The U.S., Hong Kong & Italy: Students Flock To The World Bachelor In Business

The World Bachelor's program allows students to spend their freshman year in L.A., their sophomore year in Hong Kong, and their junior year in Milan

The World Bachelor’s program allows students to spend their freshman year in L.A., their sophomore year in Hong Kong, and their junior year in Milan

As a compromise, the group decided to have a slightly larger set of required courses for World Bachelor students that would ensure that they met each of the schools’ specific requirements. Complicating matters, each school also had to review and gain approval for the curriculum of the World Bachelor program with their respective universities and — in the case of Italy and Hong Kong — various government entities. As a result, it took about two years to get the program off the ground, Callahan says.


“The devil was in the details. We were dealing with three layers of university requirements, the Italian Ministry of Education and the Hong Kong’s Education Bureau and other government entities,” Callahan recalls. “We ended up having to do a lot of scaffolding of things to get everything precise, but in the end it all got worked out.”

Setting up an admissions process that would work for all three schools turned out to be another challenge, says Tiffani Frye, the undergraduate admissions director at the Marshall School. Each school had different recruitment schedules and calendars for applications, but admissions officers eventually found an “overlapping window” in the schools’ application cycles during which they could assess applications from all three partners. They also agreed that all students applying to the program would be required to submit a video introduction as part of their application. A committee of admissions officers from all three schools meets virtually in the spring to decide which candidates to admit, says Frye.

Applications for the program’s first class opened up in the fall of 2012, and at first university officials were uncertain what type of response they were going to get from prospective high school students. Each school promoted the World Bachelor in Business as a “boutique program” through its literature, in visits with high school guidance counselors, and while on the road during admissions fairs.


Frye and her colleagues at the other two schools were pleasantly surprised when they received nearly 900 applications for the first class, which started coursework in the fall of 2013. Together, the three schools admitted about 115 students, and 45 students ended up accepting a seat in the first year of the program. Last year, the program tweaked its admissions policies a bit to make it more selective, and as a result received 600 applications. Of that group, 103 students were admitted, 53 of whom enrolled in 2014. Admissions numbers for the incoming class are not finalized yet, but appear to be similar to last year so far, Frye says.

The students who apply to the program seem to have an innate sense of what it means to be a “global business person,” she adds. Many of the applicants come from multi-national families who are either living abroad or working for corporations with global mindsets. Recent applicants included a junior photographer from National Geographic, a popular blogger known for her insights on international economic affairs, and a student who helped build libraries in international villages. “They really have a very intimate knowledge of what it means to be a global business person,” Frye says.

The degree has particular appeal for U.S. students and parents because it is priced at about $40,000 less than the cost of a typical four-year degree program at Marshall. The career prospects are also a big selling point, as students who graduate will have access to three robust alumni communities in different parts of the world, which will give them a heads up in launching an international business career, believes Frye.


The program wasn’t a hard sell for Diego Graterol, who just finished his freshman year of the World Bachelor program at the Marshall School. The Seattle native has always had a passion for international affairs, and jumped at the chance to apply to a program that would allow him to travel so extensively during his college career.

“The program could have been offered at schools in South American and Africa, and I still would have been equally as interested,” says Graterol. “I see this type of program as the future of business education.”

Even though Graterol knew he’d only be at the Marshall School for a year, he didn’t let that prevent him from becoming involved in campus life and getting the “immersion” experience the program touts in its marketing brochures. He joined the Sports Business Association, worked on hospitality industry projects, and became a student ambassador for the school. He took all of his classes, with the exception of one course designed specially for World Bachelor’s students, with other regular students at Marshall. He expects to have a similar experience in Hong Kong for his sophomore year.

“When we came in we were treated like Marshall students, so we got to do everything that regular students do and have the experience of being a freshman at USC,” he said. “Now it’s off to the next country and the next adventure.”