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What are the best undergraduate business programs?

I know of NYU’s Stern and UPenn’s Wharton but how many more are there? I’m planning on getting an undergraduate degree in business because that’s what I’m genuinely interested in and the activities that I’m pursuing line up with that but I don’t know whether I should pursue something else for my undergrad and then get an MBA? #business #mba

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Kathleen’s Answer

The best way to get info on the top business programs is to look at the lists compiled by one of the main business publications:  US News and World Reports, Fortune, Business Week.  All 3 of these magazines do a top business school article.  They all rank schools based on multiple criteria.

The 'best' really depends on your intended major and what options are important to you.  In addition to Stern and Wharton, there is always Harvard (HBS), Stanford and Univ. of Chicago (Booth).  If you are interested in working for Google,  Facebook or Apple, then Stanford is right there where you live and the big social media companies recruit heavily from there.  If you want to work on Wall Street, then Stern or Harvard or Wharton would be your top choice.  If you want to work internationally, then London School of Business.....

Keep in mind, some of the top business schools want you to have a couple years work experience before you apply to grad school.  That will help you to be more marketable when you are looking for your internships or permanent jobs.  So do you research on the best program before you decide.

Lastly, the cost of school may determine where you apply.  Grad School tuition is between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.  So you may need to look for schools with scholarships, or schools that pay your tuition if you are low income.  I think Harvard has a low-income program, but if you (and your parents) are middle income, you may end up having to borrow all the money for school.

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Victoria’s Answer

Hi Tinni,

I am so excited that you are interested in business. A business degree (undergrad and MBA can be combined in so many fabulous careers because the language of business is spoken by all industries, the arts, sports, international organizations, NGOs, government, and start ups. You can own your own company or work for one that already exists.

Have you considered a double major? If you major in business you may be able to complete your MBA more quickly because you will already have the required courses.

Business can be combined with many majors, including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)

So the right school for you is that one that helps you start to create a network in the area where you hope to work OR opens up opportunities related to your interests.

I think it is very important to visit schools and talk to alumni in your area if you can’t get to the school in person.  Go to their websites, follow their social media, see what their professors are doing, and see what their grads are doing. There will be more than one school that is right for you. Think of your choice as a total packet: where will you thrive, what do they have to offer, and  where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years.

I started taking business classes because I was working at a major NGO-nonprofit and needed business, finance, and database skills. I was offered a scholarship by the Dean to finish my MBA.  I was then able to work in both sectors on some very cool international and national projects. I studied both public sector and private sector finance initially. I went back later for information systems since there is a huge shortage of people in this area. The great thing is that you can go back for additional training later if you need to. Degrees are much more flexible with many online options now.

Victoria recommends the following next steps:

Here are some things that are important to remember. Be sure to go to an accredited business school. Visit in person if you can or meet with the local alumni to see if you are a good match. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
Always ask if a school will waive the application fee. Understand tuition, expenses, and create a budget to compare schools and financial aid.
Consider junior college if money is a factor or combined 2 year and 4 year degrees. Junior colleges have super faculty with expertise in your area of study.
Consider applying for scholarships and tell everyone you know about your plan to pursue a business degree.
If your school participates in the Common Application (a multi-school application process for applications and scholarships), be sure to work with your school counselor or the junior college counselor to take advantage of great online tools. Check out this article for more ideas for scholarships and applications: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/us/teenager-college-acceptance-scholarships.html Many employers will also sponsor your education if it is related to what the company does. This can help you defray expensive tuition. Good luck and congratulations on a fabulous career selection. Business will take you places!!!

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Nika’s Answer

There are several different undergraduate business programs worth exploring. For example, Cornell AEM (Applied Economics and Management) has a wonderful program that's in the top 10 best business schools in the United States. Cornell is a large school in a very small, rural town in upstate New York. Conversely, MIT also has a very strong business program, but it's a much smaller school located in a relatively large city, (compared to Ithaca at least). That being said, it's crucial you visit each school and choose the school where you fit in best (i.e. do you prioritize larger schools or a big city?).

As for best undergraduate business programs - Wharton (UPenn), MIT, Cornell, UMich, UVa, UChicago, etc.