Back To School Tips For Business-Bound College Students

A new school year is beginning! Whether it’s your first year at college or your last, the choices you make in the first days or weeks can shape the rest of your academic experience.

What mistakes can you avoid? And what are some of the best choices for students aiming at a career in business?


Some of you may feel that the last couple of years of high school were a mad dash to the finish line: admission to college. Adults in your life never seemed to stop asking, “Where are you applying? What’s your major?”

If you applied to an undergraduate program in business, you may have been asked to indicate a specific area of business you found especially appealing. You may have spent days writing about exactly why a certain school was right for you, what tracks you might follow, which classes you would take and whether certain special programs drew you to a given college.

Now that you’re on campus, look around! No one will hold you to exactly what you wrote in your college application essays. Statistics show that up to 75% of undergraduate at U.S. colleges change their major at least once.

Some colleges offer presentations at which professors talk about their classes or give a micro-class in their field. When I attended such an event, I found the demonstration given by the professor of Chinese so fascinating that I signed up for her course in comparative literature. This was a long time before China rose to its current status as an economic superpower. Over the years, what I had learned about the history and customs of China, Japan and Korea served me surprisingly well in developing business in Asia.

Don’t make the mistake of signing up for only the most practical-sounding business classes. Today, all business is global business, so be sure to learn about the world.

Look Ahead

If you are farther along in your studies and have a clear idea of your plans to pursue an MBA or specialized master’s degree in business, take time now to look at the expectations of programs that interest you. This will help you plan ahead, so you can be sure to take classes that will bolster your chances of admission, especially to highly selective programs.

For example, if you plan to study data science or business analytics, choose math courses that will provide you with a solid foundation. Sign up for a data science course now, to test whether this is really the right direction for you.

If you aspire to a career in finance, especially in asset management, consider a course in computer science. If you’re not sure you’re up to a whole semester of competing with computer nerds, you might find shorter, targeted classes on campus or even online. Look for a basic class in the programming language Python or R.

A Special Tip

Many master’s and MBA programs encourage applicants to sit for the Graduate Management Aptitude Test or Graduate Record Exam. While it may not be a requirement for admission, even test optional programs often use a GMAT or GRE score in making scholarship decisions.

A GMAT or GRE score is valid for five years. It’s a good idea to study for and take the test shortly after you complete the highest level mathematics class you will take. That way, the math is fresh in your mind. You’ll be glad your test score is in hand, when you are super busy at work and struggling to complete your applications a few years from now. You’ll also be prepared for last-minute opportunities.

Expand Your Horizons

College campuses host an incredible array of activities. Develop your business and leadership skills by volunteering to organize events, serve in political campaigns or help solve local or even global problems. Prepare for an international career with a semester abroad. Whatever you do, do it with gusto. You’ll gain valuable business experience working in teams—and make friends in the process.

You are more than a collection of skills. Take every opportunity to grow as a person.

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