Applying for an MBA During Undergrad: Schools Step Up
Deciding to attend business school isn’t a spur of the moment decision. For most applicants, it’s a choice made after months, if not years, of research and consideration following their undergrad degree. And, according to the 2016 MBA.com Prospective Students Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), these considerations can begin quite early for some prospective MBA students.
The survey found that on average, millennials apply to graduate management programs within 14 months of considering such degrees – a significantly shorter timeline than members of Generation X (21 months). Further, the 2016 Application Trends Survey Report found that 46 percent of full-time MBA programs target undergrad students in their outreach efforts. With more applicants applying to business school relatively early in their careers, a number of leading business schools are offering pre-business programs for college students considering an MBA.
Pre-MBA Business Programs
The Tech Summer Institute at the Anderson School of Management is a six-week program for UCLA undergraduate students who are interested in business careers. With a combined focus on the tech industry and management, the program aims to help students more clearly envision what their future careers could look like.
Students in the program have the opportunity to learn from instructors with backgrounds as directors, consultants and CEOs, strengthen their teamwork and presentation skills through group programs and company visits, and learn from HBS case studies detailing solutions to real-word business problems. Participants are also able to learn about the graduate experience from a panel of Anderson MBA students.
During the program, students live on campus in summer housing. Students have a choice between two tracks:
- Track 1—Communication and Persuasion for Future Leaders in Technology: for students most interested in developing their communication skills across oral and written platforms.
- Track 2—Data Management and Analytics, Big and Small Data: for students interested in learning how to interpret and analyze data to make sound business decisions.
“Overall, I really enjoyed this program and found it extremely rewarding,” said Grace Nguyen, a Psychology major. “Not only was I introduced to a variety of business concepts, but I was able to fully understand how business and technology interact. This program has provided me with tools, which I will carry with me into my career.”
UCLA Anderson isn’t the only school with a business prep program for undergraduate students. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business offers a similar opportunity with their Stanford MBA Future Leaders Program. This three-day program aims to introduce college students from a diverse set of backgrounds and schools to the benefits of an MBA education and post-MBA career opportunities. Students in the program live on campus, participate in a case study, visit top companies in the Bay Area, and attend an MBA Bootcamp. The reasoning behind the program is simple: exposure.
“I certainly believe that many people only aspire to what they have been exposed to,” Simone Hill, a Stanford MBA admissions officer and the program’s staff director told Clear Admit. “It is hard for someone to be a computer software engineer if they don’t know what a computer software engineer is. We believe the exact same thing in terms of people thinking about an MBA and, specifically, a Stanford MBA.”
Finally, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has a unique Business Bridge Program. While more than half of 2016 participants were rising juniors and seniors, this program is also open to recent graduates and other professionals.
The program is offered three times a year — twice over the summer and once during the winter — and is three to four weeks long, depending on the session. It’s meant to give students with humanities, STEM, and social science backgrounds an opportunity to gain a competitive edge by learning fundamental business skills.
Tuck Bridge participants live on campus for an immersive experience similar to the Tuck MBA. After the Bridge Program, attendees go onto careers in business, and some return to Tuck to earn their MBAs.
“Bridge helped me realize that an MBA program would be an important part of my career development, and that Tuck was where I wanted to make that happen,” said Daniel Torres, Bridge ’07 & Tuck ’11, Senior Financial Analyst at Wizards of the Coast. “Everything that impressed me about the school during Bridge has held true in the full-time MBA program.”
Deferred Admissions Programs
Deferred admissions programs are another option for undergraduate students thinking about applying for an MBA. These programs offer a safety net of sorts by allowing undergraduates to apply for an MBA program while still in college, but then to defer their actual enrollment until they’ve completed a year or two of work.
Two such programs are Harvard Business School’s 2+2 Program and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Future Year Admissions Program.
The Harvard 2+2 Program is a deferred admissions process for current undergraduate students or students enrolled in a full-time masters program. Upon graduation, students admitted into the 2+2 Program spend a minimum of two years working in a professional position, and then begin the two-year HBS MBA program after they’ve gained the required real-world experience.
“Having the flexibility to try out a career path, knowing you have already been admitted to business school, is a fortunate place to be,” Stephanie Kaplan, a 2+2 participant told U.S. News. “It gives you the freedom to take risks, without much risk at all, since the worst thing that happens is that your current venture flops and then you enroll in Harvard Business School.”
The Future Year Admissions Program at the Darden School is similar to 2+2 at HBS. Students are accepted into the Darden MBA program either during the final year of their undergrad or Master’s. Then, they go on to complete two, three, or four years of professional work experience before enrolling. It’s a more flexibly timed program where students only have to plan to embark on their MBA in “a future year.”
Many Paths to an MBA
Each of these programs aims to support students in acquiring the skills and information they need to make the most of the MBA experience. Between summer primer courses for undergraduates and deferred admissions programs, business schools are responding to college student interest in graduate management education.
If you’re a college student or recent grad thinking about an MBA, check out our blog post for some advice: “Admissions Tip: Applying to Business School as a Younger Applicant.”