Starting your own enterprise is straight-out frightening. There’s so much to take into account, so many pitfalls to avoid – it’s impossible to navigate it all without some help.

Fortunately, there are plenty of competitions and programs open to entrepreneurial students. They allow you to test your ideas in a safe setting and get feedback from seasoned entrepreneurs. And they often include mentorship sessions, educational materials and workshops, and funding opportunities. What’s not to like?

Here are just three examples of such programs. So, if you’re dead set on starting your own venture, free some time up (there’s no shame in hiring custom writings services for that). You’ll need it – and it’ll pay off tenfold.

1. WSU Business Plan Competition
  • Organized by: Washington State University
  • Cost: free

It’s for you if:

  • You’re enrolled in WSU (for the Collegiate League);
  • You’re enrolled in any of the 13 other regional universities (for the Open League);
  • You already have a team and the business idea, but you struggle with planning its execution.

How you’ll benefit from it:

  • Resource Nights: workshops that will guide you through writing a well-crafted business plan;
  • Mentorship: experienced entrepreneurs will be there for you;
  • 5 merit prizes: four of them are $2,500, and the other one amounts to $5,000;
  • Collegiate League prizes: from $2,000 to $15,000;
  • Open League prize: $5,000.

Let’s kick this list off with a good-old business plan competition. What’s great about this one is, you don’t have to be a WSU student to participate. If you’re enrolled at any other regional university on the partner list, you can submit your idea, too!

All teams have to go through two rounds to take their chances at winning the grand prize: screening and live presentations.

The screening round is exactly what it sounds like. All applications with executive summaries submitted online first go through a selection process. The judges will choose the 24 best and brightest teams from WSU and five from other institutions for the second round.

Live presentations are where all the real action takes place. Before the round, you’ll have to prepare (or improve) and submit your business plan, as well as financial statements and pitch deck.

The whole competition, from the initial application submission to the final round, will take around two months.

2. Ascender One-Year Incubator Program
  • Organized by: Ascender
  • Cost: free

It’s for you if:

  • You’re based in Pittsburg;
  • You’ve already started your venture (no restrictions on the industry);
  • You’ve already raised between $0 and $200,000;
  • You’re ready to dedicate one year to full participation in the program.

How you’ll benefit from it

  • You’ll be eligible for financial support of up to $5,000;
  • You’ll be accepted into the network of Ascender Incubation alumni;
  • You’ll gain unlimited access to all educational materials made by Ascender;
  • You’ll be mentored one-on-one by the Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

Already have a venture but struggle with moving it forward? Then this program is for you!

The program itself consists of two main components: Pre-Incubation Bootcamp and Incubation itself. The Bootcamp lasts approximately two weeks, while the Incubation part takes up the rest of that one-year period.

The selection process is broken down into two parts, too. First, you need to apply via the F6S platform. Then, if you’re selected, you’ll be invited to the Bootcamp. Depending on how your pitch goes during its final day, you may be selected for the Incubation itself.

3. Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge
  • Organized by: the University of San Diego and University of St. Thomas
  • Cost: free

It’s for you if:

  • You’d like to start an enterprise that would contribute to reaching one of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals;
  • You’re enrolled in one of the competition’s associated higher education institutions across 20+ countries;
  • You want to participate on your own or in a team of up to 5 people.

How you’ll benefit from it:

  • Up to $50,000 in funding to implement your idea if you win;
  • Access to an exclusive selection of Acumen’s online courses for future social entrepreneurs.

In case you’d like to combine the desire to become an entrepreneur with changing the world for the better, this is the competition for you. It spans 20+ countries and is dedicated to pitching solutions to global sustainability issues.

The competition itself consists of 4 rounds over the course of 4 to 5 months. To participate, first, you’ll need to submit a description and your analysis of the issue you’d like to solve. Then, you’ll have to come up with a proposal for the venture and how it would solve the said issue.

During the third round, your alma mater will choose two finalist teams to send to the final stage – the Global Finals.

Bonus: Startup Grind Network

Cost: free

Why join:

  • Plenty of networking and educational events and workshops for students;
  • A vast community of potential and current entrepreneurs;
  • A number of internship, career, and investment opportunities available.

This isn’t so much a single program worth mentioning here. Startup Grind is an international organization that spans 600+ cities in more than 125 countries. It’s a truly global community that brings together thousands of startup team members, entrepreneurial students, investors, and partners.

This organization holds virtual and in-person events, both student-only ones and not. Those are great for networking and sharing know-how among the community members. Plus, you’ll gain access to plenty of educational materials if you join!

In Conclusion

The best way to find a program to jumpstart your enterprise is by starting your search at your alma mater. Virtually every college and university has its own mentorship, incubator or accelerator programs, competitions, centers, and coworking spaces.

So, scroll through your alma mater’s website – or reach out to the faculty staff and ask them directly.

You’re also very likely to find student organizations dedicated to entrepreneurship at your college or university. Joining them is great for networking and exchanging ideas and experiences with others.