Five Strategies for Building A Competitive High School Transcript for the Business Major with CIT Consultant Kim Koffi

Written by CIT Consultant Kim Koffi

“Hodge Hall” Undergraduate Center at the Kelley School of Business By Indiana University press CC BY-SA 4.0

Business majors at schools like the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota are all competitive business schools. Not only is the Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) a primary part of the application, but admissions representatives are also evaluating the transcripts in terms of course selection. Working with your high school counselor to work out a plan is essential to understanding what is possible at your school. 

Here are my top 5 strategies when selecting courses in high school to strengthen your college application for business majors. 


Strategy #1: Take 4 years of math graduating with a minimum of Precalculus or higher

Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication

Many high schools only require 3 years of math to graduate, but if you want to pursue a business degree, you should take 4. Analyzing data, understanding trends, forecasting outcomes, and other math applications are business concepts that students will face in college. Admissions officers at many selective colleges are looking for the completion of higher level math courses on prospective students’ transcripts like AP Calculus AB/BC or IB Math Applications & Interpretations HL, and in some cases, AP Stats may be acceptable. 

Math courses build on each other. You cannot take Algebra II if you haven’t taken Algebra I. Geometry is also a required math class. So what do you do if you start high school with Algebra I or even Pre-Algebra? Are there ways to make up ground in high school that will allow you to strengthen this part of your transcript? Some students will opt to take both Geometry and Algebra II in the same year and others will take a summer high school math course giving them the building blocks to take higher level math courses in their junior and senior year. Talk with your high school counselor early in your high school experiences to make a plan for math all four years. 

Strategy #2: Take AP English Lang and Speech courses

Business schools are looking for prospective applicants who have strong communications skills and a speech course is a great way to gain confidence in public speaking in a professional setting. Courses like these will demonstrate that you are ready to engage with industry leaders early in your college academic experiences, work with teams to solve business problems, and present solutions with confidence. When deciding between AP Language and AP Literature, I recommend taking AP Language. AP Literature is more for students interested in humanities majors. 

Strategy #3: Select 4 Years of the Same World Language

Having more than the minimum could benefit you in a global business landscape. Some students begin their second language in middle school and those credits may show up on your high school transcript. If they do, make sure you understand how colleges view these credits. For instance at the University of Iowa, even if the high school transcript counts the middle school world language classes in 7 & 8 grades to fulfill 2 required credits for high school graduation, the University of Iowa only gives half credit for middle school credits. But San Diego State University gives full credit for middle school world language credits. 

Strategy #4: Select a Variety of Business Electives

Business, Marketing, Analytics, Global Business, Accounting, Finance, Microsoft Office, Excel, Notions, or Computer Science and Machine Learning are topics for many high school courses students have taken that prepare them for a competitive business program. These types of electives give students the language of business and basic concepts that will help them be successful in college. Additionally, it helps students to solidify their desire to pursue business as a major. 

Strategy #5: Consider Registering for a Specific Business Professional Pathway Program at Your High School 

Not all high schools have programs like the one I am proposing here, but this is becoming more and more popular. People may be more familiar with opportunities like Project Lead the Way which focuses on STEM. Some high schools have special programs in business that include a combination of courses and experiential learning working with industry leaders, business mentors, or business coaches that help build a business portfolio that can be used in the college applications, too. A great example of this is Minnetonka High School’s Business Strands in their Vantage Program. Building an experiential portfolio by engaging in business pathway programs may strengthen your high school transcript for the business major. 

Not all colleges have direct admission to business schools. For instance at the University of California, Riverside, first time freshmen interested in Business should indicate pre-business on their application. Still others offer a combination of pre-business, exploratory business, or both pre- and direct entry business entry paths like at the University of Arizona, the University of Iowa, Texas Christian University, and the University of Miami. That means you may have opportunities in college to take classes to fill in potential gaps in math for instance, or strengthen your overall college GPA to be a competitive applicant for a business school when you apply sometime after your freshman year. Even if that is the case, selecting courses now to give yourself the advantage and to be best prepared to succeed in a college business major starts in high school.