10 Undergraduate Business Schools To Watch in 2017

The UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

U.C.-Berkeley (Haas): Berkeley takes a rap for being the home of dreamers and militants alike. Here, competition is supposedly a four-letter word. It is a place, in the public mind at least, pocked with safe spaces, where experimentation is a rite of passage and finding your voice is the goal. In a world where convention is under constant cross examination, you’d think business would be anathema to the mission. In reality, it is a vibrant part of the campus community.

Welcome to the Haas School of Business. A small and selective program with a liberal arts bent, Haas made headlines in 2016 for announcing the launch of its Berkeley Management, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MET) program. Dubbed the “academic equivalent of the Navy SEALs,” the program enables undergrads to earn two bachelor’s degrees, one in engineering and the other in business administration. The upshot? It provides the background that is representative of the most respected tech leaders. “80% of the most effective C-suite leaders in tech fit a common pattern,” explains Michael Grimes, managing director of global technology investment banking at Morgan Stanley. “They tend to have an undergraduate degree in computer science followed by an MBA later on. That way they have the management skill set combined with a deep understanding to be taken seriously by the engineers.”

The program, which launches in fall 2017, also dovetails with the school’s goal of exposing students to a multidisciplinary way of seeing the bigger picture and creating a better world. “Education has become this commodity,” says Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate business program at Haas. “People look at it as a means to an end, a way to get a job. Bringing these two disciplines together allows students to think bigger about their possibilities and how they can leverage both of these to do something big. We want real-world impact. Some of these students will want to do a startup. Others may want to go into a large organization. What we are trying to do is produce leaders who can hit the ground running at any level of an organization.”

Haas has a tradition for doing just that. That should come as no surprise, of course. The school picks from the crème-de-la-crème of undergraduate scholars. Some 98% of its students graduate within the top 10% of their high school classes, a quarter of whom are National Merit Scholars. This, coupled with the limited seating in the programs, creates fierce competition for a spot. Just 8.2% of applicants are accepted into the program. Even more, the SAT scores have climbed 69 points in just four years, with the average being 1,500 (translated to the new scoring scale). After graduation, the numbers get even better, with Haas undergrad business majors earning $81,251 to start, second only to Wharton. Long term is Berkeley’s sweet spot, with PayScale data showing Haas alums netting a greater return on their education investment than any other school’s undergraduate business majors. In other words, Haas grads don’t just start fast, they finish strong.

Hodge Hall at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business

Indiana University (Kelley): Why do students and alumni love certain schools more than others? Chances are, it has to do with their schools loving them back. At Kelley, the love goes both ways.

How deep is their love? In P&Q’s 2016 survey, Kelley alumni were more likely to recommend their school than anyone else. They also rated their alma mater higher than all other programs in career advising and skill development. In fact, the program earned A+ grades in 8 of 12 satisfaction measures, with a B+ in mentoring and A’s everywhere else. There must be something in the Hoosier heavens, as Notre Dame ranked 1-2 in academic experience, a nod to each program’s firm hand yet soft touch.

How difficult is it to achieve this satisfaction level? Think of it this way: the four-year business program at Kelley is massive, boasting nearly 6,900 majors and over 100,000 alumni. Over 93% of these students are on scholarship. While Kelley deals in mass, it delivers in quality. Some 94% of the 2016 Class completed internships, with employers snapping up 95% of Kelley business majors within three months of graduation.

What’s the secret? For one, the Kelley’s career center is considered the model for undergraduate and graduate schools alike. As freshmen, students are assigned their own career coach who closely monitors their development. The center is also known for listening, constantly querying students and employers alike to look for better ways to serve their needs. “We have a service excellence mindset,” explains Susie Clark, director of undergraduate career services at Kelley in a 2015 interview. “We want to go beyond what they need and make sure we understand what their needs are. Another secret is being proactive, bring value by looking for ideas and solutions even when they aren’t being asked to do so. “We believe if you don’t innovate, you’ll die. We’re constantly looking at these surveys and asking, what do our customers—and we consider our students our internal customers and the employers are our external customers— want and what can we do to provide excellent service to both of them.”

This attention to personal development doesn’t stop with the career center…far from it. The school also gives students the room to explore their interests and discover themselves. That starts with freshman year’s 15-week Kelley Compass program. Considered the DNA of the program, it consists of three modules where students evaluate their passions and skills, research majors, and absorb the fundamentals of career development and job hunting. The Compass program continues into students’ sophomore and junior years, with emphasis on working in teams, managing conflict, and developing personal action plans. “The freshmen experience is about discovery,” says Lukas Leftwich, director of the undergraduate program. “Discovery of who they are, and how they fit into the greater population and the global business environment.”

From there, students move into Kelley’s “rite of passage,” also known as the Core. As sophomores, students complete the Global Foundations Core, a three-course series that examines the global economy from such vantage points as technology, economics, and law. During their junior year, the integrative core (I-Core) shifts into marketing, finance, operations, and leadership, culminating in an intensive team project that integrates the Compass and Core concepts while simulating the research, collaboration, and presentation skills required in their future jobs. The action-based learning left a deep impression on one 2014 graduate surveyed by P&Q. “Coming out of that semester, I had a holistic understanding of business, how components must work together to succeed and strong critical thinking skills for approaching and solving business challenges.”

Call it tough love, but it works. The I-Core, in particular, serves as a signature experience that unifies Kelley grads the world over. “Our students wear ‘I Survived I-Core’ t-shirts as proudly as anything that has to do with our culture,” adds Leftwich. “We have a big breakfast when they hand in their final projects, and we make a very big deal out of it, because it’s such a significant moment. And students wear those shirts proudly, because they have earned the right to now take on their major of choice.”

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