For prospective business majors, getting into the college of one’s choice is often just the first step of an uphill battle. At many schools these days, students need to apply to gain admission into the business school or major by their sophomore or junior year, and these days making the cut is harder than ever. Interest in undergraduate business programs remains strong amongst undergraduates, and crowded business schools now demand that students meet increasingly strict grade point averages to be admitted as a major.
Wary of losing the best business students in this competitive environment, a growing number of business schools have developed “direct admit” or “assured admit” programs that essentially guarantee that students will have a space in the business college from the very first day they step on campus. The programs allow admissions officers at the schools to better market their business programs to prospective high school seniors, give parents reassurance that their child won’t get locked out of their major of choice and allow students to get early access to resources on campus usually reserved for upperclassmen.
Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business could easily be the poster child for this type of program. The school began its “Fisher Direct” program back in 2011, handpicking 250 of the most promising business students that applied to the university. This fall, the program has nearly tripled in size, with the school admitting 725 students.
‘PARENTS AND STUDENTS WANT THE SECURITY COMING’
The school is taking the program a step further for next year, creating the “Fisher Direct Promise,” which lets students know upfront based on their academic credentials (such as SAT or ACT scores and high school class rank) if they will make the cut.
“It is designed to help us recruit the best and the brightest freshman to come, “ said Patricia West, Fisher’s associate dean of undergraduate programs. “They want the security coming in, so it makes a difference for us in being able to admit the best students.”
Getting into the program pays dividends for students. Fishers’ direct admits can take required business classes earlier, are invited to a special guest speaker series, and get access to career workshops. In addition, staff from the school’s Leadership Engagement Office work closely with the students, encouraging them to get involved in student business clubs on campus and connecting them with upperclassmen mentors, West said.
IMPRESSIVE OUTCOMES FOR OHIO STATE’S UNDERGRADUATE BUSINESS PROGRAM
The program has yielded some impressive results for Fisher. The retention rates (the measure of whether students choose to remain in the Fisher College between their junior and senior years) is 85 percent for Direct Admit students, versus 65 percent for students who declare themselves “pre-business” but have not been formally accepted into the school yet. “That’s an almost twenty percent difference” West said. “That is huge.”
Another school that has successfully tested the waters in this area is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, one of just a handful of institutions in the nation’s top 30 undergraduate business schools with a two-year business program. Most students at the UNC apply for a coveted spot in the business school sometime after their freshman year, and the majority of students begin coursework their junior year of college.
A few years back the school created a pipeline that allows freshmen to enter the business school from the get-go, a program the school has dubbed the “Assured Admission Program.” Admissions is assured, so long as students complete certain prerequisites and maintain their GPAs.