Graduation season is in full swing. Throughout the U.S., college students are donning caps and gowns, accepting diplomas, and preparing to take the next steps in their professional lives.
For some graduates, that means starting or seeking jobs at established companies. But for the majority of grads from the Class of 2022, being their own boss is more alluring.
That’s according to a new survey from Intelligent.com. From May 17-22, 2022, we surveyed 1,000 current college students ages 18-24 regarding their post-college plans, including whether they’re currently running their own business, or have aspirations of starting their own business after college.
- 17% of 2022 grads currently operate their own businesses, 16% say they ‘definitely’ plan on starting a business post-graduation, and 27% are ‘considering’ it.
- 28% of graduates who are definitely starting businesses plan to launch immediately after graduation.
- 2 in 5 grads who are definitely or considering starting their own business say it’s because they want “to do work I’m passionate about.”
- Community and social services, business and finance, and design and visual arts top the list of industries in which 2022 grads want to start businesses.
60% of 2022 grads want to be their own bosses
Employers who are seeking a fresh crop of employees from this year’s graduating class may not have as wide a pool as they think.
Seventeen percent of this year’s graduating students say, post-graduation, they intend to continue running the business they started during or prior to college. Sixteen percent say they’re ‘definitely’ going to start their own business after graduation, while 27% are ‘considering’ starting their own business.
The same number, 27%, say they have no intentions of starting their own business, while the remaining 12% haven’t considered their post-college plans yet.
Among those students who are already running businesses, 47% started their operations while in college, 32% have been operating their businesses since high school, and 21% launched during a gap year or years between high school and college.
Healthcare, business and finance, computer and IT, and writing and communications top the list of industries in which enterprising students launched their own companies.
Entrepreneurial spirit lowest among class of 2023
Students’ interest in running their own businesses fluctuates across expected graduation years.
Among next year’s graduating class, only 10% say they’re currently running a business, while 14% ‘definitely’ intend to start a business, and 24% are ‘considering’ starting a business after graduation, for a net total of 48% interested in entrepreneurship.
The net total of students who are currently running businesses, or definitely or potentially starting businesses post-graduation is 53% for the class of 2024, 50% for the class of 2025, 61% for students graduating in 2026 or later, and 54% for students who don’t plan on completing their degrees.
Among students who are expected to graduate in 2023 or later, and are already running their own businesses, 43% say that if they’re business becomes profitable enough that they can earn a living from it, it’s ‘very likely’ they will quit school before completing their degree. Thirty-three percent say it’s ‘somewhat likely’ they would drop out, while 24% indicate it’s ‘not at all likely’ they would quit without completing their degree.
43% of grads want to run their own businesses so they can follow their passions
When asked to identify the reasons why they want to run their own businesses, the class of 2022 showed a combination of idealism and shrewdness.
Forty-three percent of grads who currently run a business or are definitely or considering starting a business say it’s because they want to do work they’re passionate about. Thirty-one percent say it’s because they want to make the world a better place.
This reasoning tracks for small business and startup marketing expert Dennis Consorte, based on the way the world has changed within the last few years.
“This year’s grads are witnessing inflation, food shortages, and a world that has been completely transformed,” Consorte says. “People are seeking purpose in life, and these graduates want to spend their time working on things they’re passionate about, rather than full-time jobs that aren’t fulfilling.”
The other top reasons leaned more towards pragmatic concerns. Forty percent of grads in this group believe running their own business will give them higher earning potential. Thirty-one percent of respondents look forward to setting their own pay, policies, and schedules, indicating that they want to run their own company because they want to be their own boss.
“The gig economy is booming, decentralization is entering every aspect of our lives, and in our mobile-first society, young people are wired for life on the go,” Consorte says. “Business ownership will enable this generation of workers to maintain flexibility while exploring their passions in ways they couldn’t previously.”
Social services, design, and business top industries targeted by student entrepreneurs
The industries that 2022 grads anticipate entering are varied. Community and social services top the list, with 12% of prospective entrepreneurs indicating their businesses would be related to this field.
Ten percent are planning to or considering ventures in business and finance, including cryptocurrency, while another 10% want to launch businesses within the design and visual arts field.
Despite their deep connections with technology and social media, only a small fraction of 2022 grads are plotting business ventures in IT (6%), app/website development and design (4%), and social media influencing and live-streaming (4%).
Consorte again points to recent events as an explanation for why aspiring entrepreneurs want to create businesses in these fields.
“Seen through the lens of a post-COVID lockdown world, it’s obvious that the past two years had a tremendous impact on their choices,” he says. “Community and social services make sense as they are directly related to people’s mental and physical health, which we know were immensely impacted by the pandemic and other recent events.”
Another 10% are still undecided about the exact nature of their business venture.
28% of entrepreneurial grads ready to start businesses immediately after commencement
Half of the 2022 grads who are ‘definitely’ going to start their own businesses are ready to hit the ground running – 22% anticipate launching their company prior to graduating, while 28% plan to start their business ‘immediately’ after graduating.
The rest of the class are on somewhat different timelines. Seventeen percent plan on starting their businesses within 1-3 years post-graduation, while another 17% say they’ll need more than three years to start their business. Sixteen percent aren’t sure when they’ll start their business.
Consorte has some advice for graduates ready to take the plunge into the world of business ownership.
“Set goals for what you want to happen over the next one, five, and ten years, and consider what small actions you can take today that will get you closer to achieving those future goals,” he says. “Review your short- and long-term goals on a weekly and monthly basis. That way, you can adjust your behaviors and goals based on real world outcomes. You’ll set yourself up for success in the long term by setting achievable goals in the short term.
Regardless of their timeline, the vast majority of the prospective entrepreneurs in the class of 2022, 94%, have already taken at least one step to make their business dreams a reality.
Many took advantage of resources available at their schools. Forty-one percent completed entrepreneurship or business classes offered by their college. Twenty-two percent consulted with instructors about running businesses, and 18% sought guidance from other campus departments, such as career services.
Thirty-one percent of graduates planning or considering a business launch have already created their business plan; the same percentage are currently building inventory. One in 4 have secured investors, while 1 in 5 found business partners.
All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,000 current American college students ages 18-24 were surveyed. To qualify for the survey, respondents had to be currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. Appropriate respondents were found via a screening question and Pollfish’s filter tools. This survey was conducted from May 17-22, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. Any questions can be directed to [email protected].