Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year (KEY) Program

The University of Rochester defines entrepreneurship as "transforming an idea into an enterprise that generates value," implying that the enterprise outlives the creator and that it positively affects others. Qualified students may propose to devote as much as an entire academic year to internships, special projects, relevant coursework, business plan development, research into various facets of entrepreneurship, or analysis of how culture and public policy influence entrepreneurial activity. Students may apply from the time that they have been accepted into a major through the first semester of their senior year. Participation is open to all undergraduates in the College and the Eastman School of Music with the following exceptions:

  • Transfer students may not apply during their first semester at the University;
  • Take Five Scholars may not apply for the KEY Program.

Applications are available at each of several information sessions held each semester and on the web at www.rochester.edu/entrepreneurship/programs.html. Applications are due no later than the 1st of November in the fall semester or the first Thursday after Spring Break in the spring term. Students should submit their KEY Program materials to Lattimore 312. Letters of recommendation are due the same day as the application and should be sent directly to Lattimore 312.

A list of courses that has been developed with entrepreneurship in mind can be found at www.rochester.edu/entrepreneurship/courses.html. Students should also consult the faculty with whom they want to study, and/or the appropriate departmental administrators to be sure that the courses they want to take will be offered, and that they are adequately prepared for the courses they intend to take. Each applicant needs to arrange for two full-time faculty members to send letters of recommendation to the KEY Review Board on his or her behalf. One letter focuses on the applicant's academic preparedness, and the other comments on the proposed KEY program.

A special review process exists for all proposed courses taught at the graduate level or outside the Colleges of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Eastman School of Music; such courses are normally not approved. Undergraduate courses taught at the Simon School are acceptable, however.

The Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year Review Board assumes that the following criteria will be met:

  • The intent of the proposed program is to create a new enterprise that generates value or to analytically examine such an enterprise, the value it created, and the processes involved.
  • The additional courses, internships or other University activities will normally be spread throughout the student’s remaining terms at the University, not taken in a single semester or after the completion of degree requirements.  Typically, this will delay the completion of degree requirements.
  • The proposed KEY courses and University activities will relate to one another; most if not all of them will be above the introductory level.
  • The proposed program will not be used to obtain an additional major or degree.
  • Study Abroad programs must be completed by the end of the fourth year.
  • The proposed courses cannot be used to complete Rochester Curriculum requirements, major requirements, or to obtain a graduate or additional undergraduate degree.
  • Credit earned during the tuition-free semester(s) cannot be applied toward the 128-credit hour degree requirement.

Applications will be judged on:

  • The coherence of the applicant's program of study. How do the proposed courses fit together? How do they demonstrate progress toward the achievement of the student’s proposed enterprise? What value can be expected to be gained by the success of the venture? Is the enterprise undertaken or studied in keeping with the University's definition of entrepreneurship?
  • The added value of creating or studying the enterprise at the University of Rochester.
  • The quality of the writing.

Fifth-year students are unlikely to be eligible for undergraduate housing, although they may serve as Residential Advisers. The Off-Campus Living Program will guide students in the process of obtaining off-campus housing, if necessary. Students are responsible for all costs, other than tuition, associated with their fifth year of study (this includes any start-up costs). Students should contact the Financial Aid Office as soon as possible to determine what sort of aid, if any, they are eligible for in their fifth year.

Students should also be aware of the following:

  • Degrees are awarded and diplomas issued after the completion of the KEY semester or year, and only after all KEY courses are completed.
  • Grades for courses taken in the fifth year will be included in the GPA, and the final (end of the fifth year) GPA will be used to calculate Latin Honors.
  • KEY courses cannot be audited or used to repeat previous coursework. However, one course per semester may be taken on the S/F option.

Additional details about Commencement, yearbooks, etc. are available in the KEY Program Acceptance Manual distributed to each student after being accepted into the KEY Program.

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