Direct vs. Pre-Business Admissions and List Building with CIT Consultant Susan Whalen

Students who are building a list around the ever-popular business major have a variety of controlling factors to consider while researching specific programs. Among the most important of these factors is the element of Direct Admission. Some colleges of business allow students to apply for the business major immediately – Direct Admission – while others do not. To complicate matters, some colleges in the first category – those that permit Direct Admission – will offer Direct Admission to some students, while offering a “Pre-Business” admission to others.  Finally, some colleges do not offer direct admission to any student; students may apply after fulfilling one or a number of prerequisites.

The Pre-Business admission can mean a rocky road ahead for applicants who want a Business degree. There is no guarantee that a student will be admitted eventually to the Business major, a decision which is based on first year college performance. Too, the requirements to move into the major can seem non-committal, confused, or even deliberately opaque to applicants – “if I meet these requirements, will I be admitted to the College of Business?” is not a question that always yields a clear response.  Some colleges will disclose the percentage of students offered second year admission to the Business program, while others will not. 

Too, the rock some students must climb for even the possibility of moving in the Business major can seem insurmountable.  In addition to a prerequisite course or courses and GPA requirement, students might be required to fulfill a number of service hours, join a number of student organizations, fulfill an internship requirement, join and contribute leadership to a student business club, secure one or a number of letters of recommendation, and compose essays for consideration by the admissions committee.  

For students already in the throes of adjusting to a first year of college – and who just went through the whole admissions process during the senior year of high school – this indeed can seem like a lot to do and manage, and perhaps without the guarantee of the outcome they so desire.

What’s a student to do, then, while building that college list (and later, when considering the offers on the table)?

1.Understand clearly the type of admission a particular college or university is offering. Students might find it handy to create a chart that differentiates colleges that offer direct admission only, from colleges that might offer a pre-business admission.  Make note of other elements of possible relevance.  

For example, the Kelley School at Indiana University, a top notch program by any measure, spells out clearly the criteria for automatic direct admission.  Miami of Ohio sets forth a GPA requirement for first year students who are not directly admitted, and warns that it is an “extremely rare” occurrence for students to successfully petition to the Business School if they do not meet first year GPA requirements in another major.

2.Take a hard look at your academic profile, along with elements in support of a business major, and make sure your list aims at the sort of experience, major, and degree you desire. If you are certain that you want to graduate with a business degree, for example, make sure that you include a reasonable number of colleges with direct admission criteria that you will meet right out of the gate. For most business programs, this means of course that you must also be admitted to the college or university first. For this major, taking a hard look at the “likely” colleges on your list is especially important. 

Colleges that offer neither direct admission, nor an easy route to the business major beyond the first year (e.g. Brandeis, William and Mary, Penn State, University of Georgia, University of Richmond) should be balanced out then with likelier options .  There are many wonderful business schools in American colleges, and plenty that will offer strong courses of study and perhaps even merit aid to students with B and C high school GPAs.  A realistic appraisal of where you stand in the mix, combined with an understanding of the types of admission business schools offer, will set you on the right path to a strong college list.