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10 Things to Know If You Want to Major in Business

Does the major or program you apply to matter in college admissions? It sure does. And one of the most popular majors right now is business.

When a student tells me they are interested in applying to undergraduate business programs, I challenge their interests, ask questions about why they want to do it (beyond the fact that a parent works in business), and what specific area they want to pursue (beyond just saying "Finance" or another vast field of business). I do this because I know that they not only have to articulate these answers in their applications, but the bar is extremely high for these applicants given how selective undergraduate business programs have become. 

I don't always get a lot of variety in their answers. It is almost like these students are on auto-pilot. They believe majoring in business is the right step for their future. But it can be the rate-limiting step if they don't follow my advice:

1. All business applicants need to be taking the most challenging math classes through senior year.

AP Calculus BC is almost the expectation at most universities with a highly selective business program. 

2. Students need to be getting their highest grades in math through senior year.

Getting A's in the most advanced math curriculum is the goal!

3. Business elective classes are a good way to determine if you are interested in majoring in business, but elective classes should never replace a core academic subject like English, math, history, science, or foreign language.

RELATED READING: Why You Should Follow My 5-4 Plan for Course Selection

4. If you plan to report your SAT or ACT scores, make sure the math section is your best score.

Admissions officers will look at your combined SAT score and your composite ACT, but doing extremely well in the math sections of these tests is crucial.  

5. Taking AP Economics (Microeconomics and Macroeconomics) is a nice class to fulfill your history course for senior year, but it's not absolutely essential.

The highest math class is always more important than this particular class.

6. AP Statistics can be a great class to take, but it should never take the place of AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC.

7. Ask teachers in one of the five core academic subjects for letters of recommendation.

You don't need to have a letter from a math teacher, per se. 

8. Pursue at least one or two activities or work experiences that back up your interest in business—the more distinctive it is, the better.

Doing the Investment Club or another business club at your school or having an internship are very common ways to show evidence of an interest in business. I prefer that students do a lot more soul-searching to discover a more specific field within business and explore that area in unexpected ways. Read my book, Soundbite, or join Application Nation if you want some ideas!

Learn more about Application Nation, my private Facebook group for parents of college-bound students!

9. Write supplemental essays about your business interest that no other student could write.

Again, read my book or join Application Nation if you want to write essays that avoid trends and popular topics.

10. This is the most important step—adjust your college list significantly to incorporate colleges that have higher acceptance rates if you plan to apply to business programs.

I cannot tell you how many business applicants tell me that they have a well-balanced college list and then I am dismayed when I see it. Applying to Wharton (Penn), Stern (NYU), Ross (University of Michigan), McCombs (UT Austin), Carroll (Boston College), or another highly selective business program is fine to do for a highly competitive applicant. But students need to understand that these programs have extremely low acceptance rates and getting admitted, even for an absolutely remarkable applicant, will be difficult. Adding universities with higher acceptance rates is necessary. 
Does this mean that a student should list a different major or program on their applications besides business? The answer is "no" if they have followed all of my advice. Students who apply to a different major or program to avoid the selective process of a business program are often denied because the admissions officers see through their strategy. Stay true to your interests, yet be realistic about your college list if applying to a business program is really that important to you. 
If not, there are plenty of majors and programs waiting to be explored and embraced. You don't need a business degree to be successful in 2022 and beyond. You need passion, dogged pursuit even when others don't believe in you, and groundbreaking ideas and implementation of something that changes lives. Heck, if a liberal arts graduate like me can run a business, anyone can.