10 Biggest Surprises For Business Majors

In business, surprises are often considered threats. The usual surprises – delays, overruns, and turnover – soak up precious time, money, and resources. That means disruption, the kind that upends plans and costs jobs.

In high school, Maddie Krueger wasn’t fond of risk, either. That’s why she selected Business on her college application. It was “broad and safe,” she thought – and it was a great major for finding a job. And anyway, Krueger adds, “I [have] four years to figure out what career path I most wanted to pursue.”

That changed when she enrolled in the integrated core at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business. Amid cases, competitions, and projects, Krueger found her passion. As a freshman, her team completed a semester-long project for the Core Client Challenge, ultimately producing the winning idea and presenting it in front of business executives, faculty, and classmates. Two years later, Krueger earned the Financial Executives International Award, a scholarship given to the top Finance major in the junior class. However, Krueger wasn’t pushing herself to fill her trophy case. Instead, her success was the extension of loving what she was learning.

Maddie Krueger, Miami University (Farmer)


“What was most surprising and equally rewarding was how quickly [business] turned from a “safe bet” to a deep-seeded passion cultivated by interesting courses, invested professors, and like-minded hard-working fellow students,” she writes. “It became easy, understandable, relatable, and it lit a fire in me to transform myself and my personality from a quiet and studious high school student to a hard-driving, competitive leader in a top-tier business school.”

Michael DuTot came to business school from the opposite vantage point. He pictured a business major as “someone sitting at a gray cubicle crunching numbers on a Ti-84 and filling in tedious spreadsheets.” Like Krueger, he came to an epiphany after interacting with his Georgetown classmates who were attending the McDonough School of Business. He describes them as “vibrant and versatile” – hardly the conformist ‘Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” from business lore. More than that, DuTot realized that quantitative analysis was just a “small piece” of the business school experience.

Students are also expected to discuss the qualitative impacts of our decisions and connect course material to current events. Further, business majors need to be analytical enough to balance an income statement and imaginative enough to lead a brainstorming session in an entrepreneurship class. The importance of critical thinking and the depth and breadth of abilities required by a business major was the biggest surprise for me.”

Among business majors graduating this spring, surprises were often positives. They were revelations of the many possibilities to enrich their academic experience and enhance their professional opportunities. Each year, Poets&Quants asks its 100 Best & Brightest Business Majors to share the biggest surprise they experienced as students. From the importance of networking to the value of teamwork, here are 10 areas that changed how the Class of 2021 understood business…and themselves.

Rohil Chada, University of Pittsburgh

1) Everything is Interconnected: “The biggest surprise to me while majoring in business was how cross-functional the majors are. While developing my business acumen, I have learned that all of the business majors collectively reflect the different parts of a business. Therefore, as I was taking different required courses for Pitt Business—which span across multiple majors beyond my own such as marketing and supply chain management—I found the skills I acquired in one class were easily transferrable to the problems faced in a new class in an entirely different major. This discovery was a pleasant surprise to me as the transition to interning for a large financial services company this past summer went smoothly now that I had acquired skills to understand each line of business involved in running the company.”
Rohil Chada, University of Pittsburgh

“I was most surprised by how interconnected the principles from different business majors are. Principles that I learned in my marketing class came up in my strategy classes; content from my human resources class was relevant in my business ethics class, and material that I learned in accounting was applicable in finance. Before I applied to the business program, I was concerned about which major to choose, but I am happy that I got to learn a little bit of everything because many business concepts are so intertwined.”
Ashtynne Wade, Brigham Young University (Marriott)

2) Change Is Inevitable: “[I was surprised by] how fluid business’ decisions may be and how quickly they can evolve (or become obsolete) depending on the current economic and sociopolitical environment.”
Noah Reyna, University of Washington (Foster)

Sekai Kaminski, Fordham University (Gabelli)

3) Creativity is Needed Everywhere: “I was initially attracted to the Marketing discipline because it was an artful combination between creative and analytical. However, after studying business as a whole and watching business professionals from more “traditional” backgrounds innovate, collaborate, and reinvent, I quickly learned that all businesses thrive on creativity. Business is an ever-evolving and adaptive industry. The organizations that witness the most success are the most creative and innovative. Studying business taught me that creativity is not something exclusive to the arts; business can also be a widely creative and transformative area of study.”
Sekai Kaminski, Fordham University (Gabelli)

“What’s surprised me most about majoring in business is the degree to which it’s an “art and not a science.” In Finance and Accounting especially, I thought I’d be getting to a lot of “2 + 2 = 4” type answers. But a majority of business deals come with gray areas, open-ended questions, and a “right” answer that changes depending on who you ask.”
Jeannie Patrice Hirsch, University of Virginia (McIntire)

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