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How Aspiring Entrepreneurs Balance School And Work Experience

How should an aspiring entrepreneur balance school and work experience?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.



1. Determine What You Really Want

“Before considering balancing these activities, decide if you just want work experience or if you’d like to turn your idea into a real business that capitalizes on an immediate market opportunity. If it’s the latter, put your academic study on hold. It’s almost impossible to dabble in entrepreneurship. You need to commit some very long hours to maximize the probability of your business taking off.”


Ben Rubenstein, Yodle


2. Find Work-Related Academic Opportunities

“I recently graduated with a MBA and MPA from MIT and Harvard. Instead of spending my hours cramming for statistics exams or writing policy proposals, every semester, I took on an independent study with a different professors where I focused on a work project related to my startup. Learning by doing is the way to go and it’s the best way to make sure of your academic experience.”


Erica Dhawan,


3. It’s All a Big Feedback Loop

“My first business took off while I was earning my MBA. A big reason for the success is that I viewed my academic studies and startup as one big feedback loop. My studies sharpened my mental tools and taught me new ways of doing things. My work experience gave me great examples to talk about in class and an extra incentive to do well on my projects because they directly affected my company.”


Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers



4. Leverage Your Student Status

“Student can design class projects or independent studies with professors around starting a company or researching an industry that they are interested in. Young professionals can propose a project focused on identifying opportunities for innovation with their own industry.”


Karen Moon, StyleMusée


5. Manage Your Entire Schedule

“There will always be things pulling for your attention (school, travel, family, side business) so learn now how to effectively manage your time so you put priorities first. It’ll probably mean your academic experience is not typical, but entrepreneurs have to get comfortable being and behaving differently! Put your studies and work experience first and schedule time so other things don’t creep in.”


Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems


6. Invest Your Time in Internships

“I highly recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs intern for credit. A hands-on internship allows students to integrate what they learn in the classroom with real-life scenarios in the workplace. Interning broadens students’ academic study by giving them a firsthand account of how to pursue your entrepreneurial ambitions after graduation.” 


Caroline Ghosn, The Levo League


7. Get Involved at a Startup

“I feel like joining a small startup in the summer as an intern and getting good exposure to a variety of functions (marketing, sales, web development, customer service) is likely the best way to develop new skills and gain a greater appreciation of how to build a business. Don’t let your academics slide because you think you’re developing the next Instagram.” 


Patrick Curtis,


8. Schedule School Days and Work Days

“Stack your schedule so that you have all your classes only a couple days every week, and the other days are your “office” days, when you work on your startup all day. Do your homework at night and over the weekend so that your office days can really be devoted to your startup. We launched Her Campus in September of my senior year at Harvard, so I made sure to engineer my schedule accordingly.”  


Stephanie Kaplan, Her Campus Media


9. Kill Two Birds With One Stone

“Kill two birds with one stone by finding programs that allow you to get you real-world work experience while you’re enrolled in classes. The University of Missouri has the Entrepreneurship Alliance, which allows students to take classes while gaining real-world insight.”


John Hall, Digital Talent Agents



10. Build Balance Skills Now

“Students who are really determined to be entrepreneurs should have no problem working double time on their business and their studies. A successful entrepreneurial career requires one to be both a lifelong student and a professional who is committed to doing whatever it takes to make a business happen. After all, balance isnt’ always part of a business owners equation so why not get a head start?”


Christopher Kelly, NYC Conference Centers




11. Try the Evening Class Schedule

“I started my business while in grad school, and one key to success is trying to structure your classes to be late afternoon and evening whenever possible. This gives you the daily business hours to help you grow your entrepreneurial venture. It also means very late nights studying; however, your youth is your advantage. Go for it!”


Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group




12. Don’t Do It!

“Academic credentials are great if you’re looking to get a job or if you need credibility to build a personal brand, but as an entrepreneur, you don’t need the credentials as much as you need real, applicable knowledge. Prioritize learning the knowledge applicable to your business first, and get your degree in your free time. Most of your education happens organically as you build your business.”


Travis Steffen, WorkoutBOX


Photo Credits

The Young Entrepreneur Council

Author : Young Entrepreneur Council

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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