Fundamentally, college research is all about finding out whether a school's offerings are a good match for your priorities. Step one - regardless of the type of program you're interested in - is understanding your priorities in some detail. As a prospective business student, there are some specific things to look for as you begin researching business programs.
Business Program Research: Things to Consider
If you were to start your research process by googling schools with business majors (or better yet, using a site like College Navigator), you'll turn up lots of places that offer business studies for undergraduates. You may even find ones with offerings specific to your area of interest (finance, marketing, etc.). But they're all going to differ greatly in the details, so pay attention to the following:
1. How deep are their academic offerings related to your area of interest?
Students are sometimes surprised to learn that there's no standard set of majors offered across undergraduate business schools, and the same goes for minors. And some business programs may offer additional academic programs beyond majors and minors - things like certificates, tracks, or other pathways intended to provide specialized career or skill-specific training.
To find out if and how a school's academic offerings support your needs, scroll through the "academics" section of their website. See whether they offer a relevant major and minor, and if not, if they offer sufficient individual coursework to make their program interesting to you.
Pro tip: because universities often house both undergraduate and graduate business programs, a major search can turn up results for both. If you're not sure whether you're looking at their undergraduate offerings in the results, check whether the degree conferred starts with "B" for a bachelor's undergraduate degree rather than an "M" for Masters's post-college degree.
2. When do students start studying business, and is their spot guaranteed?
Make sure you understand the school's structure of study. Some programs admit students as incoming freshmen, while others have students fulfill prerequisites for the first two years, then apply for admission into the business program) which may not be guaranteed). If your heart is set on studying business, you may want to focus on schools with direct entry business programs, i.e., where you'd like to be accepted into the college and the major at the same time. If you're okay with the idea of applying to a business-specific program after you've already enrolled in a school, but only if the odds are in your favor (and yes, I'm seeing Effie Trinket as I type that), see what you can dig up about their acceptance rates - some schools, like the University of Virginia - are pretty transparent about sharing this information.
3. What are their core business requirements, and how customizable is the program of study?
Business programs typically require students to take a set of core required courses - aside from any university-wide required courses - to provide a grounding of what they consider baseline business fundamentals. Looking at the required courses will give you a sense of their philosophy and approach (what functional areas does it cover - and leave out?) Is it quant-focused? How much room does it leave for electives and/or courses outside the business school?). Use this to gauge how it aligns with what you're looking for in your education.
If you're studying business as a path to launching a specific career, it's important to understand the career development opportunities each school provides. Most colleges offer basic services like interview preparation and resume workshops, but you can go deeper into the "career" section of the undergraduate business school's website to see if and how they can support your goals. Some categories to look for:
- Specialized, career-specific training/support, like Indiana Kelley's career-specific workshops
- Rutger's Road to Wall Street mentorship program
- Easy ways to connect with alumni, like Cornell Dyson's sophomore/alumni networking dinner
- Michigan Ross's alumni in residence program
- Robust internship or co-op programs
Things to note: who are recruiting on campus: local companies, national companies, or a mix? Are companies in your industry of choice recruiting from this school? Are companies setting aside specific opportunities for undergraduates at that school (as opposed to posting the same opportunities across all colleges)?
In addition to understanding the types of support, you'd get finding a job as a current student, pay attention to what happens to students after graduation. Searching for "outcomes" on the undergraduate business school website should turn up statistics about post-graduate employment rates, top destinations (companies and industries) for recent graduates, average salary information, and the like. As a general rule, the easier it is to find this information, the prouder the school is of their outcomes (though don't be discouraged if you can't find these results right away, it could just be bad web design).
A big part of the college experience comes from things you'll do outside of the classroom. As you research business schools, you'll want to understand the types of extracurricular activities you may want to get involved with - including ones specifically related to your business interest. Searching school clubs and organizations will turn up things like the:
- Bentley Investment Group, which manages a portion of Bentley's endowment
- Wharton Social Impact Consulting Group, which provides free consulting services to mission-driven organizations
- Fordham Marketing Association, which provides learning opportunities for students interested in the field.
Finding solid answers to these questions and determining the right business program for you can be daunting. However, for students who aren't sure what program is right, taking extra time to review all the options can be rewarding.
One last thing to remember before you kickstart your business research is that college will be your home for 4 years, make sure you find a place that will set you up for success during your time there and long after you leave!
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