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Applying to Undergraduate Business Schools

There are two main pathways into an undergraduate business program. The first is to apply directly to the program while you are still in your senior year of high school. The second is to apply once you are enrolled in your university, typically in your freshman or sophomore year.

Among the highly ranked business schools, University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), University of Michigan (Ross), New York University (Stern), Carnegie Mellon (Tepper), and Cornell (Johnson) allow high school students to apply for admission to the business school in their senior year of high school.

MIT (Sloan), Berkeley (Haas), University of Virginia (McIntire), and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) are examples of universities that admit students after 1 or 2 years of study.

If you are currently in high school and you are considering studying business, there are several key criteria that you should focus on.

Completing Quantitative Coursework

It is important to complete the highest level of quantitative coursework that you are comfortable taking. Most business schools will want to see that you have earned strong grades in calculus because mastering calculus in high school is a important indication of your future ability to be successful while studying in the business school.

Developing Leadership Experience

Business school is unique in that a major component of the coursework revolves around classroom discussions and group projects. You need to have strong communication skills to be able to share your opinions among your classmates and to be able to contribute. Leadership and teamwork experience is essential to be successful in this type of collaborative learning environment and the best way to demonstrate aptitude in this realm is by having leadership experience at the time that you are applying to business school.

Leadership experience does not have to be demonstrated in the traditional methods where you serve as a leadership position for a club. In fact, if a leadership role is only a title and does not have substance behind it, the admissions committees will be able to see right through it. Instead, think of leadership as a way to have an impact within your community. You can do this without an official title. Also, the leadership experience that you develop is a way to show where your true interests lie, which is important because business school students tend to be really passionate. For instance, if you are a part of a club, without an official role, but you decide to organize an informational trip to a local business to hear from its leaders and to get career advice, that is an example of leadership. Or if you noticed that the majority of students in a class were really interested in gaining a certain experience and you worked closely with your teacher to develop an experiential learning opportunity to address this, that would be a great leadership example.

It is a misconception that leadership can only be accomplished by running for an official position. If you think about how you can lead from the perspective of showing your passions and how you want to create something positive for your classmates, it becomes a lot easier to find ways to act as a leader.

Demonstrated an Interest in Business

The business world is multi-faceted and having business knowledge is relevant across many different industries. You can enhance your business knowledge through multiple channels. You can take electives in economics, marketing, or finance if your school offers them or for your own interest at a local community college. You can also learn on your own by reading books written by entrepreneurs or successful business people; you can read news publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, or the Economist; or you can listening to business-related podcasts. Being aware of current events and the challenges that business leaders face can be inspiring, especially as you consider the career that you might pursue after college. Additionally, your knowledge of business can come across within your application essays.

Clear Reasons for Wanting to Enter Business School

It is not an easy task to know what you want to study while you are still in high school. Yet by applying to a business school you are demonstrating that you know that you have an interest in business and that you will be able to focus on a particular concentration once you begin your studies such as accounting, finance, marketing, or entrepreneurship. When communicating why you want to enroll in business school, you can speak about how you developed an interest in business, what factors in your background have influenced you, or what you imagine yourself doing with the degree in the future.

Building personal relationships and networking is an increasingly important part of being successful in the business world. Therefore, you should do your research on the school, attend informational events, and interact with the admissions officers if you have the opportunity. These interactions will help to demonstrate your maturity and seriousness for this field of study. You will also be able to gain an understand of how the school is unique and what resources they can offer to students. If you have a clear vision for how you are going to take advantage of the various resources of the school, share that within your essay! That is great to include and shows that you have a path forward for how you will spend your time.

Rona Aydin founded Oriel Admissions after earning her MBA degree from Oxford University’s Said Business School. She is an expert on business school admissions and has successfully collaborated with hundreds of applicants to business schools. Oriel Admissions offers college counseling services and application preparation packages. To schedule a free consultation, please contact Rona at

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