It seems more and more these days students are learning more about the world of business, and it makes sense. The news is filled with myth-like stories of multi-billion-dollar companies getting started in garages, college dropouts becoming the richest in the world, and media frenzy covering the rich and ultra-rich. Of course, the field of business is about more than just the bottom line (though that’s a major focus). Ever since the Great Recession of 2008, families and school districts have reconsidered their general perspective on the return on investment for education. They ask themselves, how can we make sure students are prepared for not only a stable career but the ability to manage it once they obtain one. Some states, including Virginia, now mandate personal finance for all students before graduating. I’ve noticed a clear uptick in the number of parents suggesting business for their sons and daughter to explore more seriously (perhaps, in their words, instead of that degree in philosophy or poetry). That’s not to imply students don’t feel inspired to look more deeply into business topics on their own. I’ve worked with many students who hope to study finance, marketing, management, and accounting, without any external pressure to do so.

For some, obtaining an undergraduate degree in business makes sense. It’s important to note, however, that the vast majority of individuals who call themselves businessmen and women did not formally study business as an undergrad. More commonly, they studied something entirely different, worked after graduating college, and fell into a business as their careers unfolded, sometimes returning to school to earn an MBA, and more often not. Business schools offer a deep but limited look into specific fields. So, it’s important that students who aim to attend one have experience outside the scope of normal math and econ classes to determine whether pursuing business so relatively soon in their education is the right path. That’s where business clubs come in.

Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), DECA, investment clubs, and more offer students a way to get a taste of typical business concepts. FBLA helps students understand the world of business and prepares them for a transition to real work or studying business in college. DECA creates opportunities for competition among business-savvy teens in topics such as personal finance literacy, hospitality and tourism, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and management and administration. Investment clubs let students play with fake (sometimes real) money to see whether they can get a knack for predicting market trends and stock values. Personally, some of the most valuable experiences in my life were the ones that taught me what I didn’t like, even if I felt pretty sure I would. Participating in business-related options as a high-schooler can very well provide the same insight to you as you ponder whether that finance degree is really the way you want to go to make those millions (or billions, let’s not short-change you).