Purpose – This study aims to explore the level of entrepreneurial intentions (EIs) among students in three private universities in Bahrain. The examined factors that are expected to shape EI are personal attraction toward becoming an entrepreneur, perceived behavioral control and subjective norms and social valuation of entrepreneurship. Design/methodology/approach – A close-ended questionnaire was used to collect data of the study. The total number of questionnaires distributed was 1,530 questionnaires, while the total number of the valid questionnaires retrieved was 550, which makes the total response rate to be 36 per cent. Findings – Regression analysis results indicated that students’ personal attraction toward entrepreneurship and perceived behavioral control had a significant strong positive relationship with their EI. In addition, there was a significant moderate positive relationship between students’ perceived subjective norms and social valuation of entrepreneurship with their EI. Originality/value – The findings showed that entrepreneurial education is needed to improve students’ skills and knowledge and enhance their EI and perceived behavioral control. In addition, it is important to expose students to entrepreneurial role models and their businesses and to promote entrepreneurial careers as desirable and feasible options that may bring more advantages than working in the government or private sector. © Emerald Publishing Limited.