Something incredible is happening in education: academic programs are beginning to mirror the entrepreneurial know-how necessary to compete in the modern business world. If you're a student wondering about the applicability of Calculus II or the purpose of 18th Century English Literature, the following alternative learning curriculums might be just what you need to build your skill set and develop a business.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, alternative education systems are a way to increase attendance for the "at-risk" of dropping out student while creating more specialized and intimate classrooms for students seeking an education beyond a typical curriculum.
Here are five non-traditional education systems that can help young students recognize their entrepreneurial abilities and forge new frontiers.
CAPS is a great example of a program that emphasizes hybridity between scholastic theory and practical application. Through its verticals, CAPS connects traditional classroom knowledge with real-world skills by offering its students an opportunity to explore everything from healthcare to law.
Unlike traditional schooling, students become real-world savvy as they apply their learned skills to fields of interest. Since its inception in 2009, CAPS has helped students create over 11 student-run companies, including my first venture!
Choosing between college education and real world experience is a false preference binary now that universities are adopting the co-op model whereby students can alternate between academic semesters and work experience.
Many students appreciate diversifying their time in school with internships because it rounds out their academic experience and is a bonus on resumes.
Northeastern University, for example, uses the co-op model to highlight the importance of academic as well as experiential learning. Helping students identify and explore their academic interests in real world pursuits translates into Northeastern's 90 percent post-graduate employment rate!
The Thiel Fellowship is another unique opportunity for students hoping to escape the boundaries of a traditional curriculum and build a company that matters now.
Peter Thiel, co-founder of companies like PayPal, Founders Fund, Palantir, and president of Clarium Capital, and early investor in Facebook, gives $100,000 to 20 students to "stop" school and build companies of the future for a commitment of two years.
One success story is Laura Deming, a partner of the Longevity Fund, which finds and funds companies that aim to extend the period of healthy human life and ameliorate age-related decline in physical function.
If you have a big idea like Laura, look into becoming a Thiel Fellow!
UnCollege founder Dale Stephens believes that taking a gap year accelerates learning and ignites entrepreneurialism in students.
Uncollege's approach to education is a four-phase program: Voyage, Launch, Internship, Project. During this time, students go abroad to discover new languages and cultures, return and live and work with mentors in San Francisco to develop the 21st century skills required to build a project, and spend the rest of the year at an internship and working on project.
The benefit of this program is that it gives students the ability to discover new horizons while exploring their interests and themselves.
Minerva is a new university aiming to prepare students for global leadership and innovation abroad. Minerva is a four-year non-traditional institution that prides itself on being a combination of interdisciplinary courses, experiential learning opportunities, seminar experiences, traveling, and high level career support.
Although there is a hefty fee of almost $30,000 per year, Minerva is an example of a school preparing students for 21st century jobs with a well-rounded and diverse university experience.
Education doesn't have to be tedious, boring, and repetitive, but it should be a self-discovery process that encompasses not only your intellectual growth, but also your professional and personal development.
Programs like the ones listed above may be the key to creating high impact jobs and revitalizing our economy, so if you're a doer, consider an atypical academic path and spread the word so these types of programs become more mainstream and expanded into more classrooms!