If entrepreneurship runs in your blood, you may not want to wait until you’ve graduated from college to start a business. And why would you? Some of the most recognizable companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Dropbox, were founded by college students.
But running a small business in college requires not only masterful time management but also creative budgeting strategies. Here are some tips that can make it easier to afford your business aspirations while paying for an education.
Use campus resources
Your tuition and fees don’t just cover the cost of attending classes; they also help pay for services and resources that you can use to run your venture. Free access to Wi-Fi and library materials and cheap or free copy and printing services can help you save on some of the costs you might otherwise have to pay on your own.
What’s more, your university’s business school may have counselors and professors who are more than willing to help you fine-tune your business plan and give you some advice on how to improve your product or service.
Apply for Small Business Grants
Explore small business grants for businesses at every stage and quickly find the best grants for your business.
Take advantage of offers for free money
As a student, you may have access to special entrepreneurship programs, grants, and competitions that you might not qualify for after you graduate.
For example, the Hult Prize provides up to $1 million in seed money to student entrepreneurs who win its flagship competition. There may also be some local organizations that provide grant money to students who are looking to start a business while still in school.
Check with your college’s business school to find out more about opportunities in your area and how you can qualify.
Keep your priorities in check
A healthy social life is an important element of the college experience. But if you’re going out for food and drinks every weekend, those tabs can add up. When you have the opportunity to spend money on other things, think about how it might affect your ability to run your business.
That doesn’t mean you need to say “no” every time your friends want to go out. But you might need to take some time to decide how much of a balance you want between the two.
Be careful about student loans
It can be tempting to use student loan money to fund your business, especially if you qualify for subsidized federal loans and the government is paying your interest while you’re in school.
But when you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, you sign a statement agreeing to use federal student loans and grant money only for educational purposes.
If you use the loan funds for anything else, you could run into some problems with the U.S. Department of Education. And while private student lenders aren’t run by the government, they typically have the same restrictions for how you can use the money you borrow.
Sign up for business courses
Whether or not you plan to study business management, it may be a good idea to apply for some business courses. Since you’re paying the same amount every semester anyway, taking classes that can help you learn the skills you need to run a business well can pay off in the long run.
Get an internship
Depending on the type of business you’re running, it could help to apply for an internship in the same field or industry. An internship can give you hands-on experience, as well as help you understand how companies in the industry operate.
In the long run, these benefits can help you build your business more quickly and help you avoid mistakes that others have made before you. You may even get paid for the internship, which you can use to run your business.
The bottom line
Running a small business in college can be difficult, but it’s definitely possible. As you consider what you might need to balance, make sure to have a plan for how you’re going to afford your business along with all of your other expenses.
As you follow these tips, you’ll have an easier time getting the funding you need without having to seek out investors or borrow money unnecessarily. And while it’s no guarantee that your business will succeed, it sure can help.
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This article was originally written on April 9, 2019 and updated on January 29, 2021.
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