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10 Essential Tips for Succeeding in Business School Admissions

When it comes to applying to business schools, there are many factors to consider before you begin the admissions process. Be aware that business is one of the most popular majors right now. As a result, the competition for business majors is particularly fierce. 

Here are some tips to maximize your chances as an applicant:

Take the necessary background coursework. This means strong rigor in math. Even if your interest in business leans more towards marketing or human resources, most strong business programs are very quantitative in their orientation, so they care deeply about your math skills and abilities. Calculus is a must, ideally taken at the highest possible level; at many high schools this means AP Calculus BC. In addition to taking rigorous math courses, it’s important to do well in them. This might seem obvious, but it’s essential!

Demonstrate interest in business through activities. For some students, this might mean participating in DECA or Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) clubs at your school. For others, it could mean starting your own business. If you are ambitious enough to do this, it’s important to have markers, such as the number of customers, revenue, etc. to demonstrate the success of the company. There are also some great business programs such as the Bank of America Student Leaders program or LaunchX.  Internships can also help you gain valuable business experience. 

Have work experience. Get a job!  Working in any industry, whether it’s fast food, a grocery store, or a retail chain, shows grit and a strong work ethic. This might seem like simple advice, but a great way to begin learning about business is to work in a company!  Another option is to be an entrepreneur and build your own business.  This is not easy and takes a lot of initiative but can be very rewarding and impressive.

Secure strong letters of recommendation. Ideally you want one letter of recommendation to come from a math teacher to demonstrate your quantitative skills for business. It is best that this math teacher be from junior year or perhaps senior year, if you have had the teacher previously, so they have had the chance to get to know you already. Always ask teachers by the end of junior year so you’re one of the first to ask and they are not yet overwhelmed with requests. Make sure to provide your teachers with whatever information they request or need to write the best possible letter on your behalf. Consider a supplemental recommendation, too; if someone from one of your relevant activities, jobs or internships can write a strong letter, this can speak to both your interest and strengths in business.

Include testing if it’s a strength. Strong scores can be another valuable credential when applying as a business major. Colleges need to see that you have mastered certain mathematical skills, and testing can be the best way to show this. Be sure to know what your college’s mid 50% testing range is so you can see how your score compares. The basic rule of thumb is if your scores are above the mid 50%, send them; if they’re below don’t send them. If they’re in the mid 50%, it’s a judgment call, it’s best to discuss this with your counselor. 

Highlight unique extracurriculars. If you have accomplished something impressive outside of school, let schools know. Typically the “Additional Information” section is the best place to do this, as you can include a summary or abstract of your internship, research, or other unique experience here. If you plan to include a link for colleges so they can see your business website, or any other particular work you’ve done online, share this link either through your colleges’ application portals or through a direct email to your colleges’ admissions counselors. We recommend you do it in the aforementioned way because most colleges’ application CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) do not allow admissions counselors to click on links or copy and paste them.

Carefully construct your college list. Be aware: business programs are among the most popular at colleges right now; therefore, most schools have lower admit rates for these programs. This might mean a school is more competitive than you realize based on the overall admit rate and average test scores. 

Make sure you do your research and look deeper.   Here are a few examples of schools where this is the case:

  • Bucknell University: The overall admit rate for Bucknell is around 32%, while the admit rate for the Freeman College of Management was just 25% for the class of 2027. Despite looking to enroll a class of 1,010 students, only 180 of those spots were for the School of Management.
  • University of Michigan: The overall admit rate for the University of Michigan is 18%, but the admit rate for direct admission to Michigan’s Ross School of Business was just 8.8% in 2023. 
  • Indiana University Bloomington: In 2023, students looking to be directly admitted to the Kelley School of Business are required to have a minimum of a 30 on the ACT and at least a 3.8 GPA. 
  • Cornell University: 4.7% admit rate to Dyson (just 239 admitted students), versus 7.8% overall admit rate.

Know how different programs work. Keep in mind that for some schools you apply directly into the business school: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, and McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, among them. For other schools, like Goizueta Business School at Emory University and Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, you apply into the university, and then once a student, you apply into the business school, though some schools like UNC do admit a small percentage of students into business directly: Assured Enrollment into the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

When possible, apply for a second choice school or major.  Many schools, such as Syracuse University, University of Maryland, and University of Miami, allow for you to list a second school. This is worthwhile to pursue as it typically increases your chances. 

Ask for help! The college admissions process is complicated, nuanced, and constantly shifting. Take advantage of our complimentary consultation to discuss your unique goals, challenges, and aspirations with one of our experienced college counselors. Learn more about our program offerings and how we can help guide you through the process.