invitations for the final round to be held in Montreal in November. The top-three teams battle it out for $38,000 with the most compelling solution taking away $19,000 from the competition.