For high school students, especially those worried about student debt or economic uncertainty post-pandemic, an undergraduate business major is especially appealing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029 (faster than the average for all occupations) adding about 476,200 new jobs. Given this exceptional job growth in business-related fields, college is a great time to build financial literacy and a concrete skillset that will allow you to pursue a career in profitable sectors like accounting, market research, economics, and management.
UNDERGRADUATE BUSINESS MAJOR. NOT ALWAYS AN OPTION
It is important to note that Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, Stanford, and many other top schools do NOT offer undergraduate business degrees. Prospective students should ask themselves if business is something they want to pursue in college or if they would prefer attending a graduate business program once they have established a liberal arts foundation. For students who know they want to attend a school with course offerings on topics like accounting, finance, health care policy, legal studies, marketing, and real estate, there are many competitive options from which to choose. After graduation, undergraduate business majors often go on to graduate school in law, business, or public policy or move to financial hubs like New York, Boston, and San Francisco to work at investment banks, consulting firms, or Fortune 500 companies. Entry-level job titles for business majors might include “financial analyst,” “office manager,” or “accountant.”
A SAMPLING OF STRONG UNDERGRADUATE BUSINESS PROGRAMS
Using data compiled from sources such as U.S. News and World Report, Rugg’s Recommendations, Poets&Quants, and Niche, we have gathered information about 10 of the strongest business programs, in no particular order, for undergraduates in the United States:
Wharton’s undergraduate program emphasizes a liberal arts curriculum, with over 30 percent of the degree requirements taken outside of business. Students may also apply to specialized programs with three other undergraduate schools: The School of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Nursing. These coordinated dual-degree options allow students to earn two degrees within four to five years, specializing in topics such as international studies and health care management. Although all students graduate from Wharton with a bachelor of science in economics, they are required to choose a concentration sophomore year in a more specialized area of business such as accounting, global analysis, legal studies and business ethics, management real estate, or statistics. Unlike many business programs, all Wharton undergraduate lectures are taught by professors, not graduate students. First year students begin their time at Wharton with introductory courses in economics, critical writing, and calculus, as well as Wharton 101. From there, students may select courses from over 4,000 electives and take classes at Penn’s 11 other schools along with MBA-level courses at Wharton.
Fun Fact: Wharton emphasizes international experiences with over 20 programs with top business schools around the world. For shorter international programs, students can participate in a 10-day Wharton International Program to visit businesses and attend lectures in different countries. Students may also attend a Global Modular Courses, an intensive workshop that lasts 3-7 days on a specific topic. Recent examples include “Lessons from Israeli Innovation,” “Healthcare and Business on Ethiopia,” and “Global Supply Chain in China.”
Course 15, the MIT Sloan undergraduate program, provides a management education that emphasizes quantitative training. Students can select a major or minor in management, business analytics, or finance and are encouraged to pursue research with MIT faculty during the summer or as a semester-long project. Students who want to learn more about entrepreneurship and innovation can work with MIT start-ups or create their own company, taking advantage of the many funding opportunities on campus. Follow MIT Sloan Undergrad Program on Instagram for a more informal glimpse into campus life and opportunities: @mitsloanundergrad.
Fun Fact: One unique opportunity at MIT is the iDiplomats internship, which allows students to study entrepreneurship internationally.
Babson College is the No. 1 undergraduate school for entrepreneurship, according to U.S. News & World Report. Students at Babson have many opportunities to cultivate entrepreneurial leadership through coursework, internships, and research experience. A hallmark of the Babson curriculum includes “Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME),” a yearlong course where teams are formed to create, develop, launch, and manage a real venture with up to $9000 of startup money loaned by the college. Babson is a great choice for students who are looking for this type of real-world experience and want to take skill-based, practical courses like “Platforms, Clouds and Networks,” and “Crowdfunding.”
Fun Fact: Babson is recognized globally for its Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® (ET&A™) methodology, which teaches students how to “balance action, experimentation, and creativity with a deep understanding of business fundamentals and rigorous analysis.” Some of the ET&A™ course offerings include “Failure is good; ACT, LEARN, BUILT, REPEAT,” and “Silicon Valley Tech Ventures.”
The undergraduate business program at Carnegie Mellon offers programs in business and economics as well as an inter-college major in Computational Finance, which combines math, statistics, and business. Students have opportunities to engage in coursework that emphasizes technology, engineering, AI, robotics, and business analytics in smaller classes where they can receive personalized guidance and support. Through their chosen concentration, students study specific skills in greater depth such as marketing management, entrepreneurship, or business analytics and technologies. Students in the Economics program may also choose to pursue one of the three joint majors offered: a BS in Economics and Politics, a BS in Economics and Mathematical Sciences, or a BS in Economics and Statistics. Take a look at The Tepper Show, a new video series, to learn more about the undergraduate experience.
Fun Fact: Each year, roughly 10 to 15 percent of business students study business management abroad through Carnegie Mellon international programs.
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Cornell and UPenn are the only Ivy League schools to offer undergraduate business programs. Cornell applicants have the choice of two undergraduate business programs, both housed within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the School of Hotel Administration (SHA). Dyson School undergraduates major in applied economics and management, with a focus on business. Students may choose to pursue a double-major with life sciences, environmental sciences, agricultural sciences, or applied social sciences. There are 1,500 undergrads enrolled in these two programs and over 20 student organizations housed within the SC Johnson College of Business. For AEM majors, there are 11 concentration options, including “environmental, energy and resource economics,” and “food industry management” along with more conventional concentrations like marketing and finance. The School of Hotel Administration is a good choice for students who want to begin a career in the hospitality industry and learn how to apply business analytics to property management and real estate.
