“Business is the new undecided”, my coworker said, as we all nodded in agreement. So many of our students say they want or need a degree in business. In fact, business is considered the most popular major in the United States. When I ask them what area of business is most interesting and why they want this degree, I’m sometimes met with a blank look. When I see that look, I know we need to dig into some great resources and find some time to reflect. My hope is that some researching, and soul searching will help the student present a more compelling application.
In this new Collegewise blog series about business, we will address some of the big questions, including:
What is business? How do you know if you’re interested in business?
Do you need to major in business? What are the alternatives?
How do you research schools if you want a business career?
How can you make yourself an attractive candidate for admissions?
What additional resources are available for a student interested in business?
By way of some introduction, our counselors often participate in some of the following conversations.
The first is that in this post-2008 recession and COVID-19 world where technology is changing our world at a supersonic speed, business is often referred to as a sure way to have a job. Many think having this degree means a good job where they can maintain the lifestyle they want. It’s not the degree that necessarily opens doors, though. It’s the skills, knowledge, and connections that students gain as they complete their college education. There are never any guarantees in life, as we well know, and having a business degree is not a guarantee for any job or career.
Another popular theme we see is that parents sometimes pick majors for their children. On the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with a parent imparting well-intentioned life advice from their own experiences. The trouble comes when the student isn’t self-motivated to learn more or has little idea of what they are undertaking. It’s incredibly important for students to understand their many options and pick the one that matches their own values, strengths, and interests. If they don’t, it’s hard to stay focused, to be motivated, and succeed. Life is better and easier when our internal voices tell us to act rather than the external voices.
I know that students are often undecided when they tell me they either want business or a prestigious university. They will forgo business if they get into a top school. If they don’t get into a name-brand school, they will settle for business at a “good” school. The goal here is to have a certain kind of success and prestige, but this often shows a lack of clarity and self-awareness about skills and interests. In my experience, this often leads to a degree of uncertainty about the student’s goals.
We often do see students who have some experience with business. Entrepreneurship is probably the fastest growing side of the business programs out there as we see start-ups flourish and fail. Our counselors often see students who have sold stuff online, created non-profits, or marketed their own skills to create money. We love hearing about these experiences, but we still want to make sure our students understand the many areas, skills, and ways to study business. When students apply for business programs, they often must choose between finance, accounting, human resources, and many other options. Which one is best for that student? Have they researched the many areas within business? Also, what does a consultant or investment banker, (two of the more highly recruited positions on some college campuses) actually do? It’s best when our students do their homework to better understand the possibilities.
More than anything else, I sometimes hear students say “business” because it sounds like the “right” answer. When young people are asked those frightful questions like “what will you study?”, or “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, most people respond favorably to a concrete answer that they understand. If the student says business, the adult often reacts positively and moves on. When a student says a less popular major or admits to being undecided, discomfort and well-intentioned advice sometimes ensue. The stress rises for many teens who are already lacking confidence because they haven’t figured it out, and incorrectly assume everyone else has a good answer. As a professional, I always want my students to answer truthfully, thoughtfully, and with confidence.
We know not all students fall into these lines of thinking. Many are knowledgeable about the paths to the business world and have the self-awareness to make great decisions. The purpose of this blog series is to educate families further so we can escape some of the issues mentioned.
Our staff is always excited to talk with students about their options and support them to reach their success. We hope you will continue to read as we navigate this broad concept of business as it relates to the college admissions process and your family. Finally, we hope our students will explore their options and then be intentional about what they want to study so they can be successful.
About Us: With more than 23 of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications, or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools includes counseling, test prep, academic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to 4x higher than average admissions rates.