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How Can I Study Business at the Undergraduate Level in the US?

POSTED ON 04/05/2024 BY The Red Pen

How Can I Study Business at the Undergraduate Level in the US | The Red Pen

Business is one of the most popular majors for undergraduate studies in the US, with approximately 116,100 degrees conferred annually. Completing a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programme presents excellent employment prospects compared to most undergraduate degrees. For instance, 100 percent of international students in the 2023 BBA cohort at Michigan Ross received job offers within three months of graduation, boasting a median base salary of $100,000.

Undergraduate business programmes in the US fall into two categories – direct or deferred application. In the latter category, you are first admitted to the college as a freshman and then later admitted – by application – to the business programme for your final two years. Before you shortlist colleges, it is important to understand the different entry pathways to study business at the undergraduate level. 

5 entry pathways to study business at the undergraduate level in the US:

1) Direct admission:

As the term implies, direct admissions enable you to apply simultaneously to a university and its affiliated business school. Institutions offering this option include the University of Michigan, New York University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Under this system, as a freshman at these universities (and others offering direct admission), you gain admission directly into prestigious business schools such as the Ross School of Business, the Stern School of Business, or The Wharton School respectively. This provides immediate access to the business network, career services, scholarships, and business courses right from your first year.

Admission to business programmes is highly competitive, with acceptance rates typically lower than the university average. For example, in the Class of 2027, New York University’s overall acceptance rate for its New York campus was a record 8 percent. However, the acceptance rate for the Stern School of Business was notably lower, admitting only 3.2 percent of applicants. Failure to secure direct admission may result in admission to another college within the university. Transferring to a business school at a later stage is often exceedingly challenging or even prohibited. Consequently, if you are not admitted to one of these colleges as a freshman business major, consider exploring alternative universities that guarantee your desired course of study.

2) Two-plus-two admission:

Universities such as the University of Virginia and Wake Forest University do not admit freshmen into business schools. For instance, to enter the Goizueta BBA Programme, you must complete the programme’s prerequisites and at least 30 hours of academic credit from Emory University or Oxford College. This application process is as rigorous as the one you undergo as a first-year applicant. If you are unsuccessful, you can continue studying at the College of Arts and Sciences, major in economics and math, and possibly take business courses as electives.

3) Hybrid applications:

In some schools, both the direct and deferred entry options are available. For example, at the Kelley School of Business, students with direct admissions start immediately and bypass the competition. In contrast, deferred admissions students complete a year or two of classes before being admitted into Kelley. If you apply by the early deadline, November 1, you can be admitted directly to the business school. If you apply by the regular deadline of December 31, then you will be admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences and will have to transfer to the business school later. For this, you must maintain a strong GPA and complete at least 30 hours of college coursework, among other requirements.

4) Three-year admissions:

Typically, students apply to the undergraduate business programme after completing two years of coursework at the university. Accepted students begin their business classes at the start of their third year. However, some schools in the US are transitioning to a three-year undergraduate curriculum in which you can apply and start the business programme at the end of your first year instead of waiting. This change aims to better align with industry needs, allow students more time to explore career options, and provide a more comprehensive educational experience. For instance, the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia is transitioning to a three-year undergraduate curriculum. The admission cycle adjustments will affect first-year UVA students beginning in the fall of 2024.

Before applying to any business programme, it’s important to research the specific admission policies. If you’re sure about pursuing a business career, consider direct entry programmes to avoid the risk of not getting in later on. However, suppose you have varied interests and wish to explore them before committing to a business school after two years (and taking the risk that you may not be accepted). In that case, you can consider colleges that offer two-plus-two admissions.

5) Minoring in business:

If you’re interested in studying subjects other than business, consider pursuing a minor in business studies. This programme will equip you with core knowledge and quantitative skills that will be useful in contributing to the business environment in the future. For instance, if you’re majoring in journalism, a minor in business will demonstrate that you understand organisational operations, giving you an edge over other job applicants.

Many colleges offering business majors also provide a minor in business studies. However, it’s notable that not all colleges in the US provide business majors or minors to undergraduates; instead, they reserve business studies for postgraduates. This is the case with prestigious institutions like Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, and the University of California Los Angeles. However, Cornell is among the few universities offering a business minor to undergraduate students. Business is among the most popular undergraduate minors at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business.

If you are unsure about studying business at the undergraduate level, you can always apply for an MBA after some work experience or even consider a deferred MBA programme. For undergraduate applications, you must research colleges to build the ultimate university list, and familiarise yourself with the US undergraduate system and the Common App form. If you require further assistance, get in touch with us. Our undergraduate business experts look forward to helping you.