Fun Fact: 95% of business undergrads complete internships before they graduate and 36% travel internationally for study abroad programs or service learning.
Georgetown’s undergraduate business program requires students to complete 120 semester hours of courses in the liberal arts business core, a chosen major(s), and electives. The seven majors offered are: accounting, finance, international political economy and business, international business regional studies, management, marketing, and operations and analytics. There are many opportunities to compete in international case competitions, engage in undergraduate research, and take part in consulting projects for clients alongside faculty. As of Spring 2020, the McDonough School of Business and the Walsh School of Foreign Service now offer an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science in Business and Global Affairs (BSBGA). This degree is perfect for students who want to study the intersection of business, geopolitics, and global policy. As part of Georgetown’s unique Undergraduate Global Business Experience, students work in teams underfaculty supervision to complete a consulting project for an organization abroad. Some of the opportunities include a case study in Tel Aviv focused on innovation and technology and a case study on the global wine industry in Mendoza, Argentina.
Fun Fact: This spring, Georgetown McDonough introduced the Sustainable Business Fellows program for undergraduate students who are interested in sustainability-related issues in the business world.
Prospective NYU students can apply directly to three different undergraduate business programs: the BS in Business, the BS in Business and Political Economy, or the BS in Business, Technology and Entrepreneurship. The most popular undergraduate business program, the BS in Business, offers 13 business concentrations and eight interdisciplinary tracks. The BS in Business and Political Economy focuses on the relationship between business, political economy, and international business. For students who know they want to study abroad, this is a great opportunity to combine coursework with international programming. In fact, almost 50% of NYU Stern students study abroad for at least one semester and take advantage of NYU’s 13 global locations. Finally, the BS in Business, Technology and Entrepreneurship includes a STEM-focused curriculum and emphasizes the intersection between business and technology.
Fun Fact: One of NYU’s unique dual-degree programs is theBS in Business/BFA in Film and Television. This 5-year program allows students to earn degrees from NYU Stern and NYU Tisch and prepare for a career in the entertainment industry.
The University of Michigan’s undergraduate business program prioritizes hands-on, student-run business experience through the Ross Experiences in Action-Based Learning (REAL). Through the REAL Invest opportunity, students manage investment funds focusing on social ventures or early-stage companies. Students can also pursue their more specialized interests both through course electives and clubs like Michigan FinTech and the Finance Club. The undergraduate program offers a BA in Business Administration, a Business minor, an Entrepreneurship minor, and a Real Estate Development minor. There are also 14 Ross centers and institutes to provide interdisciplinary enrichment like the Sanger Leadership Center, which facilitates experiences like the Leadership Crisis Challenge and the Business+Impact Challenge. Students who are interested in international business can take advantage of global fellowship opportunities in China, Israel, and other locations around the world.
Fun Fact: 81 percent of Ross BBAs accepted jobs on the east coast, west coast, or Chicago.
The Texas Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program has been rising in the annual rankings based on peer school assessment. All Texas BBAs take foundational courses in business, but develop a specialty in one of ten majors to gain specialized skills: Accounting, Marketing, Management, Finance, Management Information Systems, Business Analytics, Quantitative Analysis, Entrepreneurship, Production/Operations, Real Estate, Insurance, and Supply Chain/Logistics. Within each major, there are opportunities to focus on a particular track to complement individual goals and gain professional experience. Students who major in Finance may select one of six specialized tracks: Corporate Finance and Investment Banking, Energy Finance, Financial Markets/Banking; Investment Management, Quantitative, or Real Estate. High school seniors who are interested in the BBA program can also choose to apply to the Canfield Business Honors Program (Canfield BHP), a competitive, merit-based four-year major and honors community. When students complete the program, which follows a case-based MBA curriculum, they will earn a BBA in Business Honors. Other on-campus resources at McCombs include the Social Innovation Initiative (SII), which focuses on “corporate sustainability, social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and ESG investing.”
Fun Fact: At the end of sophomore year, McCombs students can apply to the Integrated Masters in Professional Accounting (iMPA), a five-year program that allows students to graduate with a Bachelor in Business Administration and a Master in Professional Accounting. The Texas MPA program has been ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report and the Public Accounting Report.
At Wake Forest, undergraduates can pursue a BS degree through the University School of Business in Accountancy, Business & Enterprise Management, Finance, or Mathematical Business (offered in conjunction with the Department of Mathematics). Junior year, students can apply to the Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) degree, building on foundational concepts and practices or accountancy and business. Minors offered within the Wake Forest College of Arts and Sciences complement the School of Business program, especially the Business and Enterprise Management degree. Some of the most popular interdisciplinary minors include Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise, Global Trade and Commerce, and International Studies.
Fun Fact: After graduation, 26% of graduating students go into finance, 14% are hired in consulting roles, 9% take jobs in marketing/sales, 4% pursue analytics, and 25% go on to graduate school.
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ADDITIONAL ADVICE FROM MIMI
For more information and advice on this topic, see Mimi’s article in Entrepreneur, “10 Tips to Get into Undergraduate Business Programs” and take action now to create a strategic and compelling application. To be in range at competitive undergraduate business schools, you need to demonstrate advanced quantitative skills through high-level math courses, strong AP test scores, clear entrepreneurial achievements, and an academic niche in a particular area of business. Contact us today and learn how we can help you on your admissions journey through private counseling, test prep, or essay guidance.